Gone in 60 Seconds. Not the movie. Our drone.
It was bouncing along the grass, struggling for liftoff, so Joy handed the controller to Bob, and said, “You try it.” Bob naturally pushed the lift lever all the way up and the drone climbed like a socialite at a garden party. Within three seconds it was out of sight. We couldn’t have been more surprised if we’d launched a pocket rocket.
“There,” Joy said. “I think it came down over there.” This was all wishful thinking, of course. As we went through the grass and the nearby woods, the odds were growing that it came down in the next county. Maybe.
Bob had made the most common mistake in droning, if we may call it such: he had put the pedal to the metal. The new craze for personal drones — half a million of them were sold last year, more than a million will be sold this year — has left tiny wrecks all across the land.
Did we register this $300 “Xtreem Gravity Pursuit 1080p” with video camera onboard? You bet. Five bucks to the FAA. Does it matter? Not anymore. Joy thought she saw a tiny streak in the distant sky. Tempus isn’t the only thing that fugits. (Translation: “Time isn’t the only thing that flies.”)
We bring all this up because with millions more of these little helicopters certain to get lost very early in their airborne careers, there are ways to take protective steps. We searched the web for experienced fliers and watched some of the most boring video ever to be posted to YouTube. But if you can keep from drowsing off, there are things to be learned.
Experienced users don’t push the control levers hard. And, there are services that say they can track your gone drone and tell you where it went down. They charge for that. You can thumb though several of these offerings by browsing the web under the subject “Lost Drones,” or something very much like that.
The efficacy of drone searches is an iffy thing. The maximum range of the “TrackR” tracking system for instance, is a hundred feet. You have to depend on other TrackR users who happen to be in the neighborhood and pick up your drone’s signal. The “Trackimo, ” for $140, lets you check its location on a map, but it’s $60 a year after the first year. A cheaper solution would be to put your name and address on your drone and offer a reward.
Watching a $300 drone vanish in a poof was one of the most disorienting tech experiences we’ve ever had, and it wasn’t even our money. The manufacturer sent the drone to us for review. Feeling guilty, we got in our car and drove around the neighborhood searching. But short of hopping every fence and ringing every doorbell, there was no way we could find it.
Besides the instant lift-off, there’s another thing we’ve never read about drones. They can be a huge pain to put together. There are dozens of tiny screws and plastic parts. It took about two hours, so don’t expect to fly it right out of the box.
If lust still fills your aerial heart, watch “How to Fly an Aerial Drone,” by David Cox, on YouTube.com. We would have watched it first if Cox didn’t take an ungodly long time to get to the point. There are many other drone videos.