Not satisfied with my purchase. Would like a refund.

Anthony A

After contemplating whether to purchase Dronelink, I decided to give it a try and I went with the Hobbyist Elite version. I have considerable experience with Autopilot so I'm very familiar with setting up flight plans and how autonomous flight works as well as the expected results.

I decided to go with Dronelink because it seems similar to Autopilot but the Autopilot app is a little buggy and support is no longer available (even after I purchased the app a few years ago for $30 which is disappointing). I can't even access the online help that used to be readily available. The whole Autopilot experience since its business model became Dronelink has been aggravating, so I reluctantly purchased the "Hobbyist Elite" version for $99. Right away I can see it's nowhere near as robust as Autopilot. In some aspects, Dronelink has some improvements but its overall performance is lacking. My very first test flight was a simple orbit with an Inspire 1 V2 and the footage from the flight was terrible. At least Autopilot can do a decent job of keeping the target locked in without jerky camera movements. With that said, I'm not at all impressed with the app or how flight plans are created, modified, etc. For $99 I expected a lot more than this. The intention of this post isn't to complain about Dronelink. I simply would like a refund for a purchase I made that does not perform as I expected. Thank you.

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Comments

7 comments

  • Comment author
    Scott W
    • Edited

    I think you have to email support@dronelink.com to request a refund.  I don't think it will happen via a forum post.  At least that's the answer others have received in the past.

    I am curious what mobile device you're using.  I have had some minor jerkiness when locked on a target and doing a curve or orbit, but not bad enough to give up yet.   I'm guessing the faster CPU the mobile device has, the smoother that will be -- but not sure since I've only tested with one device (iphone 11pro).

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  • Comment author
    Jim McAndrew

    you have to email support@dronelink.com to request a refund

    This

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  • Comment author
    Anthony A

    Thank you for the insight on that email address. Just trying to find where to request a refund was somewhat difficult. No clear direction on the website. As for what mobile device I'm using, I'm using an iPad Pro. I get the warning message recommending upgrading to a newer device, etc. I'm not requesting a refund simply because the camera movement on an orbit was jerky. I'm just not pleased with the overall experience and how it all works. Coming from a few years of experience with Autopilot, this just seems less intuitive and "clunky" to me. I was hoping it would be like Autopilot but with improvements. I can't justify $99 for hobbyist use when it isn't as robust as the $30 Autopilot app. Again, I'm not here to complain about Dronelink. I just don't think it's worth my $99 when my somewhat buggy Autopilot app is more intuitive and performs better for me.

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  • Comment author
    Jim McAndrew

    Just trying to find where to request a refund was somewhat difficult.

    If you just search for refund the answer is there

    I get the warning message recommending upgrading to a newer device

    Using a low-performance device is just one of many potential reasons for poor results.

    Coming from a few years of experience with Autopilot, this just seems less intuitive and "clunky" to me

    I actually wrote Autopilot and Dronelink, and one of the primary complaints I received during the Autopilot days was that it was "too complicated". I am glad to hear you liked it but you are probably the minority there - as much as it pains me to admit. It really was a pretty complicated app, especially when you consider how much it was trying to do with a mobile-only mission planner. I am not claiming Dronelink is necessarily and less complicated, but I feel like I have made quite a few usability improvements since the Autopilot days. Having said that, if you are stuck in the Autopilot mindset (or Litchi or any other app for that matter), then you are probably not going to like Dronelink - it really does require a shift in thinking. This was the same complaint most people gave me when trying to switch from Litchi to Autopilot back in the day. What I can say is, the people that actually take the time to shift their mind-set end up loving the "new way" in Dronelink.

    If you want to keep using Autopilot, more power to you. I love that my tech stands the test of time :)

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  • Comment author
    Anthony A

    If you just search for refund the answer is there

    First of all, thank you for the prompt refund. I appreciate that. Searching for my answer is exactly what I ended up doing but typically there's a "Contact Us" link somewhere on a product's website and customers aren't required to search the "help forum" to find out how to get a refund. My first choice was to submit a request or email but then I saw the message "We only offer email support for Business accounts right now, but if you post your question to the forums, we will be happy to respond to you there." and that's exactly what I did because I had purchased the "hobbyist" version. I followed your instructions by going to the forum only to ask my question and be told to send an email which is what I was going to do in the first place.

    Using a low-performance device is just one of many potential reasons for poor results.

