I took a weekend trip out to Shizuoka, Japan (1.5 hours south west of Tokyo) with only one goal in mind: to get some awesome drone pics and video. I arrived at Shizuka station and trekked an hour north through the valley of the luscious forest, towards Umegashima forest.

After an arduous journey of winding roads, I found myself alone at the mouth of Akamizu no Taki, or the slightly redundant Red Waters Waterfall. It was the perfect spot and conditions were ideal to fly — blue skies and no wind.

Then I totally bombed it…

Woops. Well, fortunately the DJI Go app saves a low quality video directly to your device so despite loosing the memory card (and not to mention the entire drone), at least I have the video. After climbing up the side of the waterfall to inspect the wreckage of my beloved Phantom 4, well, I couldn’t even find the drone. Perhaps it was stuck somewhere out of sight or was swallowed whole by the merciless rapids.

However, I did find the culprit, or culprits. Tree branches and cables. What the hell are cables doing dangling around a waterfall? It doesn’t matter so much, but there they were in plain sight. Most certainly a death trap for any flying machine trying to get past.


After mourning the tragic loss of my precious, not inexpensive Phantom 4, I wiped off my tears and came up with some ground rules moving forward to avoid the situation. I don’t want to kill any more innocent Phantoms after all.

Drone tips for next time:

Always double check where you’re going to fly, before your fly. I checked the waterfall…after I flew my drone straight into the mouth of the beast. See, you’re supposed to do the opposite. Lesson learned. Plan your flight path beforehand and inspect any potential obstructions.

Don’t fly too close to water. Dude, it’s not water proof.

Bring a friend. Four eyes are better than two. You can fly and your friend can watch to make sure the drone is on a safe flight path.

Keep your eye on the drone. Drones don’t have a 360 viewing capability, so despite the great sensors the DJI has it won’t stop the drone from flying into a tree. You should have all eyes on the drone.

Drones are not indestructible. For some reasons I had convinced myself that DJI’s products were sent down from the gods. It’s like thinking an Apple computer can never get a virus…until it does. When it comes to flying unmanned aerial vehicles that travel at high speeds, its best to leave your ego at the door.

Next time, well, I hope there’s no next time. 🙂