David Pogue leads a wonderful life. The Westport-based tech writer (Yahoo, New York Times, Scientific American), TV correspondent (“CBS News Sunday Morning,” PBS “Nova Science Now”) and author (“Missing Manual” series, “Pogue’s Basics”) has won 3 Emmy awards, 2 Webbys and a Loeb for journalism.
But even Pogue’s life doesn’t always go according to plan. The other day — well, let him describe it for “06880” readers:
I love drones. I love reviewing drones. I love filming drones!
But last week, something really crazy happened. I was reviewing the new $1300 Yuneec Typhoon H, taking it out for a test flight before the Yahoo video crew arrived next day to film my video review.
My son Kell (a Staples High School 2015 graduate) and a couple of his buddies stood on our attic balcony, checking it out. I let it hover at their eye level, just so they could see how cool and menacing-looking this hexacopter was. (It has 6 rotors. No, that doesn’t make it a sexcopter.)
From there, I flew it straight up. It hovered over the house, giving me an amazing view (on the remote control’s screen) of the Wakeman athletic fields.
The drone hovered 370 feet up — just shy of its 400-foot, hardwired altitude limit (also the FAA’s maximum allowable height). Then, before my eyes, the drone started drifting away. The controls did not respond!
The screen just said, “Trying to reconnect.” As I watched in disbelief, the drone drifted away over Bayberry, toward Fairfield. I was helpless.
I got on my bike and rode around, looking and looking. I never found it. There’s a $1300 drone in somebody’s bushes somewhere.
Drone flyaways are supposed to be impossible. They’re programmed to return to their takeoff position (in this case, my backyard) if they ever lose their connection to the remote. Somehow, that fail-safe system never kicked in.
A little Googling shows that flyaways do, in fact, happen. (One landed on the White House lawn last year.)
The company analyzed my flight logs and concluded that nothing I’d done contributed to the flyaway. But they had no explanation for what caused it.
Nobody’s ever been hurt by a flyaway drone, and companies are working on better sensors, software and electronics to prevent flyaways. But I was really rattled — though not as much as if I’d actually bought this drone. (It was a review unit.)
Friends suggested I tape “LOST DRONE” signs on telephone poles in the neighborhood. I decided, nah. That’s just be too embarrassing.
But if an “06880” reader finds a sleek black drone in their bushes: I’ve still got the remote control. Let’s talk.