I’ve been super careful since I purchased my DJI Phantom II drone a couple of year ago. For me, it was a sizable investment in a “toy”. From the beginning, I decided to only fly in open spaces (the few times I haven’t scared the daylights out of me). I always watch the weather to make sure there’s minimal wind. Most importantly, I avoid power lines and airports, unlike many 🙂

So when I crashed my drone for the first time this summer, it was extra painful. Long story short, I was doing a favor for my wife, making a special movie in Santa Monica, California for one of her projects. As always, I prepared, researched, and tested first. Then I flew. Perfect mission.

But then…a special request. Can you fly again in Marina del Rey in a little while? Planning? Nope. Preparation? Nope. Results? See for yourself…


Sometimes It’s Best to Just Stick to the Plan

The original plan was simply to visit Santa Monica a day before the live event to run a test flight. The flight was on the beach, and especially during summer evenings, the wind can blast. The test flight went as smoothly as I could have hoped. But then…a special request. Could I also fly it at Marina del Rey? I envisioned the beautiful scenery, but the scenario was full of unknowns.

Lesson: If you have a plan, seriously consider when someone asks for a radical change. Often, homework is needed before you can commit to a dramatic shift.


Listen to Your Instincts

The pit in my stomach should have been a good reason not to even think about flying. I’m not a daredevil. The extra flight wasn’t mission critical. I didn’t stand to gain any extra benefit other than looking cool (or in this case, like a moron!). I was asked to do something that my instincts said NO to, and I didn’t listen.

Lesson: The little voice is probably right, so consider listening to it. Better safe than sorry.


There Are Challenges Outside Your Knowledge Base

In wide open spaces, where I normally fly, a gust of wind or a stiff breeze presents a challenge, but it doesn’t create much real risk. In a new environment like Marina del Rey, I didn’t know if there were variables. In retrospect, the boats sailing in and out of MDR may be taking advantage of a wind passage. The buildings probably amplified the wind considitions too by creating a wind tunnel. If you look at the video, we’re also high off the ground (like an extra story), which clearly made an impact.

Lesson: Donald Rumsfeld warned of Unknown Unknowns. Know that they exist.


Failure Hurts. Move On.

Just add duct tape, because duct tape can fix anything. 🙂 I was wrong. I own it. I cannot change history, but I can make sure I don’t repeat it. I have to forgive myself for breaking my own rules. We can relive mistakes far too much, beating ourselves up for not following our own rules or doing something that brought bad results.

Lesson: Put it away. Write about it in your journal. Laugh about it later.


So let’s make plans, then head to an open space…