Houston, We Have A Problem

The weather on Christmas Day was warm and inviting to be outdoors. Grandson Ryan got a drone for Christmas from his parents and he brought it along to Powhatan. He and his cousin had great fun flying it in the large open fields and taking aerial pictures and videos of the farm.  The drone has limited range but it could soar like a bird and sends an alert message to his phone when it is getting out of range. I was impressed and thought the pictures were amazingly good!

Aerial view of the farm
Horse Stables-Powhatan Equestrian Center

Once the drone got out of range and before he could bring it back it went down. After searching, they found it in the driveway. The drone is not easy to see. It is a very lightweight, wire- looking contraption with two red and two black wings. You know you are flying it correctly when you have the red wings away from you going forward and the opposite coming back.

Snaptain Drone

By mid-afternoon Ryan was feeling fairly confidently in his flying skills and offered to take me on a picture taking excursion of the farm. We took the golf cart across the creek to the top of the hill on the other side of the farm to get a good aerial view. He uses a remote to control the drone and gave me his phone to watch the pictures the drone was sending back. It was so cool to see the pictures as they were taken. That thing could almost be addicting! Before we finished, I wanted a picture of us by the golf cart watching it fly.

As he was bringing the drone back into position, it got caught in a wind draft above the trees and moved out of range behind a grove of trees where he couldn’t see it. When he lost visual sight, he couldn’t tell which direction the drone was going. In a panic he started wildly moving his controls. The drone dropped in altitude and then we heard the sick sound of it crashing into the branches on the trees. The drone was stuck on a small branch of a big tree about 60 feet in the air. He tried to get it to move but it appeared to be upside down.

The grove of trees. It was above the big branch that is going horizontally.

“Houston, we have a problem”!

It was a sad ride back to the house on the golf cart as he talked about the what ifs, might nots and should haves. Ryan handled himself very well but he could hardly believe what he had done. Everyone had to go assess the situation.

The girls weren’t any help!

We do not have any equipment that would begin to get that high in the air. Uncle Keith evaluated the situation and felt it could be gotten but said we needed a tree guy. We knew several. Grandpa called his buddy Wray who promised to come to the rescue on Saturday.

Ryan had to go home without his drone.


Wray came with a lift he uses to trim trees and his Big Shot Slingshot. He felt he could probably get it with the slingshot.

He had a weighted pouch on a long rope that he shot over the branch and then was able to shake the branch.

After several tries, the drone tumbled about half way down and rested on another branch. After another couple of tries, the drone tumbled safely to the ground, landing at the base of the tree right side up and unharmed.

Wray flies remote controlled planes so he had a soft heart for Ryan predicament. He said, “Trees are a magnet for drones and planes!” There are wind drafts above and around trees that you can not feel from the ground.

Wray told us a story. One time when he was flying his remote controlled planes. He thought it was a buzzard flying in the area and decided to chase it with his plane. He worked his way up towards the buzzard, circling, when the bird got very agitated. He suddenly realized it was a hawk, not a buzzard and started moving away. The hawk, with one fast swoop, suddenly nose-dived at the plane, hitting it with its beak. Right before his unbelieving eyes, his plane exploded into confetti. Oh, the lessons we learn!

There was one happy boy listening to the whole ordeal on his phone! He wanted to hear what was happening in real time!

Houston to the rescue. Problem solved! All is well that ended well and a good lesson was learned.

1 Comment »

  1. Obe Hostetter Said:

    Thanks to Ray, Ryan is excited to get his drone back! Otherwise his Christmas present only lasted a few days….

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