Do You Need Wi-Fi to Fly a Drone

Do You Need Wi-Fi to Fly a Drone?

If you have seen drones flying, you may have wondered how the pilot controls them effectively. So, how are they controlled and do you need Wi-Fi to fly a drone?

Some drones need Wi-Fi to fly, but not in the sense that we are used to. They use 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, which are practically Wi-Fi signals, to send and receive inputs between the drone and controller.

However, you can fly a drone without the internet except for specific situations, such as updating firmware, downloading a map or an App and live streaming. 

Below, I’ll discuss situations when you need Wi-Fi, when you may not need it, and more.

Let’s dive in.

How Does a Drone Work With Wi-Fi?

Some of the drone’s functionalities rely on Wi-Fi such as connecting the drone to the remote controller.

As a result, you are able to send and receive signals between the drone and the controller. That’s how you are able to control the drone and even see the live feed from the camera.

The distance the signals must travel to communicate, and the speed data needs to be transferred are major determining factors of the required Wi-Fi type.

You may use a 2.4 GHz or a 5.0 GHz Wi-Fi based on your data transfer and speed needs as well as your location.

5.0 GHz

If you want fast and stable data transfer between the controller and the drone, use the 5.0 GHz. Also, there’s minimal interference, and data is sent to the camera without delays.

You can use range extenders if you encounter range problems.

This option is ideal for people who want to fly within the line of sight. The frequency doesn’t go through walls and other solid objects.

2.4 GHz

If you’re looking for the most stable signal, use the 2.4 GHz. Though it may be crowded because old garage doors and baby monitors also use it, the signal is ideal as it travels long distances.

So, as a pilot who loves flying your drone far from you, use 2.4 GHz. It’s the best option.

Some drones, for example, the DJI, are set to use this signal automatically. DJI’s OcuSync allow the drone to switch between 2.4 and 5.0 GHz, that’s why it’s one of the best transmission systems.

Unlike the 5.0 GHz, the 2.4 GHz is unstable and may experience interference. As a result, image quality may be poor.

To learn more about the differences between these two protocols, check out this article.

When Do Drones Need Internet to Fly?

When Do Drones Need Internet to Fly

While some drones are designed to use Wi-Fi signals for communication between the drone and the controller, this is not the internet where you need a SIM card or an internet service provider.

That’s why you can use a drone with your phone in airplane mode. Instances where you need the actual internet include:

Streaming Live Videos

Live streaming of live events on YouTube, Facebook, or other platforms requires connecting your drone to Wi-Fi.

So, when skating, hosting parties, swimming, or participating in other fun events, you can capture and share these excellent memories with your social media followers.

Updating Maps

You don’t need an updated map to fly a drone around your home as long as it is within line of sight. In such situations, GPS will help.

However, when flying in new areas, connecting the drone to Wi-Fi for an updated map will help you to identify no-fly zones.

The updated map automates the drone to ‘Return to Home’ safely. In addition, it also helps you to self-navigate the drone easily.

Updating Apps and Firmware

Using an updated drone App keeps you constantly updated with new technology. This is because drone manufacturing always updates the Apps to give you better features.

Also, from user feedback, drone manufacturers understand what bugs are troubling them. Hence, release a bug-free App with better features at a later date. 

Thankfully, it doesn’t cost you anything to update the App beyond the internet cost. Plus, it’s easy and convenient to use the Apps on your smartphone to control the drone.

Regularly updating the drone’s firmware keeps hackers away. It’s also impossible to install malware on updated drone firmware.

Besides, for the drone’s components and features to operate excellently, update the firmware. This keeps the software running smoothly and protects the drone and its controller.

Getting Information on Location

You can still use GPS features to get accurate information about the drone’s location. However, these features are costly for some to afford.

A cheaper option for consumer drones is to connect to Wi-Fi to get accurate information on the drone’s location.

In addition, if you’re flying your drone while on the move, use your smartphone to set a new home point.

This prevents the drone from flying back to the launching point and flies to where you set it.

