Drone Flyaways: How To Avoid Them And Get Your Drone Back

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While flying drones, tragedies such as drone flyaways could happen any day, anytime.

The consequences likely to follow, especially after losing track of the drone, are dire and could cause anyone to panic – even the most experienced drone owners.

For example, when a drone lands in restricted areas or crashes and hurts people, or destroys property 

I have found myself in such a predicament. The first time my drone flew away was my first drone building project. I flew my drone too far when testing the range and I lost control of it. 

I was excited to have built a drone from scratch and got it to fly – but before I knew it, I couldn’t get my drone to fly back. 

I’ve experienced several other drone flyaways since then, but in most cases, I was able to recover them.

Before I explain what worked best for me, let’s first ask ourselves, what are drone flyaways? 

What are Drone Flyaways?

Drone flyaways are instances where drones fly away and you no longer have control of them. This could occur due to a lack of GPS reception, loss of the link between the drone and the controller due to interferences, or the drone could be flown away by strong winds. You can prevent drone flyaways by ensuring a strong GPS connection before flying, ensuring the weather is ideal to fly, flying within the drone’s range, and or using a third-party tracker.

Please keep reading to learn more about drone flyaways and how exactly you can minimize the chances of this happening. 

What Causes Drone Flyaways: Why Do Drone Flyaways Happen?

Drone flyaways are majorly caused by the following:

  • Drone “Home” setting is off
  • Drones encountering technical issues
  • Compass interference occurrence 
  • GPS Lock being Off
  • Drone being too low on battery
  • Flying very far away

At length, here’s why you’re likely to encounter a drone flyaway.

“Home” setting is Off

Forgetting to have the “home” setting on is a major cause of drone flyaways. While some drones, for example, DJI models, automatically have the “return home” setting, some may not. So, you have to set it manually.

This is the only way you can be sure to have the drone ‘Home’ after the battery has gone low or when it loses signals. When you lose track of your drone and activate the RTH button, your drone returns to the set home location.

Nonetheless, it’s vital to note that your drone could hit trees or buildings (if any) while flying back home and get stuck.

To avoid hitting trees or buildings when flying home, give a high altitude RTH. With a high altitude, if there are tall trees or buildings, your drone will fly above each of them and safely get to the set home location.

“Home” setting is Off - leading to your drone flying away

This is vital not only for drones without sensors but also for those with them. Better safe than sorry! 

Here’s what I mean: if there’s not enough light when your drone is flying back, its sensors may not sense any obstacles. It could therefore get stuck in tall trees’ branches, hit a building, or any other obstacles, and end up crashing – flying at a high altitude saves you such misfortunes.  

Drone Technical Issues

While there’s nothing much you can do about drone technical issues, they happen when you least expect them. When they do, you may lose track of your drone due to failed communication lines to and from its controller. 

Aside from failed communication that may cause a drone flyway problem, other technical issues include failed transmission and flight controller systems. 

To stay safe, always have a drone flight log record. This is essential because of the information it sends to you and because your drone insurance company or the manufacturer may ask for this when you ask for their help. 

With the most vital information being the date and time of the flight when your drone flew away, drone flying altitude and speed are other details your drone log collects. 

Wind speed and flight path, too, are available on the log, among other vital details. 

This information could be essential when trying to trace your drone’s location. So, since you can’t predict if there will be an accidental drone technical issue while flying your drone, always use the drone flight log.  

Compass Interference

Don’t only rely on the drone GPS (Global Positioning System). No, also ensure there’s no compass interference while flying the drone. 

Get this right – it’s your drone compass that directs its orientation. On the other hand, the GPS navigates the drone to have it back to its set home.  

So, while the GPS is vital, you should also closely monitor your drone’s app to ensure there’s no compass interference. 

Else, your drone is likely to fly in the opposite direction. To avoid such occurrences that heighten drone flyaways, monitor the level of interference.

Compass Interference

If interference is high, cease flying the drone and look for areas with low compass interference and ensure you keep sight of your drone. Better still, fly it in areas with no interference whatsoever. 

