As a drone pilot, losing your drone can be one of the worst experiences that can happen, and, although it doesn’t happen ALL of the time, GPS company Trackimo reports that 30% of drone pilots have lost a drone before and haven’t managed to find it again. Below are what drone pilots asked most when losing their drones.
- How to find a lost drone in a tree?
- How to find a lost drone that flew away?
- How to find a lost drone without a GPS tracker?
- How to find a lost drone in a forest?
- How to find a lost drone if the battery has gone dead?
Despite this statistic, however, there is still some hope. Whether you manage to lose your drone due to a malfunction, a crash, or something in between, we’ve put together some great ideas to help you find your lost drone.
Here is what you will learn in this guide:
Before we dive in and look at some of the best ways to help you find a lost drone, we wanted to cover some of the main reasons why it can get lost.
Loss in Connection
This is probably the most common reason behind losing a drone and it always feels it happens in the worse possible place it could… over a body of water, near a thick, dense forest, or high on a mountain top.
Although this isn’t a regular occurrence, it does occasionally happen and can cause flyaways. On very rare occasions a malfunction can also cause a drone to drop out of the sky too.
Running Out of Battery
This is one of the most avoidable situations on this list and this is why we recommend that you keep an eye on your battery throughout your flight and make sure they’re always fully charged before takeoff.
Most drones, especially the more expensive models, have a return to home feature which is a great way to ensure you never lose your drone due to a low battery. It will simply return home before the power runs out. You’ll still need to ensure you’re not flying it too far away though – so it can cover the distance back.
Flying in Poor Conditions
Another avoidable situation is flying your drone in poor weather conditions. Things like wind and rain can cause havoc while your drone is in the sky and if you’re flying it at high elevations, conditions change very quickly.
Some drones come with built-in preventative measures to stop you flying in such weather though, which is great. When you’re flying DJI drones in beginner mode, for example, it won’t take off if the winds are too strong.
In this part, we’re going to go through all the steps you can take if you do lose your drone.
Establish Whether the Drone is Still Airborne
As soon as you realize you’ve lost your drone, you first need to establish whether or not it’s still in the air.
Sight and sound are your friends here and thankfully some drones are very loud and easy to hear.
If you can hear your drone then it is still flying. In this situation, there are a few things that may have happened. The most common is a flyaway. If this is the case, our article here should help you get it back before it stops flying or gets lost. We recommend familiarizing yourself with that article before you fly for the first time anyway – just so the knowledge is fresh in your mind.
Keep Your Remote Connected
Regardless of what happens, be sure to keep your remote turned on and connected to the drone. Even if some time passes and you know that your drone will have run out of battery, your remote is a great tool to help track down where your drone was last seen and should be kept on as long as possible.
If the drone still has battery life and is still flying, disconnecting the drone could cause it to fall out of the sky. By keeping the remote turned on, you’re ensuring that the propellors are still turning and that the drone remains airborne.
Head Over to The Drone’s Last Known Location
Some higher-priced drones are equipped with GPS technology like the DJI drones that are run through the app. This is great because you can find out the last known spot of the drone.
If your drone doesn’t have GPS technology, then we highly recommend you invest a few bucks in a GPS tracker. There are a bunch of different options out there but you can pick some effective ones up for as little as $25.
Even if you do have a drone with built-in GPS, If you’ve spent a lot of cash on it, it’s always a good idea to double up and get a tracker anyway because even if the drone is downed, you’ll be able to access your tracker to find your drone quickly and easily.
However, If you don’t have an extra GPS on your drone, just keep reading to learn how to find a lost drone without a GPS tracker.
Great News for DJI Drone Owners!
The DJI Go, DJI Go 4, and DJI Fly App have an awesome ‘Find My Drone’ feature built into it. If you’re using a foldable drone like the Mavic mini or the Mavic Air, you’ll already have the app installed from flying and you can track all of your flights from there.
Seek Help from Friends
The drone community is pretty supportive and if you have friends that own a drone, they will definitely empathize with your situation and may even want to help. If you were flying your drone in an open area when you lost it, see if your friend can do a flyover with their drone to narrow down the search.
Keep Note of Areas Searched
The best way you can stay on top of your search is to ensure it’s methodical. It may seem a little old school but print off a map of the area you’re searching and be sure to check off the spots you’ve visited so you’re not running around in circles.
