On Saturday, it was a pretty nice day so I took my Mini 3 Pro drone with me cross country skiing. They were snow making so after doing one loop to check everything out I decided to take the drone around a “half loop” where I’d ski just the bit with no snow making and back, because skiing through the area where the snow makers are active is like skiing through a howling blizzard.
I set up and started “Active Track” mode and started off down the Hale Bopp trail and then past the lodge and around half of the Ares loop and back. The drone did its usual excellent job of following me, even correctly reversing course where I did. However when I got back to the lodge area, I discovered it wasn’t following me. Looking at the controller screen, it was about 200 meters up the trail, just around the end of the s-turning downhill run.
I took manual control and flew it back to me. I decided I’d take it for one last run up the Hale Bopp trail and back, so I pointed its camera at me and set up and started “Active Track” again. I stashed the controller under my jacket as per usual and was getting my gloves back on and my hands in the ski pole straps when I noticed it slowly circling me to the left. I don’t know if it thought I’d started moving and was circling to get behind me or if I’d accidentally put it in POI instead of “Active Track”, but it looked like it had a mission and it wasn’t the one I wanted it to be on.
Before I could dig the controller out of my jacket, it softly touched down on the blanket of snow on the roof of the lodge building. The snow was deep enough that it sunk in and the motors wouldn’t restarted because they were blocked with snow. I was still getting a video signal, however, although I didn’t realize that could be useful to me until it was too late. (Foreshadowing!)
I asked the guy who was working inside the lodge if they had any means of getting snow off the roof or anything, and he said they didn’t, but he handed me a plastic tube that was approximately 10 feet long and just not quite long enough to hit the drone. I realized I wasn’t going to be able to get it down. I also realized I would need to leave very shortly to get to the Banff Mountain Film Festival. Unfortunately I also realized at that moment that if I’d thought about it before I started futzing around with sticks, I could have downloaded the videos off the drone onto the controller, but now it was too late.
I left Bristol, and once I got home I made a plea to members of the Rochester Cross Country Ski Foundation that if they’re going to Bristol to have a look for my drone and let me know its status.
Unfortunately I couldn’t go back to Bristol on Sunday because the Banff Mountain Film Festival was a matinee, but I received a couple of reports that was still on the roof.
Monday morning I set off loaded for bear. I had 3 things with me, as well as my ski stuff:
- My big drone, the DJI Air 3
- A tie down rope for my kayaks that has a metal hook on both ends and
- A 50 foot dog leash
I tied the tie down rope around my drone so that one of the hooks was dangling below it. I clipped the dog leash to it to act as a safety so if the big drone crashed, I’d be able to bring it back.
There was no snow on the roof at all, but the drone was sitting exactly where I left it. The snow obviously hadn’t slid off, and I think it sublimated off rather than melting because there was no signs of melting and refreezing, even in the snow off the trails. That bodes well for the drone actually not being water damaged, but time will tell.
My plan worked perfectly. I was able to slide the hook onto one of the arms of the stuck drone, gave it a little tug and it started sliding off the roof. It hit a window sill on the way down and bounced a bit, but I managed to catch it in mid air.
I haven’t fired up the Mini 3 Pro to see if it still works – I’ve decided to wait a bit to let it warm up and dry out. But at least I’ve got a fair chance of getting the videos off the SD card.