Always keep track of the drone app, especially if you own a DJI drone. Why? The software sends you a warning via the app. You’re therefore likely to see an “out-of-whack” notification whenever a recalibration is necessary. 

In situations where you have to recalibrate your drone, 99% of drones won’t take off.  

You can, however, avoid such scenarios by recalibrating your drone before flying, especially when you move to a new geographical area. 

GPS Lock Is Off

Unless you’ve set the GPS lock on, your drone may not return to the location you chose as “home” once its battery is low or when there’s no stable connection between the drone and its controller. 

This illustrates the risk you take if you fly without GPS lock on.

Again, based on your drone model, you could fly it with only 4 satellites. Not so with all drones. Some need an average of around 7 to 12 satellites – this number allows for a stable and solid drone connection to its controller. 

Better still, and if your drone allows, have about 7 to 12 satellites to ensure that it records “home” location and flys back when required. 

Don’t forget that a change of location also calls for the drone’s GPS calibration; otherwise, it may not reset the location and may give inaccurate location information. 

Low Drone battery

One of the greatest mistakes you could ever make is flying a drone while its battery is low on charge. So, always ensure you’ve fully charged the battery before taking off. 

How do I know my drone battery is charged? When fully charged, the status light becomes solid green. The drone’s status LED will slowly blink green when the battery is charging.

Low Drone battery

Aside from ensuring the battery is fully charged, closely monitor the drone’s battery and, preferably, bring the drone back home at 30%. Though you can still fly your drone at 30% based on your drone type, I would highly recommend you keep it within a line of sight. Never fly it far away from where you’re at 30%. 

When the battery drains to less than 20%, your drone is set to fly home automatically.

Losing Sight of Your Drone

Based on your drone model, you can fly it away to a range of, say, 0.5 to 3km or 5 to 12km for mid-range and high-end drones, respectively. But what happens if you fly a drone too far away? 

Better put, can you fly a drone from far away? Well, it’s not safe! Flying drones too far away makes it possible to lose sight of it, causing drone flyaways.  

Losing Sight of Your Drone

So, why do drones fly away even when you’re able to monitor them through the camera?

It’s simple, drones’ cameras have limits. 

They cannot capture what’s on their right, left, or back. So if there are any obstacles such as trees, posts, or buildings, please fly your drone within your sight. 

But…

How Often Do Drones Flyaway?

Firstly, drone flyaways don’t just happen – mostly, it’s due to an unforeseen technical issue or sudden change of weather that weakens your drone’s signals, among other issues as seen previously in this article.

Bearing in mind that it’s easy, in most cases, to predict the weather and that drone technical issues rarely happen, drone flyaways are rare, too. At least for expert drone users. Basically, from experience, here’s what most drone expert says:

How Often Do You Experience Drone Flyaways? (Experts)Percentage 
Less than Five Times18.6%
Five times and above7%
Never experienced drone flyaway74.4%

Source: Drone Blog

Most experts that have had their drones for five or more years admit that they’ve not experienced a drone flyaway. Not even once. Only a handful mentioned having experienced it.


How To Prevent Drone Flyaways? 

You prevent drone flyaways by:

Doing Pre-Flight Checks 

Never take chances unless you care less about your drone. Always check your drone’s condition to ensure that there will be no unforeseen technical problems. During this check, confirm if the battery has enough charge and if it’s securely installed within the drone. 

In addition, check your firmware is up to date, if the drone is sending signals correctly, and if the drone’s compass is well calibrated. 

Avoiding Bad Weather

Flying your drone in bad weather, especially in rain, weakens its signals. Rain also damages your drone’s electric parts. Windy weather also affects drone control and can cause flyaways.

Avoiding Bad Weather

Having a Tracker

Always ensure you have a tracker. Drone trackers effectively prevent drone flyaways. One great thing about using a tracker is that the failure of the drone’s GPS doesn’t make it impossible for you to trace your drone. 

An independent tracker, such as this one,  will use its own battery. So even when the drone crashes and the battery stops working, the tracker will be active for more than 6 hours, giving you enough time to track it.