Also, keep a detailed record of where and when you checked an area and be very thorough; this is pretty useful when you try to find a lost drone in a tree. I once got my drone caught in a tree (I was a beginner pilot back then) and even though I was 100% sure it was there, it took me a solid 20-30 minutes to actually find it, drones can be surprisingly camouflage).
When searching, be sure to search high and low. That means trees, roof gutters if you were flying close to residential or commercial properties, and even small bushes and shrubs.
Check the Flight Logs
Another handy feature that some drones come equipped with is flight logs.
Photographer and YouTuber PhotoJoseph crashed/lost his DJI Spark but managed to retrieve it relatively quickly by heading over to his flight records.
He has put all the steps on how he went through this in his video here, but essentially you just need to head to the DJI App, Go to “Me” in the bottom right-hand corner, and select “Flight Logs”. You then click on “Flight List” and the app will bring up all your flights.
You’ll then be presented with a map of exactly where you were flying your drone meaning that you can pinpoint almost exactly where it was when you lost it. Be sure to slide the bar at the bottom across to the end so you can see the endpoint.
Losing Your Drone in a Difficult Place
If you’re a bit of an adventurer, you may take your drone to some pretty cool places such as mountain tops, cliff edges, or even bring them along with you if doing activities such as snowboarding or bike riding.
The only problem with this is that if you lose your drone in these locations it may be difficult or physically impossible to recover. If you lose your drone in an awkward place, always remember first and foremost to stay safe and don’t put yourself at risk just for the sake of a few hundred bucks.
What to Do If You Lose Your Drone Over Water
One of the most gut-wrenching ‘difficult’ spots to lose your drone is going to be over water.
Unfortunately, drones don’t have a tendency to swim. If you’re in a shallow area of water, however, and the water is clear and safe to get in, by all means, try to grab it and leave it in some rice overnight.
However, for the most part, if you lose your drone over water, it may be time to cut your losses; especially when in the sea or in large lakes or rivers.
If you have exhausted all of the above options and haven’t found your drone, before you cut your losses it could be worth reaching out to people in your neighborhood, just in case they happen to stumble across it.
Post on Local Community Groups
Though some may consider it a long shot, it’s still better than doing nothing at all and it is possible that a good samaritan may have spotted your drone and handed it into the local police or, better yet, is trying to find its owner through Facebook and other social media too.
Put Up Signs
This is the old way of posting in community groups on Facebook but it can still be just as effective. Some people just don’t have access to the internet so it’s worth putting up some signs in the local area with all your contact details and the offer of a reward for its safe return.
Was There a Malfunction?
Finally, you’ll need to consider the circumstances in which you lost your drone. If your drone experienced a technical malfunction, it may not be a fault of your own and you might want to consider putting in a claim.
If you go down this route, you will need to provide as much detail as possible about the events leading up to the drone’s disappearance and, where possible, provide evidence. It’s also worth reaching out to the local police just to get a reference number – this will be the case too if you have some kind of gadget insurance.
Here are some links to the support pages of larger drone manufacturers where you can see if you may be eligible to submit some type of claim:
The best way to is always to prevent a drone losing by taking some
Invest in a Tracker
We mentioned earlier that investing in a tracker could be one of the most effective ways to retrieve your drone, especially if you’re not using the likes of the DJI where the flight is automatically logged in the app.
If you need help finding the best GPS tracker for your drone, check out this article.
Gadget Insurance is a great way to get your gadgets replaced should the worst happen. Be sure to check with your provider though that accidental loss or damage is included as part of your policy!
Take regular videos/images
If you’re flying a drone that has a camera, be sure to take plenty of footage periodically. Even if you’re just flying it for fun. Having images and videos to look back on will help you narrow down your search when looking for your drone.
Fly in Well Lit Open Areas
If you’re flying a drone in the US, it’s now against FAA regulations to fly at night unless you have special permission. Even if you do, try to avoid this as it’ll be much more difficult to see exactly where your drone is and even more difficult to find it if you lose it, even with lights.
Losing your drone can be somewhat of an upsetting and tedious experience. However, we hope we provided you with some top tips to get it back and prevent something like this happening again.
I also would like to reiterate that no matter where and you are flying your drone, you should always follow best practices. By taking precautionary measures such as only flying within line of sight and flying in wide-open areas, you’ll really help to minimize any impacts of a loss.
Can you think of any other ‘outside of the box’ tips and tricks for helping to find a lost drone? Let us know in the comments section below!