    I was told the same thing in my early days of using Autopilot. I get it. I realize the performance needs for newer technology/heavier processing loads, etc. With that said, I wasn't expecting my first Dronelink test flight (a simple orbit) to not be able to hold the camera on a subject without jerky camera movements. I couldn't find any settings like Autopilot's ability to modify the gimbal movement parameter. Oh, and I'm capable of "shifting my mindset" to newer things, but just because something is newer doesn't mean it's the best solution for everyone. Hey, I tried Dronelink. My career requires me to adapt to newer technology. I have no problem with that, but I stick with what works best for me and gets the job done even if it's older technology. I'd be foolish not to do that.

    I actually wrote Autopilot and Dronelink, and one of the primary complaints I received during the Autopilot days was that it was "too complicated".

    Coming from a fellow developer, you had a great product with Autopilot, and kudos to you for writing it! I always promoted it to fellow pilots and spoke highly of it. I never thought Autopilot was too complicated. In fact, I like that it gives you control over so many aspects of your flights. I really enjoy using it and like the interface. I enjoyed the tutorials (not sure if that was you in them but those are great) and the online help (Flight School text) was great. Emphasis on "was" since it's no longer available. I even submitted suggestions over the years for features that I thought would help make Autopilot even better. I tried Litchi briefly after purchasing Autopilot but I was always more comfortable with Autopilot. Litchi is really "watered down" in my opinion. My only complaints about Autopilot are the minor bugs that were left in the app when you ceased to support it. The sizing of the settings dialog (iPad app) has a very frustrating bug in it requiring the app to be restarted sometimes in order to view/edit profile settings. Also, taking down the online help was/is frustrating especially since I paid for that. I completely understand your desire to move to a new business model and attempt to improve your product, but alienating your paying Autopilot customers by leaving them with a product (that they paid for) that now has fewer features/functionality than when they first purchased it isn't a good way to win them over to try Dronelink. There's not even a discount offer for Autopilot customers to use Dronelink, or a trial period to see if it's a viable product for their business. Instead, the only choice is to drop the money, try it, and if you don't like it then you have to set up a help forum account, search for a method to contact support, post to the forum because "email support is only offered to business accounts", get told by the developer that if you would have just searched for it on the forum then you would have found your answer. Really? Not cool.

    The one thing that held me back for some time from trying Dronelink was the subscription model for business accounts. Not all businesses rely heavily on autonomous flight - mine being one of them. I purchased the hobbyist Elite "one-time purchase" thinking I could try it out on non-commercial test flights then upgrade to the subscription model if it was something I felt was better than Autopilot. But I felt I was getting something that didn't give me as much control over the parameters that Autopilot gives me. Autopilot just flows smoother in my opinion -- smoother in the sense that it's easier for me to manipulate controls (waypoints, camera triggers, focus triggers, focus points, etc.), values for those controls, parameters, etc. I seem to have more control over these. It's just easier for me to navigate. I have no doubt Dronelink works well and I'm confident I can figure it out. It just doesn't give me the control and feel over everything like Autopilot does. Nor can I justify a subscription for something I won't use on a regular basis. I may have one job in a month that requires me to use the features of Dronelink. That job might require a mission that takes less than 10 minutes of execution time to complete. I would be paying $20 just for that one job (almost the price I paid for Autopilot to use indefinitely). I think a "price per minute of execution time" would be feasible/cost-effective for businesses like mine. No way I would want to pay $20 every time I needed one or two 10 minute (or less) missions.

    It's difficult to explain all the details/reasons in a forum post and I'm not going to get into a pissing match with you. That's not my thing nor my intention. I've been a developer for 30+ years and in the remote aerial business for over 15 years. I'm not just some newbie with a drone. I know what works best for me and I definitely am capable of shifting my mindset to newer technology when needed. Really bummed that Autopilot is still a viable solution but it was left with a few bugs and the help was removed.

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  • Comment author
    Jim McAndrew
    • Edited

    I'm not going to get into a pissing match with you

    Thanks! I am definitely not looking for a pissing match. I won't respond to the majority of your points in the spirit of avoiding a pissing match, but I will mention two points because you would have no way of knowing this information otherwise (not documented anywhere - and yes I realize people bitterly want Actual Documentation).

    1) On "alienating your paying Autopilot customers", I wish it were that simple. The sad reality is that I was forcibly removed from Hangar against my wishes and never given the opportunity to continue supporting Autopilot. If you are unfamiliar with the Hangar story, it is the company I co-founded and rolled Autoflight Logic into in 2016, and unfortunately I had to give up control when we raised money. Lesson learned. Dronelink is bootstrapped (no investors) and I have full control this time.

