My Drone Just Flew Away from Me! What Should I Do?
Written by Elizabeth Ciobanu in Articles
If you are a drone owner, the chances are that there might come a time when your drone loses its connectivity with the controller. At that moment, it’s almost as if the drone is flying on its own. However common such incidences are, they always cause panic and fear for the drone owners. You don’t want your little fly machine flying away from you and disappearing for good. If you are faced with such a situation, what should you do?
In case of a drone fly away, you should first try to activate the RTH feature; if it doesn’t come back, you can use another drone to search for it. Checking telemetry information in the controller app will also tell you the last location and direction of the drone.
The best solution to drone flyaways is to prevent them in the first place. I’m going to walk you through some of the causes of drone flyaway problems to help prevent them before they happen, but also to understand what you can do if you encounter a flyaway situation.
This article will take you through some of the best steps to follow if you experience a flyaway situation. Sometimes they occur through no fault of your own, and in that case, I’ll help you with some tips on the best ways to recover it when it has flown away.
What to do when your drone flies away
Drone flyaways tend to cause panic and fear – you suddenly realize you might lose the drone for good – especially if you don’t know what to do when this happens to you.
Here are the basic steps to follow to recover your flyaway drone.
Activate the Return To Home (RTH)
When you first notice your drone has lost its connection with the controller, activate the RTH as soon as possible. The return to home feature will initiate your drone navigating its way back to the set coordinates and thus prevent it from flying away. The RTH mode is put in the drones to help counter flyaway events, and should you notice your drone failing to respond to your controls, that should be your first step in the efforts to prevent a flyaway.
Push the emergency stop button
An emergency button on some drones will help you counter the drone flyways as soon as you notice your drone losing its link with the controller. Pressing the emergency button will make your drone stop its flight abruptly and activate an emergency landing. This can be very effective, especially when your drone starts to fly away in a built-up place where you can’t run after it or where you will quickly lose sight of it.
Run after the drone
Running after the drone may at times be the only possible and prudent way to respond when your drone flies away. This could be at the point when you lose a connection between the controller and the drone, and the previous two steps are not producing any effect.
A drone might lose full connection with the controller when flown beyond its range, and nothing on the controller will help recover the connection. In such a situation, running after the drone might be the only way to save your little device from getting lost.
This is not just a helter-skelter panic reaction either – running after the drone will reduce the distance between the drone and the controller and help re-establish the connection between the two. This will also increase the probability of you getting back control of your drone and preventing a flyaway.
How to find a flyaway drone
Finding a flyaway drone may be a grueling task if you don’t have the correct information on where exactly to start your search. Since drones fly in the air, they may go anywhere provided there are no obstacles on their way. Most drone batteries can sustain a flight for about thirty minutes. This is enough time for a drone to go really far, given its considerable high speed.
Therefore, the best prevention is to equip your drone with trackers to help you locate where they are at all times. The telemetry information can also come in handy when trying to locate your flyaway drone.
Here are some of the best ways to identify and find a flyaway drone.
Use another drone to locate it
Using another drone to find your flyaway drone can be very useful. Drones that have cameras come in handy when trying to locate your renegade drone. A second drone can capture real-time clips of the areas it is flying over and send the videos directly to your monitor; this will help you accurately pinpoint your lost drone and retrieve it quickly.
Use a separate GPS tracker
A separate GPS tracker with its own power source will come in handy when trying to locate a flyaway. When a drone flies away and crashes, it is not unlikely that it will also destroy its built-in location tracking or cut the power source altogether.
It is important to note that when there are no obstacles, a drone will only crash when its battery runs low, and thus, the tracker will go off as well. However, when you have a separate tracker mounted on the drone with an independent power source, you will still get your drone’s location even after a crash or when your drone’s battery dies.
Check the telemetry information on the drone
Telemetry is a device used to retrieve your drone’s flight information on your computer or radio controller. This information can help you to identify several parameters of your drone on the ground.
Telemetry will always show you the exact location where your drone lost its connectivity, as well as the direction it was heading to before the connection was lost. Accurate information from the telemetry unit will help you narrow down to your drone’s likely location or where it might have flown to and thus make your retrieval efforts that much easier.
How to prevent a flyaway situation next time around
There are many reasons a flyaway can occur; some are your fault others are way beyond your control. The most common cause is a malfunction that causes you to lose control of the drone altogether. It may be that a motor fails, or at times, one of the propellers may not be working correctly, or the controller cannot link appropriately with the drone. A software problem can also cause the drone to take on a mind of its own.
