…It’s Time To Make A Change.
First off, if you’re a regular reader, you’re probably wondering why I am once again twittering about drones. Yes, I used to twitter here, but then offloaded all the drone articles into a separate blog called The Drone Diaries. Well, the simple fact is, I really don’t have enough material to sustain two blogs. This meant The Drone Diaries really wasn’t very popular – so now it’s history. The Drone Diaries has come back home to Twitterings.
And – you’re probably wondering – what’s a FIMI?
FIMI Technology Ltd., makes drones in Shenzhen, China. Where else? The company used to make something called the Mi 4K. Over the past two-plus years I’ve bought four of them. The first one I flew for a long time, until it fell into the sea almost exactly a year ago. The second one I bought locally for spares, although, I did eventually fix its problems and flew it occasionally. It’s always been a bit temperamental though, so it’s safer I keep it grounded and cannibalize as needed.
The third was purchased to replace the first, but it fell foul of a sudden change in import regulations and was impounded by Customs. The seller promised a refund when it arrived back, but they claim it never did. So, ultimately it was the fourth which replaced the first. I still fly it, when it lets me.
Technology-wise it’s getting a bit long in the tooth. It lacks a lot of features that are available on newer drones, but which, frankly I don’t feel I need. Although it, along with its support group of spares, chargers, batteries, remote controller, etc., occupy half of the rear seat of Bert, I like its size. It feels solid. It’s not much affected by wind. The video is good quality. And it’s been reliable. Except for…
The batteries. Yes, we have to talk about the batteries. They’re [expletive deleted.] They die pretty-much without warning. That explains why Mimi1 (they’ve all been called “Mimi”) fell in the sea. She was 300 meters away and 50 meters high, when the remote controller suddenly announced “Battery damaged, please land immediately.” Easier said than done. The dolphins are probably wondering what kind of device the gods have sent them.
Eventually I learned how to monitor the batteries, and to spot the signs that a battery had reached the end of its useful life. This would be after about twenty flights! Yes, twenty. Not two hundred. The voltage in one cell would go low, and that was a sign it was about to fail. As a result, I’ve been buying a new battery about every six to eight weeks, and they’re roughly US$100 a pop. Not funny.
FIMI of course refuses to acknowledge the problem, so there’s never been any question of free replacement batteries – or drones. In fact, the company never acknowledges e-mails. Nonetheless, I was happy to keep flying, until…
One day, a couple of months ago, I went out to fly, and found I couldn’t. The FIMI app wouldn’t connect to the FIMI drone. My iPad is my first choice of screen to monitor the flight. In fact, that’s pretty-much why I bought it. Right size, right brightness and fast screen updates. But, it wouldn’t connect.
I suspected an equipment problem, so I pulled out my ancient and small Android phone. The Android app worked fine. But the screen really isn’t big enough to fly safely. So I went back to my hotel – yes, I was travelling, so I wasn’t too amused by the fact I couldn’t get any aerial video – to see if I could figure the problem. After trying many things, even deleting and re-downloading the app, it hit me. I had recently upgraded my iPad to iOS13. That turned out to be unlucky.
I checked online with other FIMI Mi 4K users, and slowly it became clear the FIMI app would not work with iOS13. Ah well, I didn’t care too much about iOS13, and I didn’t too much care if I had to lose all my data, I wanted to go back to iOS12 so I could still fly. Then I remembered why I also hate Apple.
You can’t go back. Once Apple has decreed that an iOS version is out of beta testing, they “unsign” any earlier iOS versions. That’s their way of saying, “you can’t do this.”
So, I was grounded. Not amused. With FIMI nor Apple.
Head was scratched. Various thinking poses adopted. Problem was slept on. And the only solution seemed to be – buy an Android tablet. An Android tablet was purchased.
It’s an el-cheapo thing, but looks very much like an iPad. Virtually the same size, so it fits nicely in the special holder I bought for the iPad. It runs Android 8, and as far as could figure, the FIMI app worked fine. I went out and flew.
Ha. Problem. The screen seemed fine indoors, but in sunlight is pretty much invisible. You really don’t want to be squinting to see if the battery level is 84% or 34%. So, it’s now a nice digital clock in my bedroom, which, due to the aforementioned not-so-bright screen, doesn’t keep me awake.
Then I noticed someone online had recommended a Teclast P80X as being a tablet that works with the Mi 4K drone and has a bright screen. I’d never heard of it but guess what? I bought one of those too. It was el-cheapo plus a few bucks.
The first thing I did was turn the brightness to 100%. It seemed impressive. The second thing I did was load the FIMI app. That worked. The third thing I did was try to connect the drone. That didn’t work. What The.
After a few hours of research online, plus chatting with other users, I discovered that my Teclast P80X, unlike the reviewer’s, was running Android v9. And I’m sure you know what I’m going to say now. The FIMI App doesn’t support Android v9, only v8 and earlier.
Are you starting to see why I hate FIMI? Crap batteries, and no app upgrades. The thing is: FIMI now considers the Mi 4K drone to be obsolete. They no longer make it, despite the fact it’s still on their website. Purchasers must be very amused to find they’ve just bought a drone they can’t fly.
Plus, supplies of spares and batteries are now starting to dry up. It’s like bringing your car for a service and the dealer tells you they can’t do it because your particular model is no longer made, and oh, how would you like to buy a new one of our cars?
So, head was scratched some more and I realized in the past month I’d bought one battery and two tablets costing roughly the equivalent of 50% of a new drone, and still couldn’t fly. The only logical course of action seemed to be to retire Mimi, to tell FIMI where they could shove their drones, and to buy something new.
And that’s what I’ve done – the story of which will come soon. But (spoiler alert) the saga ain’t finished yet!