    2) "(a simple orbit) to not be able to hold the camera on a subject without jerky camera movements". Unfortunately your simple orbit (which was tight and fast at over 25 mph!) is sort-of the worst case scenario for the algorithm behind the Orbit component. If you slow it down it would probably behave fine, but the real solution is to actually use the Orbit mode, which is a closer algorithm to what Autopilot does (hence the Mode moniker). Again, I realize there is no way for you to know that and it would have either required experimentation on your part (which it sounds like you weren't willing to do), or to ask the question here. And I get it, people are burned on forums because most forums aren't like ours (i.e. where the actual developer responds with real information), and there was no way for you to know that (unless you searched the forums and found my thousands of posts already 😂.).

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  • Comment author
    Anthony A

    1. I vaguely remember the Hangar reference when I began using Autopilot a few years ago but I have no clue about the details of that situation. I just remember reading it was going to be so much better all around. Either way, leaving paying customers with less of a product than what they got when they initially paid for it is poor business ethics. Not putting the blame squarely on you. If Hangar is responsible, then they're to blame. I don't really care who is to blame. The details that went on behind the scenes between you and Hangar remain unknown to Autopilot customers yet they got stuck with a faulty app. I'm guessing I'm not the only Autopilot customer feeling this way.

    2.

    Unfortunately your simple orbit (which was tight and fast at over 25 mph!) is sort-of the worst case scenario for the algorithm behind the Orbit component.

    Funny I did that exact same orbit using Autopilot and it was near perfect in holding the camera on target. The Dronelink preview showed it would work flawlessly. I'm assuming the preview isn't a true representation of actual flight performance. Honestly, that's a nice feature.

    Again, I realize there is no way for you to know that and it would have either required experimentation on your part (which it sounds like you weren't willing to do), or to ask the question here.

    Weren't willing to do? Again, really? You just confirmed one of the reasons why I wasn't satisfied with Dronelink right off the bat. It seems more cumbersome and not as intuitive as Autopilot. I don't even know what you're referring to in regards to Orbit "component" vs. Orbit "mode". If Dronelink is so much better with "usability improvements" as you stated earlier then why does it require more effort to figure out something as simple as the difference between an Orbit component and Orbit mode? And if "usability improvements" refers to having to rely on a forum when I have a question about how something works, then I don't consider that an improvement. A forum is nice for sharing information among users, but it shouldn't be the sole source of reference for the app (regardless of whether the developer has thousands of posts on it). Just think how many of your posts and monitoring time could be reduced if you included a well-documented help file on your site. Let the more complicated questions be asked on the forum. With Autopilot there was help readily available on every aspect of the app. I didn't have to log into a forum, ask the question (or search through multiple posts to see if my answer is buried somewhere in them), or wait for an answer to my question. It was all there...in text or in video at my fingertips. No sifting. No waiting. Every question I had about Autopilot was addressed with the built-in help or a video. Honestly, I spend very little time on forums especially when I need a quick answer to a problem while on-location shooting. I would much rather search a help file or watch a quick tutorial.

    Look I get it. You know your stuff. You're good at what you do. You've worked hard, you presumably got screwed by Hangar, you've written a ton of code and done a crap-load of testing, you built Dronelink, and now some stranger behind a keyboard is telling you what they don't like about your newest venture. Don't take it as a dig at Dronelink. I'm just being honest with you. I have always loved using Autopilot and I had high hopes that Dronelink would be everything Autopilot is and more. You may feel Dronelink is but I'm not seeing it at this time.

    Don't take it personally. It's not worth my money to experiment with it any further at this point. If some things changed, I would definitely consider Dronelink. If I had the opportunity to thoroughly test it for free (ie. 30-day trial), I most definitely would look into it more. When I purchased Autopilot, I dropped $30 for the app. If I wouldn't have liked it, I was only out $30...not $99. Also, after paying the $30, I could use the app anytime. Not the case with Dronelink.

    A "per minute" payment plan would be a nice option rather than having to pay $20 every time I need to perform a few short autonomous flights. Let's say if $20 got me 200 minutes, that didn't have to be used within a specific time frame, then I would consider that. Kind of like credits that don't expire. I would venture to guess that small businesses occasionally performing autonomous flight can't justify the current price models but would definitely consider a "per minute" payment plan.

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