The feeling of losing control or sight of your drone is similar to the feeling of tube doors closing with you inside the carriage and your bag half-outside. You panic. The heart palpitations set it. You start weighing up the likelihood that the carriage doors have just sliced your laptop in half. F**k. Finally, you scan the carriage for someone to blame.
From experience, the same process tends to apply to drone crashes. As a general rule, one must always – and I mean ALWAYS – try to blame the person nearest to you for the disaster that has just taken place.
However, should this approach fail, the following steps will see your drone back to full health.
Extent of Damage: What’s It Gonna Cost?
The first thing you need to understand is the extend of the damage. The general rule of thumb here is if that if the camera and gimbal are damaged, 99% of the time, it’ll be a write off. Sorry folks. However, in most cases – particularly if the drones has legs like a Phantom 4 – both camera and gimbal will be protected. After all, the drone is designed to protect it’s baby!
There are 3 types of damage:
Cosmetic and Firmware
- Cheap to fix and can be done quickly: £50 -200
Motor and battery damage
- Tends to be somewhere between £200-400
Camera and Gimbal
- £400 +
Am I Covered By Warranty?
The next thing to do is understand whether the crash happened because of a firmware or software malfunction. Remember though, drones store an enormous amount of encrypted data every time you turn them on. So think twice before you pull a fast one on DJI: everything from the temperature of the air to wind speed can be stored. One more thing: just because you dragged the videos into the trash on your mac that they’re gone. Even DJI’s interns can retrieve this data in full 4k.
In short, only try this if you’re 1000% sure it was a manufacturing malfunction.
Option 1: DJI Repair
DJI are good. Really good. However, it’s neither the speediest nor the cheapest option. It’s worth considering that any broken parts are going to be replaced by legitimate sources. I would also note that their repair process is similar to buying car insurance, there are a million different bureaucratic hoops to jump through before sending it off. Wait times can in fact be up to 4 weeks. I’m assuming this is because their repairing warehouse is busier than a Mumbai food market right now.
Verdict: Tried and tested, but slow and costly.
Option 2: Gumtree Repairers
I have had a couple of friends use repairers that they found on Gumtree. They boast fantastic rates and excellent repair skills. More often than not, they’re even able to pick up on the same day. The only problem here is that the moment they handed them over to the repairer was also the last time they ever saw their Mavics.
Verdict: Gumtree is only recommended if you don’t require the drone to be returned after fixing.
Option 3: Drone Repair Shops
There are a number of drone repair shops popping up all over the UK. Generally, they know the drones inside and out. In some cases they’ll actually recommend how you can fix it yourself for free without even sending it off. Honestly, if you have any problems with your drone (providing they are a relatively mainstream consumer drone) I’d send it off to a company called Droneworx. They are quick, reliable and cost effective.
Verdict: Helpful, reliable and cost-effective.
At the end of the day, the most important thing to understand here is that drones are at the absolute forefront of innovative technology. Naturally, this means “ease of repair” isn’t always a top priority. Expect drone repairs to be expensive and slow. Just remember that the footage you just showed your parents would have needed a helicopter, 2 pilots, 3 film crew and 50k + worth of camera gear in their day. Small mercies.