How Many GB Do I Need for My Drone?

The amount of GB your drone uses depends on the activities that are using the internet.

If, for example, you’re only using the Wi-Fi to access the map or update Apps, only a small amount of internet will be used.

You also won’t need a lot of GB to record videos or take photos. However, when streaming live videos, you need a lot of data, and it will be used fast, too.

Can a Drone Fly Without Wi-Fi?

Can a Drone Fly Without wi-Fi

Yes, a drone can fly without using Wi-Fi. You can use Bluetooth, a radio controller, a pre-downloaded map and flight App, or manually control the drone if you don’t want to use GPS or Wi-Fi to control it.

  • Bluetooth: Pair your drone with your device. Bluetooth allows the devices to communicate without using wires or the internet to connect.
  • A pre-downloaded map and flight App: You can control the drone using a pre-downloaded map or flight App.

    Sadly, the pre-download app might not offer a great flight experience. Besides, it could expose your drone to security threats.

    An outdated map could also lead you into trouble because you may fly in restricted areas only to be arrested later.
  • A radio controller: Radio controllers operate on 40.68 MHz, 27.12 MHz, or 2.4 GHz. A radio controller can be an effective and reliable way of communicating with your drone.

    You use a unique identification code when using radio waves to communicate with your drone.

    Therefore, other people cannot use their drone controllers to operate yours.

    Most controllers still use WiFi but it’s inbuilt and not the one you use for the internet.
  • GPS: If you operate the drone from a far distance, use a GPS. If your drone or controller didn’t come pre-installed with GPS, you don’t need the internet to use GPS. So, set your phone to no-disturbance mode and use its GPS signals.

Disadvantages of Flying Drones Without Wi-Fi

As mentioned, there are fewer privileges and more risks if you fly a drone without Wi-Fi.

Below, I’ll discuss a few.

Geofencing challenges: Without geofencing, your drone could easily fly to unsafe or restricted zones and lead you into big trouble with the authorities.

You need the internet to set virtual boundaries for your drone. Besides, geofencing also helps you to know the location of your drone and prevent it from landing or taking off.

Limited Flight Features: Features such as dynamic track, viewpoint, waypoints, VR, and orbit modes are inaccessible without Wi-Fi in some non-DJI drones. Therefore, your flight will be less enjoyable.

No Real-time data transmission: You can’t transmit data from the controller to the drone in real time without Wi-Fi.

Security Tips for Flying Drones Without Wi-Fi

You could be arrested for flying a drone without Wi-Fi if it flies to restricted areas. To minimize the chances of getting into trouble, here are a few tips to consider.

  • Stay away from restricted or unsafe areas. Flying in such zones could cause you to be fined heavily, or you could land in jail.

    You can check with the local authorities to know if drones are allowed in the area you want to fly in.

    Otherwise, look out for signs that show flying drones is restricted. 
  • Only fly the drone within line of sight. It’s impossible to see your drone if it flies far from you without a Wi-Fi connection.

    The drone could quickly fly away. This makes losing the drone easy and evading accidents difficult.

    Also, don’t fly the drone too high, as it’s challenging to know when exceeding the altitude range limits.

    Exceeding the limits could lead you to jail. Otherwise, you could be fined.
  • Plan ahead of time. Pre-download the map and App if you plan to fly the drone later.

    As a result, you’ll know if there are restrictions in the areas you intend to fly your drone at.

    Your drone should also use an updated App if you download it a few hours before flying it.

Verdict

You don’t need Wi-Fi to fly your drone. However, you’ll not have access to features that would make your whole experience exciting, for example, sharing live video streams with social media, accessing some flight modes, or even accessing the accurate location of your drone.

Besides, updated firmware and Apps improve the performance of your drone and its controller. In addition, the drone and the controller are also safe from hackers and bugs.

Author
Peter Karanja

Peter is a licensed drone pilot and drone fanatic. He owns a DJI Air 2S that he uses to shoot videos for fun, enjoyment and for clients.

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