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  1. #1
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    Unexplained Connection Loss and Crash

    Hello,

    Here's the story...

    Went to fly it on Friday afternoon. Battery was fully charged, temperature was about 48 Degrees, there was some wind, but nothing serious (at ground level anyway). I'd upgraded the firmware a few days ago. This was NOT the first flight since the upgrade. I did NOT install an SD card. I started to just before leaving the house, but decided against it because I wasn't sure if that is recommended by Traxxas or not (turns out it is recommended. bad choice on my part).

    I was flying in a neighborhood park surrounded by residential neighborhoods.

    I inspected it for any signs of trouble and found nothing. I started in film mode to make sure everything was operating correctly. Did a couple of outward runs and auto returned to home without incident. One at least was down wind in order to confirm that the wind was not an issue for returning to home.

    Switched to fast mode and did some low altitude slow flights and landings as practice.

    Decided I wanted to fly at high speed so I climbed to both 150-200 feet and flew full speed into the wind maybe 100 yards.

    Returned downwind at full speed until it was about 75 yards downwind from me (still around 150-200 feet high).

    I transitioned to a hover with the intention to turn around and come back upwind to me. I'd been flying off about 5-7 minutes at this point. That's when bad things started happening really fast.

    I don't remember if I used airbrakes to come to a stop or not. But I was in the process of trying to turn it around toward me when the transmitter started making a repeating high-low (connection loss?) tone. I could see that it was drifting away downwind, but seemed to be level and neither gaining or loosing altitude.

    I tried airbrake (or confirmed I had it pressed already, I'm not sure). I tried pressing the home button (repeatedly) and then helplessly watched as it drifted away from me. I remember thinking "it's only just there, why can't I reach it?".

    It was already over the downwind neighborhood and I was just wondering to myself how far it might continue to fly that way (before the battery died) and whether I might be able to catch up to it in my car (in hindsight a ridiculous idea).

    It continued to drift, level, same altitude, until it was about 200 yards downwind and then it suddenly fell out of the sky. At first I thought it was just descending, but then it was clear that it was falling like a rock or nearly so. I seemed like it stayed level, but I can't be sure. It clearly wasn't a controlled landing like you see when it is automatically returning home.

    As I watched it disappear behind the houses at the edge of the park I knew it mostly likely hit a house or crashed in someones back yard and that there was little chance I would ever see it again.

    I ran to my car and started a search pattern up and down the 5 street wide, 2 block long area I estimated it had come down in. No sign of it or any kids gathered around a strange object fallen from the sky.

    I'd pretty much given up and I called Traxxas to see if they had any suggestions. While I was driving down one of the streets and talking to the tech rep I looked down and noticed the lights on the transmitter were flashing. I did't remember them flashing before. I'm screeched to a halt and I'm sure he must have thought I'd lost my mind as I tried to ask several questions at once. If the light is flashing, is it connected to Aton? Don't I remember reading that there is something you can do make the Aton beep? What do you do to make the Aton beep? Does it start beeping immediately?

    He let me know that yes, if the battery indicator is showing then the transmitter is connected to the Aton (it was showing 60% batter left, by the way). Yes, you can make it beep by moving the right joystick to the extreme bottom right corner. Yes,it will start beeping right away, but its pretty high frequency and not very loud (he was right about that!).

    I hung up (not sure if I thanked him or not), took a deep breath, and resolved to find it. Seemingly, I had some time since the battery was still at 60%.

    Driving up and down the neighboring streets I found I was only getting a signal on one and even on that one only for the length of 6-8 houses. Time to take the search on foot.

    I walked down one side of the street with the right joystick pressed to the bottom right. nothing.

    I'd just started up the other side of the street when I heard it. It was in someones front yard, only about 4 or 5 feet in from the sidewalk, but because of the grass it was still invisible until you were practically on top of it.

    It was laying, lights on, upright in the grass with one pylon broken and somewhat scratch up on the bottom. After looking at it, I think it probably landed somewhere else and bounced to that spot.

    I talked to Traxxas support again and I'm taking it to them on Monday to see about getting it repaired and hopefully coming up with some kind of diagnose for what went wrong.

    The most obvious cause, dead battery, isn't it since the battery still had more than half charge when I found it. There were no obvious sources of RF interference and even if there were, it's not clear how that would result in this particular behavior.

    A software bug is an obvious possibility, but no solid evidence to support that yet either.

    If you made it this far, thanks for listening to my story and I'll report back as to what happens on Monday.


