The Tragic Story of Sky Spider

I thought I would share a story about my first drone I had ever built. I have been in the hobby for a long while at that time, and had many drones that I have bought.

I had been thinking of building my own drone for a while just so I can say I built it, while learning a little more about the hobby in the process. I had been saving up for a while because I wanted all top of the line parts. From the props to the frame; everything had to be quality.

Several months later, at the end of the 2014 year, I took all the money I got from Christmas and added it to my “Drone Jar” (Prepaid Amex Bluebird card); and with that money I was able to afford to start the ordering process for the parts to start the build.

When all my parts arrived, I was in awe. I was so very happy. I fell in love with the DX7 transmitter instantly. You have to remember that up to that time, I only used the transmitter that came with my drones.

I was like a kid in a candy store with all these parts sitting on my desk. I was very happy, but nervous at the same time. I was nervous because I was thinking that I was getting way in over my head. With all the parts now in front of me instead of on a computer monitor, it looks way too complicated.

I dove head first and slammed everything together and set up my 3DR APM and GPS (not the clones), and stuck on my Mobius action camera. When I first started it up for the first time, it kept flipping over and over which scared me to death (yes, I’m a zombie).

After researching (thank god for YouTube) for a minute, I figured out that two of the motors were rotating incorrectly, so I DE-soldered the Motor wires from the ESC and switched two of the wires around; then walked outside to try again.

I was super nervous. I slowly gave the drone some throttle and up it went. Success! I had successfully built my first drone. After a few figure 8 laps, I wanted to learn more about the inner workings of the drone and what I could and could not do with the APM flight controller.

For months, and even up until that tragic day I read and tuned on that drone. I had it almost perfect for me. After many fight hours, I decided on a name (it’s something I do) and that name was Sky Spider.

Later on that month I decided I wanted a gimbal and a good camera for Sky Spider. After Researching what was the best gimbal and camera I saved up for the Gimbal and GoPro.

After I received the GoPro and Gimbal, I mounted them on Sky Spider and took off on a short autonomous mission to test everything out, and I was like WOW when I replayed to footage.

That night I decided I wanted FPV on it, and with what little money I had left in my “Drone Jar”, I bought an eBay FPV kit. Yes, it was cheap, but I would eventually replace it with something good. I just needed more time to save up the money.

The next evening, I took Sky Spider and started to uploaded a mission via MAVLink. But the mission that I had saved somehow was deleted. No biggie as it wasn’t too difficult to redo. When I had my mission laid out in mission planner, I uploaded it to Sky Spider and took him out to my landing pad. With a flip of the switch, Sky Spider lifted up off the ground and started on its 23 waypoint mission.

As I was setting there watching him fly through the air, it was high above the trees, and as it made it turn far away from me, starting back up hill something didn’t look right. But I let it go a little further (my regretful mistake) … And as soon as I seen it was going to hit the top of a tree, and before I could flip the RTL switch to make it go up to 400ft and Return to me, it hit the very top of a 100ft + pine tree.

In a panic I turned off the auto pilot and pulled the throttle to zero, when I should have given it full throttle to try and come out the top or made it fall down to the ground on the other side.

My heart sunk to my stomach. I knew this was bad, very bad. I tried rocking it out of the tree using the throttle without success.  Sky Spider was wedged in tight in the fork of the tree and was hung up on the gimbal and GoPro.

I walked back to the house wondering what in the hell I was going to do now because it was supposed to rain the next day, and what in the hell happen because I flew nearly the same path route many times prior

I Looked over the what I could have possibly done wrong. I looked over and over on mission planner when I spotted what I didn’t do, and I’m pretty sure was the reason for sky spider hitting the top of the tree. I forgot to check on Height Verify in mission planner.

When sky spider lifted off, it lifted off from the landing pad, it was plenty high enough to clear the trees. But the landing pad is downhill in my backyard at the edge of a field. When Sky Spider made it’s turned and started up hill, the distance between him and the ground became closer until eventually he hit the tree.

At dusk that same evening I opened my front door and you could hear Sky Spider crying for help, BEEP—- BEEP—- BEEP—- BEEP—-. There was nothing I could do to help him. I would walk to the windows and watch the landing lights get dimmer and dimmer, and his cries became fainter until finally Sky Spider was dead.

Till this day Sky spider sits at the top of this pine tree, and even now about every 3 days I walk out there hoping it has fell to the ground or to a lower branch but it’s still it the same spot even after 20, 30 and 60mph winds.

I know it is ruined, but I still want it back.

Yes, I have called a tree service but they told me that they couldn’t risk a man falling out of a 100+ ft. tall pine tree trying to rescue a “toy”. They tried to get me to pay to have the tree took down and they would send a man up to retrieve it for me

Two days later my eBay FPV kit arrived.

One day I hope I can have Sky Spider back in my hands. I will replace all the parts, install the eBay FPV kit and raise Sky Spider back from the dead. And i will do a Resurrection Of Sky Spider blog series. That day will be a glorious day for me.


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