Frequently Recalibrate Your Drones

Recalibrating your drone before a flight shouldn’t be an option – it’s a must! Recalibrating your drone could even be a lifesaver in case the GPS fails. Therefore, keep an eye on your drone App to know when your drone needs recalibrating. 

If there’s no App, simply make it a rule whenever you change locations. Even with high magnetic interference, recalibrating your drone could save you the drone flyaways troubles. 

Re-Setting the “Home” Location

Setting the “home” location on your drone may not help if you’re moving. 

If, for example, you’re playing with your pet, you might find yourself in a different location, not where you were initially. Be safe and keep on resetting your “home” location. 

Also, when you’re on the move, it’s safe to have the “home” location as dynamic. Else, your drone would land away from where you are, and you might lose it for good, or spend countless hours trying to locate it.

Constantly Maintaining a Line of Sight

Always ensure that you’re maintaining the line of sight to prevent drone flyaways. To successfully ensure you’re keeping sight of it, avoid flying it when it’s cloudy, during evening hours, or very early in the morning.

Constantly Maintaining a Line of Sight

In addition, avoid flying it beyond the optimum set drone flying range.  

Practice Your Drone Flying Skills

Don’t be overconfident. If you’ve not flown a drone before, get training first. Most people lacking drone flying skills end up losing their drones due to drone flyaways. 

Without drone flying skills or an understanding of how certain factors affect your piloting, you’re likely to fly your drone during bad weather, fly it too far away from your line of sight, or not set the RTH. 

Still, you may be unaware of how to control it, thus resulting in drone flyaways.


What Do I Do If My Drone Flies Away?

There’s hope for your lost drone. Here’s what to do when your drone flies away:

  • First, avoid panicking, as it will hinder you from applying the solutions for effectively having your drone at home.
  • Next, check where it last landed through the App and look for it there.
  • Check the areas around where you last flew it, and give more attention to bushes, trees plus their branches, and buildings, among other tall objects, to see if you can trace it. 
  • Ask around and hang clear posters with “Lost Drone” information.

Check out this article for more solutions on getting your lost drone safely home.


How Do I Find A Drone That Flew Away?

It’s easy to find a drone that flew away, especially if its remote controller is still on. By using the telemetry information on its App, you can quickly tell its last seen location. If this is not an option based on your drone model, or if the battery drained fully and the GPS cannot help, a tracker would be a sure resort. It’s better if it’s mounted separately.

How Do I Find A Drone That Flew Away

The best part about trackers? They are reliable and give exact locations on a real-time basis. Moreover, they give you all the flight details. Consequently, you can search for the drone in a specific place with 99% assurance of getting it. 


What Happens If My Drone Flies Out Of Range?

It’s trickier when your drone flies out of range. Once a drone flies out of range, it loses signal. In cases where you’re ‘lucky,’ you might retain a very weak signal. This explains why your drone could be lagging – its weak signal. 

Based on your model, lost signals result in the drone landing anywhere — in bushes, on top of buildings, tree branches, or lakes, just to name a few. This further complicates your efforts to get it back home. 

For some drone models featuring top technology, it’s possible to fly them back home since the battery doesn’t drain completely. There’s enough charge left to fly them home. DJIs are good examples of such types of drones.


Let’s Seal It

Drone flyaways may not be common. But we cannot ignore the fact that at least 25% of drone owners experience it once in a while. Thankfully, it’s possible to avoid it. Especially if you have the skill necessary for flying drones, are cautious about drone flying weather conditions, maintain a line of sight when flying it, and calibrate it before take-offs. 

Other measures such as setting and resetting the “home” location whenever necessary, doing pre-flight checkups, and using a tracker effectively prevent flyaways.

Did your drone fly away? What method worked best for you? Share your experience with us in the comment section. 

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DroneSourced is a drone blog covering the latest advances in UAV technology, the best drones you can buy for your budget, and everything else to do with remote-controlled flight. We're a team of drone enthusiasts that want to spread the word about drones!

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