    Larry

  2. #2
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    Something is up as more stories of "just taking off" are coming out. Lets hope the traxxas team can figure this out before anyone gets hurt.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by bearcatrp View Post
    Something is up as more stories of "just taking off" are coming out. Lets hope the traxxas team can figure this out before anyone gets hurt.
    Nope, that's how these things are.

    Go have a look on any number of forums, fly aways are common. I like the look of the Traxxas Aton, it's probably the most versatile of the quads out there in that it has a good film mode and manual flight characteristics which is why I hang about to see what the feedback is like (I joined years ago because I have a Traxxas vehicle) but fly aways aren't uncommon.

    Put simply, I do not trust ANY of the automated flight controllers. Of all my quads, only one of them has a GPS mode for loiter, position hold, RTH etc and quite frankly, I don't trust it. Never have. I've tested it maybe twice to see what it would do and it was scary watching it and just waiting to see if it was going to suddenly decide to take off on it's own or just crash somewhere, though even if RTH is engaged any stick inputs will override it on that particular board.

    There are a heap of reasons you might experience a fly away. Personally, I wouldnt even be going near film mode or engaging any of the autopilot functions until you're really comfortable with Sport Mode at the very least, Expert is even better.

    You need to be able to take full manual control of these things rather than lean on RTH or any other autopilot function to save you because you need to be able to take control of it yourself if it does try flying away, at least that way you can flick to manual mode and have a fighting change of bringing it back.

  4. #4
    RC Qualifier Canuckvoip's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing the story Larry. Hopefully you'll discover what went wrong.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Suteki View Post
    Nope, that's how these things are.

    ...

    There are a heap of reasons you might experience a fly away. Personally, I wouldnt even be going near film mode or engaging any of the autopilot functions until you're really comfortable with Sport Mode at the very least, Expert is even better.

    You need to be able to take full manual control of these things rather than lean on RTH or any other autopilot function to save you because you need to be able to take control of it yourself if it does try flying away, at least that way you can flick to manual mode and have a fighting change of bringing it back.

    Hello,

    It may be "how things are" today, but it needn't be that way forever. There are circumstances which are unrecoverable (e.g. battery dead"). While the root cause of this particular incident is as yet unknown, it does not appear to be any "unrecoverable" factors. Personally, I suspect there is a software bug to sort out.

    Reminder: My Aton was in fast mode at the time and the transmitter was signaling an error.

    So I don't think it is reasonable to suggest that any of the autopilot functions in of themselves (or reliance on them) were the culprit. It could be a software issue with airbrake possibly, something that crashes the system at runtime, but nothing inherent to weaknesses of simply using that feature. I did try to engage return to home after it was obviously out of my control.

    I'm not sure of the point behind your "you need to be able to take full manual control" comment. Perhaps it was a generic comment and not in the context of my situation. I would have been happy to have ANY control of the craft at that moment, but it was not responding to any input, manual or otherwise.

  6. #6
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    My question is did you update your fimware
    Just because its there doesn't mean its for sale.

  7. #7
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    Hello Razor,

    Yes, as mentioned in the first paragraph, I had upgraded the firmware a few days prior to the incident.

    I think I remember seeing you comment on the question of whether the firmware update has introduced an issue. Seems like that is still a possibility, though there i only circumstantial evidence so far.

    Larry

    Larry

  8. #8
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    FYI, I delivered it to Traxxas on Monday. We discussed the circumstances and they took it for investigation and repair. I haven't heard back from them yet.

    Larry

  9. #9
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    LarryTru, Keep us updated as I was going to update my Aton firmware so I could use the app, but think I'll hold off for the time being.
    I'm still flying on stock firmware with 35+ flights with no problems. So far so good...
    I'm thinking its a software issue in the firmware update. I'm sure Traxxas is working on it. Finger Crossed....

  10. #10
    RC Qualifier Canuckvoip's Avatar
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    No problems to report from me and I've had many flights with the new firmware, mostly in sport mode.

  11. #11
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    Hello,

    I got my Aton back today.

    The root cause of my crash is still unknown and will likely stay that way unless I or someone else experience it again with an SD card installed. Mine will have n SD card in it always for now on.

    As usual, Traxxas exhibited excellent customer support and restored my bird to the "brand spanking new" state it was in before the crash.

    The seem to have considered every angle they could think of, but there just isn't any explanation for what happened. The only thing that is known with certainty is that what happened, should't have happened.

    They installed the new firmware while they were repairing it.

    We spent 30-45 minutes flying it around the parking lot in addition to the testing they did before I went to pick it up. No sign of the issue I had last week.

