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Birth of a New Drone


(Posted by Kevin)

My last drone was lost at sea in March. Apparently we didn’t do a blog post about it at the time, which is a mystery because it was exactly the kind of event we’d normally blog about. We were on the Oregon coast, and I’d been flying the drone over the beach and along the rocky shoreline all day. The GoPro HD camera was capturing the best-quality video I’d ever gotten from a drone – smooth, sharp, no vibration – and the gimbal was keeping the camera nicely level. I had spent a few weeks building and tuning it to get those excellent results. In First Person View (FPV) mode – it could go more than two miles away – with its long range control and video radio links.

On about the fifth flight of the day, I invited Laura out to watch on the “guest” video goggles. It’s like taking a ride on the drone. I was flying it along the beach, and cut out over the water for a bit – the drone was about 1800 feet away from us when the video suddenly went to static – with no warning. We tried various rescue techniques (just in case it was still out there hovering) including activating the “return to home” feature. We waited a few minutes… there was no sign of it “returning to home”.

We reviewed the video link recording (the lower-quality flight video, not the stabilized HD video), and stepped one frame at a time through the last few frames before we lost contact. Studying the telemetry, we figured out what (most likely) happened. One of the connectors where the battery power comes into the drone had apparently come loose and the whole thing fell out of the sky and into the Pacific Ocean. We hiked along the beach at the spot closest to where it went down. There was no sign of it – and the current/waves were pretty extreme out there where it must have gone down.

Here’s the downlink video of the fatal, final flight:

I ordered all the parts to build a new one that week. 

Now, five months later, all the parts have arrived and the new drone construction has begun. This one has numerous upgrades over the lost one – including a much more robust connection where the last one probably failed. Here are some photos of the construction process: 

  • Dronebuild-1
  • Dronebuild-2
  • Dronebuild-3
  • Dronebuild-4
  • Dronebuild-5
  • Dronebuild-6
  • Dronebuild-7

Almost ready to bolt the top on:


The new drone – a TBS Discovery Pro FPV Quadcopter – is now complete and has survived the first 16 test flights.


It has almost three hours of flight time logged, and seems to be even more stable than the last/lost one.


We plan to use this one to do more aerial videos and stills of our travels, and probably more fun projects like our “Chasing Ships” series: