Losing a drone, whether it’s a low-cost $100 dollar beginner drone, or a $1000+ DJI, is a frustrating and saddening event. And it can happen to anyone – whether you’re a complete beginner pilot or an experienced drone flier.
We’re here to help, with the most cost-effective and best ways to find a lost drone.
So, what should you do if you’ve lost your drone?
Press and hold the ‘return to home’ button and wait until it registers. Don’t turn off your remote controller, as it’s the only connection between you and the drone.
For DJI drones, there’s a ‘find my drone’ feature that shows the location of the last signal. You can also listen to drone sounds and look for its lights.
Losing a drone can be difficult to prevent because there are various reasons behind a drone flying away.
But we’ll cover a few more options for recovering your drone as well as steps you can take to prevent it from happening again.
How Can You Find A Lost Drone Without A Tracker?
In most cases, finding a lost drone without a tracker is challenging. But, it’s possible.
Here are several ways that can work:
1. Screenshot Footage of the Location
Form a habit of always taking screenshots of the footage from your drone camera.
If it crashes, the screenshots help you recognize the location. Also, look for landmarks in the images to help you trace the likely flight path.
2. Remote Controller
Never turn off the remote controller, because it plays a vital role in finding your lost drone.
When it’s on, it tries to reconnect with the still-powered drone when you get close.
The controller shows the drone’s flight path with the last known location. So as you’re moving, the controller indicates if you’re still on course and near the location.
Stay on course until the drone reconnects, and you’ll get an updated position.
When you’re in the location, be attentive to look for flashing red lights or listen to a beeping sound or hissing of the blades and motors.
But if the drone’s battery is dead, you’re out of luck.
3. Return to Home button
If the controller loses connectivity and the live footage stops, immediately press and hold the Return to Home button on your controller.
When a drone starts going out of range, it starts by losing the live video.
Even though your controller no longer shows a live video feed, it’s likely there’s a slight connection remaining to your drone.
Still, don’t turn off the controller and quickly go to the last-seen position of your drone.
Once you’re closer, you’ll regain connectivity, and your video feed will come back to life.
Then, expect your drone to return to you shortly.
4. Report to the Police
It’s always advisable to report to the police once you lose something, especially a drone.
Preferably, visit any local police station or one that’s near where your drone took off.
You never know; some good citizens might find your drone and take it to the nearest police station. So, it’s good not to leave any stone unturned in finding your lost drone.
5. Online Marketplaces
Undeniably, selfish citizens out there would rather sell and not return your drone after finding it.
The most obvious place to sell a stolen drone is through an online marketplace.
Therefore, it can be worth browsing through your local marketplaces and neighborhood forums, and if you’re lucky, you might find your drone on the sale listing.
If you spot a familiar drone, what should you do?
First, confirm the serial number of the drone sold with yours. Then contact and get all the details of the seller.
Show them proof of the drone’s ownership, including the serial number and license. Ask the seller to send the drone back to you, or you’ll tell the police. Make sure you have the seller’s information like phone number and home address.
Never meet the seller in person, as you might be putting yourself in danger.
6. Lost Drone Posters and Flyers
Why not make posters for a lost drone?
With the changing times, drones are becoming more popular by the day, so posting flyers of your lost drone on the bus stop or light post can work – even if it’s a little unorthodox.
Still, if the posters and flyers catch the eye and attention of a good citizen, they may return it to you.
7. Search with a Backup Drone
It’s much easier looking for your drone by air than on foot. So, if you have access to a second drone, either yours or a friend’s, this will help in searching for your drone.
Ensure your backup drone has a camera and can fly higher and far enough from the controller. Check through the trees, roofs, water, and bushes with a bird’s-eye view of the landscape.
If a daytime search is unfruitful, you can wait and search at night, hoping that your drone’s battery is still on.
Make passes with your second drone in the area your drone crashed. Your backup drone should easily spot the blinking lights of your lost drone.
8. Find my Drone DJI App
So, you turned off the controller and your drone’s battery is flat. How do I track a drone’s location, you ask? Download the ‘find my drone’ app.
Sadly, this app only works for DJI pilots, but there are other apps for different brands.
If you have a high-quality, expensive drone, it almost certainly has a companion drone-finding app.
DJI’s app can locate your drone without a tracker, and when it’s out of range.
Additionally, this app provides a satellite view of where to find your lost drone, its current status, and the battery levels, which is especially helpful if it’s in a tricky area that’s hard to locate.
9. Access Flight Logs
Access to your drone’s flight logs helps you retrace your drone’s steps before the flyaway, even if it had no tracker before getting lost.
The flight logs keep information on the flight path. So, with satellite Google Maps, you can easily find and follow your drone’s terrain, leading you to the downed drone.
Also, they let you know your drone’s last direction before losing the signal. This way, you’ll know to avoid that direction next time you fly your drone.
From experience, the worst-case scenario is losing a drone with no tracker. But, even when I was angry and confused after losing my own drone previously, I managed to find it.
If you’re feeling frustrated, take some deep breaths and try to calm down and think clearly. You’ll need a clear mind to strategize finding your drone most effectively.
From the several methods available, I settled on using the remote controller and hitting the find my drone app.
Luckily, my DJI drone still had power, so the signal wasn’t so hard to reconnect when I got closer to where it was. I found it stuck in-between some tree branches.
What Should You Do If Your Drone Is Lost (For Good)
There’s no guarantee that you’ll find what’s missing or lost. So, it’s time to count your losses if you’ve exhausted the above methods and still have no drone.
Nonetheless, there are several steps to take in giving up the chase properly.
Report the Drone
It would be best to notify your local law enforcement and file a police report. Reporting the drone helps the police launch investigations to recover it.
Also, it prevents you from being responsible for any further action, especially if someone tries to use it in any illegal activity.
