How to Find a Lost Drone – Tips and Tricks

This post was last updated on: July 1, 2021

Some drone models are expensive and have a huge capital layout; the last thing you want to deal with when out playing with it is a flyaway drone! 

Whether it flew out of range, crashed into an aerial obstacle, or got swept away by a strong gust of wind; the first thing you need to do is find a way to retrieve your prized possession. 

But where do you start?

Not to worry, there are various ways to go about this. We have listed some tips and tricks below which will assist you to find a lost drone. 

1. Try the Return to Home Button

drone HOME BUTTON

This is the first thing that should come to mind anytime you realize your drone has gone missing. It also means that you shouldn’t turn off the controller when the quad disappears. Simply locate the “Return Home” button on the controller and press it immediately.

In most cases, the drone’s video feed will cut off on the controller if it flies out of range, but this may not necessarily mean that the connection is lost. If you act fast and press the Return Home button, there is a chance of getting back your quad. 

If you think the signal is lost, you can still walk towards the location you last spotted the drone until the connection is restored. Pressing the button causes the drone to come back to its initial takeoff point, which should be close to where you are unless you moved around a lot.

drone in palmtree

2. Check the Drone’s Last Recorded Coordinates

If the drone gets lost due to expired battery life but your controller is still working, there is hope of finding it. Some controllers can store the last coordinates of the drone before it disappears. 

If this applies to yours, just feed the coordinates into your GPS and let it lead you to the last location of the drone. Although this method may not be accurate, it goes a long way to narrow down the search area, making your task much simpler. 

find my drone

Alternatively, you can find the last coordinates using an app. To do this go to the app settings on your phone. For those flying a DJI drone, you can download a DJI Go app. This is programmed to note down the last GPS coordinates. 

Even if your controller goes off, you’ll still be in a position to access the last drone location through your smartphone.

3. Use a Second Drone to Search for It

A lost drone could be the reason that forces you to buy another drone. However,  if you can’t afford a new drone at the time, you can still borrow one from a friend to assist with your search. Drones are widely employed in search missions involving lost hikers; they’ll also come in handy when you’re searching for a drone. 

With the drone, you get a clear bird’s-eye view of the landscape within which the first drone disappeared. It will be much easier for you, especially if the search drone comes with a camera. 

By making rounds across the area where your drone disappeared, you should be able to spot it without wasting too much time. You can even wait for nightfall to check for blinking lights from your fallen drone.

4. Look at the Telemetry Data

Most displays on drone controllers show telemetry data when the drone is flying. This information is also available on apps and you can access it through your smartphone or iPad. If you suspect that the drone is gradually losing connectivity, quickly check the details of the telemetry data. 

This data allows you to see the direction your lost drone was flying and how far from the last connectivity point it was. If you press the Return Home button and the distance displayed on the controller starts decreasing, then it should tell you that the connection is still available.

If not, then you’ve probably lost connection with the drone and it is still flying away further. By following the last direction it was flying to, you will eventually find it.

4. Hang “Lost” Posters

If you’ve tried all the above tips but nothing seems to bear fruit, maybe it’s time to do it the old-fashioned way. You could design “lost drone” posters with a picture of the drone and hang them in public spaces. 

lost drone

You never know; a good Samaritan might have come across it and is willing to give it back to its rightful owner. Don’t forget to include your contact details and even a reward if you see fit. But don’t just stick to the old-school way of doing this. Check if there is a drone community in your locality and post your message on their social media pages. Alternatively, you can rally them to join your search efforts. Chances are most members of the group can relate to the kind of pain you’re going through and will be more than willing to lend a helping hand. 

As a measure of last resort, you can also report your missing drone to the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) if your drone was registered. They might be in a position to tell you if the drone pops up anywhere on their radar based on the registration number of the drone.

5. Conclusion

So, if you can’t seem to locate your drone after flying it out of range, it is never too late to try and get it back. Be sure to try all of the tips discussed above and Lady Luck might just smile at you! 

drone on the tree

FAQ

How Does a Drone Get Lost?

Various scenarios may cause your drone to disappear from your line of sight. For one, if you fly your quad beyond the controller range, the connection will be cut off and the drone may continue flying in one direction until it gets lost. 

Another scenario is when you fly the quad in obstacle-filled airspaces. You can easily crash into a wall, tree, or power lines and damage the propellers, causing the machine to free fall. If your drone doesn’t have a Return Home function, it can also drop down when the battery runs out. 

Finally, a quadcopter that is not stable enough in the air can be swept by a strong breeze and thrown beyond your line of sight.

How Do I Avoid Losing My Drone?

Firstly, if your drone doesn’t have integrated GPS, then you should consider investing in a GPS tracker. This will tell you where the location of the lost drone is and there should be enough time to get to your quad before someone else does. 

Secondly, most drones get lost because users tend to fly them beyond the line of sight. To avoid this common pitfall, you should choose open spaces to fly your drone; away from obstacles such as trees and tall buildings. 

Another preventive measure you can take is to calibrate your quadcopter appropriately before takeoff and choose a fly zone with no interference. This will include setting up the Return Home function to make sure the home point is in the right location and returning height is high above obstacles. 

Finally, don’t choose a dark environment to fly your quad; rather, go for a well-lit area where you’ll always have your eyes on the device. It will go a long way to reduce incidents of disappearing drones.

Can DJI Track My Lost Drone?

Yes! The DJI app will let you get your lost drone back. Just download the DJI Go app and locate the “Find My Drone” feature in the settings. This is easier if you have a smartphone that you carry everywhere you go. 

Keep in mind that you can only use the Find My Drone tool if you have the app on your phone, so be sure to download it as soon as you buy the quad. 


About the Author: Ruan Nelio

When I'm not geeking out over the newest drones, I'm busy flying my DJI Mavic 2 Pro all over Oslo. The coolest part about this job is I get to keep some of the drones I review, which happens to be how I got my Mavic 2!

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