I don’t typically write product reviews but I wanted to take the time to document my experience with the Protocol Dronium III AP so that others don’t meet the same fate that I did.
Anyone considering purchasing this product should be advised that it is prone to “fly-aways” and that the companies policy is to just write it off as user-error.
Before I share my experience, I want to establish credibility. I am a West Point graduate and as an Active Duty Army officer, I was involved with early testing of drone technology. I am also a licensed private pilot with an instrument rating. After leaving the military I earned a graduate degree from MIT. I share this to establish the fact that I am quite familiar with this technology and am not the “idiot” that the customer service rep at Protocol wrote me off to be.
I bought a Protocol Dronium III for my son for his 13th birthday back in October. When he opened the present he was ecstatic and his eyes lit up! We brought the drone home and charged it, as well as, put brand new batteries in the controller. That night he read the entire user guide (which is unheard of for this child but he was THAT excited). After he went to bed, I grabbed the guide and also read it in its entirety.
The following day, when he came home from school, the drone was charged, we downloaded the app for the iPhone, had everything set up and were ready for a test flight. We waited until my other children were home for school and once everyone was there I took the drone out to the backyard. The plan was I was going to fly it first, make sure it was working properly and then teach him the basic controls.
I started the app, we synced it to the controller and then moved the two control sticks down and outward to start the propellers. The drone went into a nice hover. I increased RPMs to gain altitude and had the drone bank right and then left at about 8’-10’ above ground. I then took the drone up and was going to hover at a height slightly higher than my house. Right about that time, the drone became unresponsive and kept gaining altitude and moving off to the left despite the fact that I wasn’t even controlling it. The camera feed on the app froze and the drone continued to fly away as my son watched in horror. The drone never regained connection, continued to gain altitude and within a minute had disappeared over the treeline never to be seen again. My son was hysterical and after 2 hours of searching for it we gave up hope not knowing how long it flew or which direction it ended up before crashing. I flew the drone for all but 2 minutes before we lost it forever.
After this happened I reached out to the company and within 24 hours had my concern responded to by a CSR named Rose L. Rose started off the email response by telling me about the challenges flying outdoors. To Rose’s credit she didn’t know that I was a pilot and have operated aircraft in some of the harshest, most difficult conditions pilots experience. She told me that “flying outdoors presents challenges that pilots don’t experience indoors” (BRILLIANT ADVICE; thanks, Rose!). The “space is limitless outdoors without walls” she told me (again, I never would have known that flying inside was different than flying outside). She then said “to prevent fly-aways it is important to first test and practice within close range before letting the drone fly too far”. All of this was done yet the product did not perform as it was supposed to. Rose wrapped up by telling me that “fly-aways are not covered by warranty” so I was stuck. She did tell me that they were sorry and if I wanted to buy the product again they would send me a code for 50% off. Seriously? Your product doesn’t work and you want me to spend MORE money? You take zero responsibility and pass this off as customer error?! The fact that they even have a term (i.e. “fly-away”) for this mishap lets you know that this happens quite frequently.
Thje bottom line is that I spent $200 on something that didn’t work right out of the box, my son’s only birthday present was a disaster and the company did not step up and assume ANY liability in the least other than offer me a 50% discount if I wanted to RE-BUY their non-functioning product.
Do yourself a favor and DO NOT BUY this product. You run a substantial risk of it not working and the company will not be there to make things right. Your child (or you) will be disappointed on Christmas. Buyer Beware!