How New Zealand's Strange Magnetic Field Almost Destroyed Our Drone, P.T.W. BTS Ep 6

Photographing The World BTS episode 6 is finally here and this is the one many of you have been waiting for. At this point in the series I had flown this drone in 7 different countries in snow and rain, and I even crashed it into the side of an ice cave but it kept on working. The streak finally ends in New Zealand when I have my first and only serious crash.

When we arrived in New Zealand my DJI Phantom was acting strange. Normally the drone will connect to GPS satellites and stabilize itself even in strong winds. That was no longer happening in New Zealand. The drone wouldn't fly straight, it kept pulling to the right. If I took my hands off of the controller the drone would begin to fly in increasingly sized circles; after just a few seconds the drone would be flying in gigantic circles above my head. I assumed that the Phantom had finally broken. At this point it had flown around the world twice and I was forced to check it on a few of those flights. It had served us well and I just assumed it had reached the end of its life. 

Even with the drone's strange new tendencies I still continued to fly it throughout New Zealand and I was still able to get very usable shots; I was just counting down the days until it would totally die. 

Fast forward to our Lake Matheson shoot. I was flying the drone over the lake and it was pulling the right like it always did but all of a sudden it stopped moving. I completely lost control for a moment. The drone sat there for a few seconds and then slowly started to descend. I pressed "up" on the left stick to raise it back up but it wasn't responding. I had only a few seconds to decide that I should fly it back toward me and crash it into a tree rather than let it land itself in the water. 

As you saw in the video I was able to recover the drone but I was certain that it was totally broken. When I was looking for a place to buy a new drone I ran across this article. Apparently my drone wasn't broken, New Zealand suffers from "high magnetic declination" and the Phantom 2 struggles in these areas.

Apparently these drones suffer in areas above or below +15 or -15 and New Zealand is in a -25 zone. 

Believe it or not a simple firmware update to the drone completely fixed my issue and the drone started flying perfectly even after my violent crash. It's certainly a testament to just how tough these drones are. 


In the BTS video above you will hear our feelings about Lake Matheson over and over again. We hated waking up early and hiking out there multiple times but we also never really liked the image. We didn't feel like the location was worth the effort. 

Well in an ironic turn of events, I am pleased to admit that the final Lake Matheson shot may be one of my favorites of the entire tutorial. While I was busy crashing the drone, Elia was able to capture a beautiful shot of the sun illuminating a bit of fog on the water. The final image, with clouds added, is so simple and timeless that it's hard to have anything negative to say about it. 


In case you've missed the other episodes you can easily find them below. 

You can watch episode 1 here

You can watch episode 2 here

You can watch episode 3 here

You can watch episode 4 here

You can watch episode 5 here

You can watch episode 6 here

You can watch episode 7 here

You can watch episode 8 here

You can find the finished tutorial in the Fstoppers Store.

Lee Morris's picture

Lee Morris is a professional photographer based in Charleston SC, and is the co-owner of

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I'm telling you, it's nature's way of fighting back against drones.

Even from watching this video it just feels so wrong to be driving on the left side of the road. How is it in real life?

It took a while to get used to it. My biggest issue was making left turns. I would forget to look right. I almost got in a serious wreck

glad you didn't get hit

There's nothing at all wrong about driving on the correct side of the road!
Left hand is the best hand ;-)

Be very careful where you fly your drones. If you invade someone's privacy you will have a big problem.

We only flew the drone on public property. I'm not sure about the laws in each country but in most places you do not have a right to privacy in public areas.

Be careful in Hungary.In public places you have to ask everyone in the shot before you actuali take the shot.
So be carefull .

I wouldn't stress too much, we're a bit more laid back and less likely to scream privacy invasion here in NZ. Well, most of us are anyway. :)

In most cases there simply wasn't any people there to cry about privacy. Love the open road....and the rabbits!

I'd hate to come across as "that guy" - but...I really, really prefer the before image to the edited one. To me, it just feels so much more dynamic and life-like - I really love the muted tones. But that's just my opinion!

Nature's own shotgun shells!!'s a anti-drone conspiracy!

Your episodes from New Zealand are really great fun to watch. It seems that I've been at the exact same locations during my round trip this spring.
And don't be upset about your 45 minute walk around the lake. I had to walk all the way from Fox Glacier in the middle of the night to get there ...