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My major DJI Mini 3 Pro blunder reminded me of the device’s limitations

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High winds are not friendly to small drones.

image credits: dpreview

I only wanted one more flight. I knew my time with the venerable DJI Mini 3 Pro was short, and I hoped to have another look at its simple controls, smooth flying, and outstanding camera. And a burst of wind nearly took it away from me.

To be fair, the weather appeared to be ideal for a drone flight. Clear blue skies with puffy clouds in the sky. The DJI Mini 3 Pro and the new DJI RC remote’s outstanding ease of use further prompted me to go outside and try it out.

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I plugged up the remote and drone (they auto-pair) and pushed the on-screen launch button after unfolding the drone and gently placed it on a small glass table in my garden.

The drone autonomously rises to a height of about three metres. I sent it flying straight up into the sky until it reached 300 feet by pressing the right joystick forward.

Everything seemed OK until I shifted the right joystick to the left, sending the DJI Mini 3 Pro flying southward.

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The wind was the first to hit me on the ground. It was a strong gust, and I wondered briefly, “Oh, I wonder if it’s windier up there?” I was relying on the camera and feed on the remote to manoeuvre now that the drone was just a dot over the horizon.

I relaxed once the gust passed, just as a larger and longer-lasting gust of wind blew across my yard. The once 3-axis-stabilized camera abruptly shifted sideways. I knew I was losing control of the Mini 3 Pro when the remote issued a wind warning.

To my dismay, I noticed that the 249-gram drone was being carried away by the wind. It was careening sideways and, I feared, heading for a point of no return.

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Don’t be concerned

If I had to guess, the gust, which shortly became persistent winds, was around 20 miles per hour. It might have been more powerful at that level, though.

I recall flying the DJI Spark. It was another small drone (300 grammes), but it couldn’t even handle a breeze. I found the DJI Mini 3 Pro to be so reliable in previous flights that I felt it could handle some wind. This may have been more than “a little” wind.

I stood helpless as my drone, a little dot in the glorious blue sky, bounced around. Then I peered down at the DJI RC screen, which was showing the drone’s camera video stream. The image was bouncing around like a toy drone stuck in the fist of a giddy toddler. I tried not to panic, but it was difficult to return the DJI Mini 3 Pro using the controls. I couldn’t stand up to the wind.

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Unsure what to do, I opted to delegate control to the drone’s synthetic brain.

I pressed the remote’s “Home” button.

The drone appeared to be instantly stabilised after this action. It flew up to 400 feet before fighting its way back to me against the wind.

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I knew the drone’s obstacle detection would keep it from colliding with anything as it flew back home, but I was still nervous about another gust taking over and blowing the drone into a neighbor’s house. I seized control of the drone once I could see it approaching me and began guiding it back to me. The drone replied this time.

I quickly guided the DJI Mini 3 Pro straight down from the sky. While reaching out my other hand, I proceeded to pull back on the right joystick. My palm was detected by the drone’s sensors.

Averted crisis.

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Let my blunder serve as a warning to you. The DJI Mini 3 Pro is a terrific consumer drone that can fly at high speeds and stay in the air for over 30 minutes. It takes incredible shots and videos (including vertical ones), but it’s still a small drone that can’t handle severe winds. Hold off on that flight if the weather forecast predicts for gusts or it’s just after a big storm.

That was my final flight with the DJI Mini 3 Pro, which is been safely returned to DJI.

Take your drone photography to the next level with these tips.

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