    It acted a little weird with respect to altitude control, but the conclusion was that was due to a fairly gusty wind and some initial sensor calibration. I'll write a separate post about that.

    Of course I remain a little nervous since the cause is still unknown. But I'm going to just set that aside and fly it.

    I am going to be very cautious for a while until I am feeling more confident that its not going to happen again and I'm going to travel farther to use a larger flying space (just in case).

    Wish me luck

    Larry

  12. #12
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    please keep us posted. Im still scared to fly mine anymore. Seriously considering returning it

  13. #13
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    When would you need to use the calibration in the flight link app? Where are the instructions for what it does and when you're supposed to use it?

  14. #14
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    I've not seen any instructions beyond what s in the app itself. Also, I've not read anything about recommendations on when to use.

  15. #15
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    I experienced a very similar thing Saturday night Larry. Was on my second battery and i was in sport mode and was climbing altitude rapidly when the transmitter started beeping. I though well i hit my geofence and its gonna start returning home...i hit the airbrake and i'm not sure if it even got that input or not, but it slowly moving in a direction not even close to the home spot.. i was panicking as i had no control over it. long story short i thankfully found it crashed in a field as it fell out of sky from battery dying. ive been busy but tomorrow im gonna call traxxas. bad thing my quad is broke....good thing no one was hurt i have the error packed log from my sd card and i'm sure they will be curious to see the data. this is an awesome quad and i cant wait to get it in the air again.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by MeanJean View Post
    I i have the error packed log from my sd card and i'm sure they will be curious to see the data. this is an awesome quad and i cant wait to get it in the air again.
    Sorry you had that event, but its great that you have the log data!

    Off-ball question... Were you by chance wearing an apple watch or was any other wifi device (e.g. smartphone) near your transmitter when it happened?

    Thx,

    Larry

  17. #17
    Traxxas Employee nixhex32's Avatar
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    Apple watch is a blue-tooth connection to your apple phone, nothing WiFi to do with it. I wear my apple watch with my iPhone 5s in my pocket every flight.
    Slash 4x4 lcg(heavily modded), Telluride(modded)gone, TCP, Monster Buggy, Latrax SST(heavily modded), Spartan, "My Summit" pic of that posted in the gallery........and some other things.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by nixhex32 View Post
    Apple watch is a blue-tooth connection to your apple phone, nothing WiFi to do with it. I wear my apple watch with my iPhone 5s in my pocket every flight.
    Actually, the Apple watch includes wifi (802.11 b/g/n, 2.4 Ghz band only) as well as bluetooth and NFC.

    While trying to think of anything that could be contributing to the problems and I realized I was wearing my apple watch when my crash happened. There's no good reason that it should cause the transmitter to lose connection with the Aton, but I thought I'd at least ask if any of he other people (e.g. Mean Jean) who had similar experiences also had 2.4 Ghz wifi devices near by.

    Larry

  19. #19
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    Unexplained Connection Loss and Crash

    But wifi on those accessories aren't utilized unless there's a network nearby, and you also have to be connected to it. I "think" because of that fact there would be no wifi interference.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slono View Post
    But wifi on those accessories aren't utilized unless there's a network nearby, and you also have to be connected to it.
    Like I said, there is no good reason to think that a wifi capable device should cause any problem.

    However, there are a number of networks near enough to where i was flying to be discovered by my phone. I can't tell what the watch is able to discover. There would have been no reason for either my phone or watch to transmit anything (but I can't be sure), and even if they did, it should't have caused any problem (because all these devices are designed to be resistant to crosstalk).

    If I had a dime for every time something that "shouldn't" have caused a problem, did cause a problem, I'd be a much richer man.

    I'm just trying to identify any conceivable correlation between the unexplained crashes some of us have had.

  21. #21
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    Here's mine. Very similar. I've had three crashes like this. The first two were before any firmware update. Two videos linked. The first one is the second crash. The second one is the third crash. The first one I wasn't recording, but is similar to the above story, I used the air brakes, and it flew off. I found in one street over crashed in someone's front yard. Very embarrassing. No one was hurt, thankfully, in any of the crashes.