Electromagnetic disruptions could also make your drone go haywire and lose communications with the controller. Avoiding flying near high-voltage power lines with a high electromagnetic field around them, or cell phone towers and commercial buildings can help prevent the incidences of drone flyaway.
Some other common causes include flying in bad weather conditions, flying the drone too high or too far from your position, and a low battery in your drone or the controller.
To prevent flyaway situations from happening, here are some tips that you should follow.
Make sure you set and update your drone’s home location
Setting up your drone’s home point is an essential first step when starting up your drone. You will be required to input the GPS location of your house. This process is different on every drone, and as such, you will need to follow the steps provided by the manufacturer.
Unfortunately, not all drones have a RTH function. Only the more expensive drones will allow you to set up a home address.
Another good option is setting your drone’s home point as the location of the controller. This is very important when controlling the drone from a moving place like a car or boat. Doing this will, however, require that you have a very robust GPS signal.
Start by practicing in beginner mode
Many drones have a beginner mode. In this mode, the drone will automatically set limits on the altitude, distance, and speed the drone will be flying. Beginner mode will thus reduce the chances of losing control of your drone and give you more practice and experience before you graduate to more complex modes. The experience will help avoid future flyaway instances.
Set the altitude correctly
Despite most drones having an obstacle avoidance system, you will still be required to set the drone’s altitude correctly. It would be tragic if your favorite toy hit a tree or a hillside because chances of retrieving it won’t be guaranteed. A height of around sixty meters should be ideal in many areas.
It is important to note that despite the drones having obstacle avoidance technology, the tech is far from being foolproof. The sensors might not properly recognize reflective surfaces like glass or water, or thin obstacles like tree branches.
Don’t overdo the distance
We may often feel tempted to push our drones to the limit to see how far they can fly. This can be the easiest way to lose your drones. Many drones can fly up to a couple of miles away. However, flying them at a max of 500 meters is recommended. And always keep your drone within a distance that you can physically see it to avoid the chances losing controller connection and flying away.
Keep an eye on the battery
Many consumer drones on the market have a battery capacity that can sustain a flight for about 30 minutes at the top limit. This isn’t long keeping in mind how time flies when we’re having fun. It is therefore vital to keep our eyes on the controller monitor to check the drone’s battery. Do not let the battery percentage hit a single digit to prevent finding yourself in trouble.
Be wary of compass interference
To ensure your drone doesn’t fly away, you will need to have the compass calibrated correctly to make sure they fly back home safely. Don’t just rely on the GPS.
Fortunately, most drones have a monitoring system that reports any slight compass interference. If you notice the interference getting worse, fly the done out of that area and back the way it came. The prime cause is magnetized iron. Staying away from bridges and buildings will help you avoid compass interference and consequently avoid drone flyaway problems.
Perform regular maintenance
Many electrical devices develop issues over time. Your drone will not be an exception. It is crucial always to conduct regular maintenance procedures on your drone to ensure it functions at its best before taking it out on a flight. It would be best if you took it to a professional to be sure everything is checking out okay.
Scheduling your drone for maintenance every six months or so will also help you prevent incidences of your drone flying away due to malfunctioning.
Do a preflight check
It is strongly advised against flying your drone without a preflight check. The preflight check will help you ensure all your drone functions are working correctly.
Check that the batteries are fully charged, the controller links to the drone correctly, and all other components are working well. Remember to check the weather in the area you are flying. Sudden strong winds or rain might cause your drone to fly away or cause other damage to your drone.
Proper lighting is crucial for people who fly drones at night. Whether you want to capture pictures or videos at night or want to enjoy flying your little toy in the dark, you will need proper light. Proper lighting will make sure that you can keep an eye on your drone at all times when you are flying and, as such, will help prevent accidental crashes and possible flyaways.
Drone flyaways are common problems that many drone owners have faced over their time flying drones. They may cause some drone pilots to avoid flying their drones in the open for fear of losing their toys. However, with the above information and tips on the causes of a flyaway and how to prevent it, you don’t need to worry. The right prevention will keep your drone safe in almost all cases.
Editor-in-Chief. Elizabeth is a full-time (homeschooling!) mom of four, and serial entrepreneur in a variety of enterprises, one of which is producing content for Droneblog. If free time existed, she would love to spend more time on hobbies such as flying a drone.