Fourth flight, post near-drowning.

By Jay Young

Did you crash your DJI Phantom quadcopter into water? I did. And it was completely submerged for around 30 seconds. Here’s how I brought her back to life.

It was very nearly a costly lesson. While it’s remarkably easy to take off, fly around and land, DJI’s Phantom quadcopter is more difficult to fly with precision. Faced with a tight line through trees above a small creek, I ignored my own red flags and decided to fly anyway. Upon lift off, I immediately brushed a tree branch. At that time, I was actually still AOK, but I overreacted. I jerked the controls to move away from the branch and my Phantom careened into another one, broke a rotor and tumbled into the stream upside down, along with an unprotected GoPro camera.

The GoPro was the easy part to deal with. I set it out in the sun for the afternoon, then placed it in a ziplock bag filled with dry rice for 3 days. Poof. Fixed.

The Phantom, which I affectionately call S.A.L.L.Y. (and which doesn’t actually stand for anything) was a more involved process. It went a little something like this:

  1. After her resurrection, we shared a cup of coffee and S.A.L.L.Y. forgave me.

    After her resurrection, we shared a cup of coffee and S.A.L.L.Y. forgave me.

    I immediately drained as much water as I could from the quad.

  2. I placed her in a customized “drying container,” which was nothing more than a rubbermaid tub with two Dry-Eaze containers to soak up moisture.
  3. After a few days, I peeked inside. There appeared to be a couple drips of water on the floor of the container, so I abandoned that method for unaided air drying.
  4. Over the course of the next two weeks, I mostly left her alone, only interrupting the natural drying cycle to occasionally place S.A.L.L.Y. outside in the sun for a couple hours.
  5. After two weeks, I started to methodically boot up systems. First I turned her on. Check. Then I calibrated the compass and GPS. Check. Then I fired up the GoPro and tested the video downlink. Check. I tested the Zenmuse gimbal. Check. I fired her up, sans rotors, to make sure the motors would turn. Check. Lastly, I flew a few short hops to make sure she’d behave as normal. Check again.

Today, all systems are go with one exception. The battery I had in S.A.L.L.Y. when she went down still has juice and will power the quad, but it won’t recharge. Oh well. One battery is small price to pay compared to $1600 worth of Quad, gimbal and camera.