Flying The DJI Phantom in 40mph winds: A Wind Turbine Drone Adventure Story and Crash from Maui
Windmill Drone Adventure from Justin Edwards on Vimeo.
My friends Marty and Ian from DroneMaui.com invited me to go on a hike up the west Maui mountains to get some footage of the wind turbines on the 4th of July around 5am. I was really tired and tried to get out of it but they talked me into going and I am so glad I went, it turned out to be an awesome adventure!! To make things more interesting, I had to be somewhere at 8am so my wife could play tennis so I had added pressure from the wife department. The hike was about 3 miles up some fairly difficult terrain, plus we had tons of gear with us. We tried to get up there as fast as we could but it still took an hour or more at a grueling pace. When we finally got to the top, the wind was absolutely blasting, but after that steep hike I was not about to miss my chance to fly around the windmills.
I took off and tried to head into the wind, but as I got farther away, the intensity of the wind increased and it was soon pretty obvious I was not going to be able to fly back to my take off spot. Full stick into the wind and it was still going backwards. If it was not for Ian's groundstation and Marty's line of sight spotting, I would almost certainly be without my phantom (and video card!!!) Once I realized that the drone was not coming back, I had to start thinking about the best way to get it on the ground but I had to have it land before it flew into one of those wind turbine blades. I had to then run another mile (remember the wife time obligation?) to look for it. The drone gods must have intervened because it appears I landed about as perfectly as possible, blindly!! I am really lucky.
I love adventures and this was an awesome one. I wish I could have gotten more than 20-30 seconds of wind turbine aerial footage but mostly I am thankful to still have a working quadcopter. Be sure and check out the pictures from our adventure below. Do you have any adventures to share? Please share in the comment section!