    Read the description, geofence breach.
    https://youtu.be/BKURBvsTZd0

    This video is just screen capture of the app. You can hear the transmitter, just like in the previous. Geofence breach. If you listen, you can hear the Aton, it's close. In this crash, it's about 10 get off the ground and does cartwheels. Only bent props.
    https://youtu.be/C8JJAhkfI54

  22. #22
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    Larry, i had no watch on at the time. i had a gopro strapped to my head with wifi off. i believe after looking over the logs from flight that when it triggered a failsafe it just got super confused and couldn't get control over its own flight controller. error after error until the battery died. it maintained an altitude of around 200 ft before it couldn't keep it self up anymore. it was however doing a good job at altitude hold during the confused state of the electronics. i should have time to talk to traxxas today and i hope my logs can help solve the failsafe rth feature that seems to get all funky. i do remember trying airbrake and multiple rth presses, but it had no intention on letting me get control then it flew outta tx range. i was also on the latest firmware too
    Last edited by MeanJean; 02-02-2016 at 06:13 AM.

  23. #23
    Traxxas Employee nixhex32's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LarryTru View Post
    Like I said, there is no good reason to think that a wifi capable device should cause any problem.

    However, there are a number of networks near enough to where i was flying to be discovered by my phone. I can't tell what the watch is able to discover. There would have been no reason for either my phone or watch to transmit anything (but I can't be sure), and even if they did, it should't have caused any problem (because all these devices are designed to be resistant to crosstalk).

    If I had a dime for every time something that "shouldn't" have caused a problem, did cause a problem, I'd be a much richer man.

    I'm just trying to identify any conceivable correlation between the unexplained crashes some of us have had.
    If any of that was they case then having your phone in your pocket or attached to your TX would be an issue also. Unless you strap your watch to the ATon there shouldn't be an issue. If the watch was an issue then it would cause problems with the tqi and other 2.4 radios.

    As I said before I have been wearing my watch both flying my ATon and driving my other rc vehicles with no issues. The times I have crashed have been self inflicted.
    Slash 4x4 lcg(heavily modded), Telluride(modded)gone, TCP, Monster Buggy, Latrax SST(heavily modded), Spartan, "My Summit" pic of that posted in the gallery........and some other things.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by nixhex32 View Post
    If any of that was they case then having your phone in your pocket or attached to your TX would be an issue also. Unless you strap your watch to the ATon there shouldn't be an issue. If the watch was an issue then it would cause problems with the tqi and other 2.4 radios.
    What you say makes sense and "should" be true, but devices like these are very complicated and often exhibit unexpected behaviors. There could be differences in hardware/software between the phone and watch (or between one transmitter and another) that makes one a risk and the other not. We just don't know for sure. This is why looking for correlations without biasing ourselves with what should or should't happen often helps find the root cause of complex intermittent problems like this.

    Quote Originally Posted by nixhex32 View Post
    As I said before I have been wearing my watch both flying my ATon and driving my other rc vehicles with no issues. The times I have crashed have been self inflicted.
    Right, but you haven't had the problem so that doesn't prove anything. You can't prove a negative.

  25. #25
    Traxxas Employee TireSlinger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TexQuad View Post
    Here's mine. Very similar. I've had three crashes like this. The first two were before any firmware update. Two videos linked. The first one is the second crash. The second one is the third crash. The first one I wasn't recording, but is similar to the above story, I used the air brakes, and it flew off. I found in one street over crashed in someone's front yard. Very embarrassing. No one was hurt, thankfully, in any of the crashes.

    Read the description, geofence breach.
    https://youtu.be/BKURBvsTZd0

    This video is just screen capture of the app. You can hear the transmitter, just like in the previous. Geofence breach. If you listen, you can hear the Aton, it's close. In this crash, it's about 10 get off the ground and does cartwheels. Only bent props.
    https://youtu.be/C8JJAhkfI54
    Tex, did you have the memory card installed in your Aton? If so we would love to see the logs.
    Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.

  26. #26
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    Unexplained Connection Loss and Crash

    Some real mysteries here.
    Last edited by Slono; 02-05-2016 at 04:34 PM.

  27. #27
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    Hello,

    Thanks for the info. I missed your reply when you wrote it a few days ago.

    Larry

  28. #28
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    Traxxas requested my Aton back and i sent in logs. They handled it like the Traxxas ive heard about. I cant wait to get it back. Very satisfied!

  29. #29
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    Glad to hear it MeanJean I hope the data sheds some light on the situation.

  30. #30
    I'm really interested to hear what they conclude. In my opinion there is no better quad in this class ... as a matter of fact this quad is in a class by itself (a fast manoeuvrable sports quad that also has amazing video capabilities) but I'm sure that they know that there must be a ton of people waiting on the fence because of these unexplained situations.

  31. #31
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    Maybe it was in acro and you planted and lost it

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Austinb97 View Post
    Maybe it was in acro and you planted and lost it
    Nope, this was settled over three years ago. It was caused by a software bug which was fixed.

    Larry

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    Awesome post i am glade to see your post.

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