Great news for all DJI drone flyers! NavWorld’s regular Mr Fix-It, Jaco Smit, has just got back from Holland after passing his DJI Repair Certification course. This means NavWorld is now officially certified to perform repairs on all Spark, Mavic Pro, Phantom 4 Pro and Inspire 2 products while DJI’s manufacturer’s warranty remains unaffected. 

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but drones – especially good ones like those in DJI’s stable – don’t come cheap. Another inconvenient drone truth is that, for all their fancy built-in obstacle avoidance tech, they can still fly into trees and hit the ground hard. So it makes sense that if you want to look after your investment and keep flying, you need a trusted, can-do technician on call who’s up to speed with all the latest developments. This is where NavWorld’s Jaco Smit comes in. He’s been pulling Garmin navigation and fitness units to pieces, then fixing them while others look on cross-eyed, for over 11 years. Simply put, this dude knows his stuff. And, now that he’s added the coveted international DJI Repair Certification to his already impressive repertoire of skills, he can also take care of all your DJI maintenance and repair requirements too.

Passing DJI’s international Repair Certification course wasn’t exactly what you’d call a walk in the park. It’s a demanding week-long assessment process, where small groups of up to six candidates are rigorously tested on all the latest models and expected to pass each module with a minimum of 80-percent. Certification only takes place in three countries; China, Holland and the US. And, once you’re done, the qualification is only valid for two years.

“This is because of the rapidly developing nature of drone technology and to factor in the latest models,” explains Jaco. “In fact, I was part of only the second group globally to get certification on the Spark, it’s that new! So before you get your drone repaired, I suggest you check the repair guy’s certificate to see if he’s qualified to work on your specific model or not. There are a number of guys in SA qualified to work on DJI’s older models, but not many are up to speed with all the latest drones. This is important to understand, as any unauthorised repair work on a DJI product voids the warranty.”

Getting down to business
From the moment Jaco and his fellow candidates arrived at DJI’s certification facility in Holland they had to hit the ground running. First up, all drone models – namely the Spark, Mavic Pro, Phantom 4 Pro and Inspire 2 – and their controllers had to be completely stripped down to component level. This went as far as removing wiring hidden inside the drone legs, as well as making sure not even one teensy drop of solder remained on any of the components. “We didn’t just have to take everything apart accurately,” points out Jaco. “We had to do it extremely cleanly.” Once that was done, their assessor then checked out everyone’s handiwork closely, making sure no damage had been caused to any components or connectors during the process. And, once approved, he instructed them to put it all back together again.

NavWorld’s Jaco Smit dismantles an Inspire 2 drone while undergoing assessment for his DJI Repair Certification in Holland.

“Once our drones had been reassembled the real evaluation began,” recounts Jaco. “Everything got scrutinised in minute detail, from the controller to all the sensors. First he would check to see if we had any screws or parts left over. Then he’d switch each drone on and put it through some pretty rigorous testing to make sure it was operating okay.”

Having “taken stuff apart for most his life”, Jaco had no issues with the first phase of the certification. For him, the second module – fault finding and assessment – was without a doubt the most interesting. After successfully completing the reassembly of a particular drone, each candidate was handed one taken from a “mystery box” with a variety of hidden faults, then given 30 minutes to find out what was wrong and complete the assessment. And, to make sure none of their successes were deemed “flukes”, they had to do this three times for each drone model they were seeking certification on.

“This is where the heat got seriously cranked up,” explains Jaco. “It’s easy to tell what’s wrong when the drone’s been in a crash. But when it doesn’t even have a scratch on the outside, trying to determine an internal failure on a circuit board or component can be extremely tricky. To make matters worse, our invigilator’s facial expression remained completely blank throughout the entire exercise, giving us no clue as to whether we’re getting it right or not!”

Having dealt with customer repairs and queries for years, albeit in the navigation and sports fitness space, Jaco understands exactly what kind of service stressed out consumers expect from their repair guy. Because of this he was very impressed with how DJI went about things. “The way we were expected to perform while searching for faults and conducting the assessment mimicked the real world perfectly,” explains Jaco. “Sometimes you don’t get a fault report from the customer and have no other option than to blind test. When this happens it’s critical that you track down every fault, no matter how small and are confident with your findings, as this determines how you bill the customer for the repair and, ultimately, their satisfaction as a client.” – (c) 2017 NavWorld

About The Author

Sean Woods

Originally a photographer for the Star newspaper in the bad old days, Sean Woods turned to writing after the first democratic elections in '94. The career shift paid serious dividends, culminating in him becoming associate editor for Popular Mechanics magazine with a number of technology writing awards under his belt. His interests include anything to do with boats, motorcycles and all those fancy tech gadgets that help the modern world go around.

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