While filing the report, ensure you provide the police with as many details as possible. For instance:
- What was lost (the drone’s model)?
- When did you lose it?
- How did you lose it?
- Where do you believe it might be?
If possible, it would also be best to provide drone photographs.
Ask for your case number and information of the officers following up on the case. This helps to maintain accuracy and save time. Ensure you do periodic follow-ups asking about the progress of the case.
Deregister the Drone
If you lose your drone for good, it would be best to deregister it.
According to the FAA, you’re required to register your drone after purchase – unless it’s under 250 grams in weight. FAA registration gives you legal permission to use it.
So, it’s only fair if you deregister the drone when you lose and can’t find it. Besides, it’s no longer in your care.
While deregistering, you must provide a valid reason which in this case is a lost drone. Ensure you provide any proof of the registration you need to cancel.
Deregistering a drone only applies to commercial drones because the registration features the owner’s identity.
On the other hand, recreational drone pilots only register the drone owners but no detail concerning the drones.
Get a New Drone
It’s advisable to insure your drone immediately, especially if it’s high-end.
This helps cover your loss if it breaks down or gets lost. With drone insurance, getting a replacement is easy, as agreed with your insurance provider.
If your income source is from working with a drone and you don’t have insurance, you have no choice but to buy another drone. It’s a blow to your budget, but you’ll be more careful not to lose it again this time.
How to Avoid Losing Your Drone
Here’s how to avoid losing a drone:
1. Buy a GPS Tracker
A GPS tracker is the most effective way of retrieving a lost drone.
This works best for all drones, especially those that aren’t DJI. DJI drones have an automatic way of staying logged in to the app.
Choose the best tracker for your drone to ensure you know wherever it is, even when it’s not lost.
2. Take Regular Footage
If your drone has a camera, it helps to take several images and videos when flying, even if it’s just for fun.
Having the footage in the controller when your drone loses signal helps you track down the location. This way, you narrow your search to possible positions your drone might be.
3. Fly In Well-Lit, Open Areas
The FAA restricts flying your drone at night unless you have permission.
Still, even with permission, avoid flying your drone in darkness at all costs, as it’s hard to see ahead and even challenging to find when you lose it.
Flying during the day helps the pilot see and avoid any obstacles. It becomes easy to maneuver and pull the drone not to hit buildings, trees, and bushes.
4. Set Return to Home
The return to home setting automatically gives the command to your drone.
When it’s on, ‘home’ is where the drone took off. Other models allow the owner to program home locations in the setting.
The Return to Home feature works in two ways:
- You can give the command to your drone using the controller
- There’s an automatic setting that makes the drone return to the home location immediately after it loses signal
5. Download an App
For DJI drones, there’s an app called Find My Drone. You can download it to your phone to allow versatility and convenience.
So, the app must remain connected to the controller and your smartphone to ensure it works efficiently. In case of a crash or flat battery, the find my drone app saves your last know position to help guide the pilot using the onscreen map.
Moreover, the LED flashlights and beeping sound can help locate your drone if it falls deep in thick grass.
6. Fly in Appropriate Flying Weather
Always check the weather before flying your drone.
First, good weather helps you to plan a good and successful flight. You can avoid specific areas, strong winds, and heavy rains.
Flying in appropriate weather also ensures the drone finds its way back.
Strong winds can damage your drone, and weak winds also prevent the drone from lifting correctly.
When your drone struggles with even the slightest wind, it uses more power and battery than on a clear day. Wind can determine the safety of your drone when flying and returning home.
Undeniably, some weather conditions cause incomplete drone flights, such as strong winds leading to flyaways. Check the weather forecast frequently ahead of your flight to help reduce the chances of drone damage or loss.
Will DJI Replace A Lost Drone?
DJI doesn’t replace any lost drone but only those with a DJI Flyaway Coverage.
Losing a DJI drone is highly frightening because of the lost data and also because they are expensive.
Usually, not all manufacturers help to recover your lost drone. The furthest they can go is only by analyzing your flight logs; then, you can take it from there.
Fortunately, DJI is not your ordinary manufacturer.
Aside from selling high-end and popular drones, it takes customer service seriously.
That said, how does the DJI flyaway coverage work?
The DJI Flyaway Coverage is an option in the DJI Care Refresh package that provides a replacement for the lost or flyaway drones. This works as insurance for your drone, offering replacement in case of damage or lost drone.
To get Flyaway Coverage, you must pay the required service fee for DJI to provide a replacement unit.
However, the Flyaway Coverage replaces only specific DJIs like Mini 2 and Mavic Air 2 at a cheaper rate.
Even though it comes as a whole package, DJI Care Refresh package doesn’t provide everything.
You’ll still need a specific fee for the Flyaway Coverage option whenever you need a replacement. Still, the Flyaway Coverage only offers a one-time limit which means you only get a replacement when you lose your drone.
But if you need more covers for damages and more flyaways, getting the DJI Care Refresh Plus package is ideal but it comes at an extra premium fee.
Remember to link your DJI account and controller using the DJI Fly app. You won’t get a replacement when you lose your drone, even if you pay.
All in all, it’s always wise to get the Flyaway Coverage for your DJI drone so you can get a replacement drone when you lose yours.
A lost drone is highly frustrating, especially if you saved up for many months to buy a high-end drone only for it to disappear in a split second.
The chances of finding a lost drone are high, but you must brace yourself for the worst and expect not to find it.
So, to buy a new drone, learn from your experience to avoid another loss.
Most importantly, follow the recommended precautions above and invest in a drone GPS tracker. If you went for a DJI drone, the Flyaway Coverage comes in handy to help you find a replacement.
The truth is, losing your drone is likely to happen again but this time around, ensure you are ready. Don’t lose your drone twice!
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