How to Find a Lost Drone?

It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or a drone pilot with 5 years of experience or more; losing a drone can happen to anyone.

It happened to me once and if I didn’t know some of the ways of how to find a lost drone, I would not have recovered it.

So, how do you find the lost drone?

  • Check the drone online market
  • Following the flight path
  • Use ‘Lost Drone’ posters
  • Locate the GPS coordinates
  • Check the last known flight logs
  • Use ‘Find My Drone’ App
  • Use another drone to find it
  • Use the ‘Return to Home’ option 
  • Scan the area using another drone

Read on to find out how you can recover your lost drone and some mistakes to avoid. 

How to Find a Lost Drone?

How to Find a Lost Drone?

Sometimes, it may take only a few minutes to find your lost drone based on your method. Read on to learn the best methods to find a lost drone fast.

Follow the Flight Path

Following the drone’s flight path may be an effective way to find your lost drone, but it is also one of the most tiring and potentially risky ways to try. Why? 

It might be challenging to see the drone if you’re flying it in a forest, bush, or area with tall grass. 

Hence, you might have to walk further into the bush or forest while looking for your drone, risking your life.

To reduce risk and increase the chances of finding your drone, mark out the area where your drone got disconnected. Start your search at that point. It could be trapped in the bushes or trees. 

Hence, it’s also essential to know how to get a drone out of a tree.  

My drone got lost in an area with a lot of trees. But by marking out the area, I was able to position myself close to where it was, but I had to initiate other methods like using the “Find My Drone” method which I will discuss later.

Now, following the flight path is only effective during the day, as tracing the drone at night might be difficult unless its lights are still on. 

Check the Last Known Flight Logs

One of the most effective ways to find a lost drone is by checking the flight logs. Each drone is created differently, but to give you an idea, I’ll guide you using the DJI drone. 

After all, most people have this drone, and you might be one of them.

Access the DJI App

  • At the top right-hand side of the App, you’ll see the hamburger menu; tap it.
  • On the drop-down menu, tap ‘Flight Records’ to see the ‘Flight List’ at the bottom of the screen.
  • Tap the last flight from your previous DJI drone flight list.
  • A map featuring a blue dot and a red triangle will pop up. The blue dot shows where you are, while the red triangle shows the drone’s location.

    To make it much easier, set the map to terrain mode to see the features surrounding the drone. 
  • You’ll see the slider at the bottom of the screen; drag it to see the direction the drone flew before you lost it. You’ll also see the drone’s last location at the end of the flight path. 

One of the best reasons for using the DJI App is that it gives you a map with satellite images, showing you the existing features near your drone’s last location. 

These features make it easy to know where to find the drone. 

Locate the GPS Coordinates

Does your drone have a GPS Tracking system? The tracker can help you find the drone easily using the GPS coordinates. You can use your smartphone to find the coordinates. 

So, put the battery in your controller and turn on the GPS’s last location. This method, though, requires a satellite connection between you and the drone. 

Therefore, there should be no barriers between you and your drone, as they interfere with the radio waves or cellular signals.

Consequently, there would be no tracking data. Or you could get inaccurate data. 

If your drone doesn’t feature a GPS, you can use the satellite connection to know the actual drone’s location. 

Use the ‘Find My Drone’ App

Some drones, such as DJI, have the ‘Find My Drone’ feature. I know about this feature since I once used it on my Air 2S when it crashed.

Assuming you have a DJI drone, here’s how to use the ‘Find My Drone’ option.

  • On the DJI app, tap on the hamburger menu (top right side of the screen)
  • Tap ‘Find My Drone’ on the drop-down menu to see the map.
  • Two locations will be visible on it: Yours (blue circle) and the drone’s (red triangle). If the drone and its remote are still connected, then the DJI’s current location will also be visible.
  • Go to the drone’s last location (or current one if it’s visible)
  • Once there, look out for the drone’s flashlights or beep sounds. If you can’t see any of these, try reconnecting the drone with its controller.

As I mentioned earlier, my drone got lost in an area dense with trees, but it was not stuck in the trees. Instead, it fell to a thick undergrowth below the trees.

Light didn’t help since it was during the day, but beep sounds really helped me find my drone since they are quite loud. But the lights will also help if it’s dark, as well as following the drone’s flight path.

Scan the Area Using Another Drone

If you know where the drone could be, use another one to scan the area. Whether during the day or night, another drone could easily see the lost drone’s flashlight. 

However, your drone must have a camera and a transmitter to use it to look for the drone. The transmitter will send the captured footage to you so you know where the drone is.

To cover a wide area and increase the chances of finding the drone, fly the drone you’re using in a systematic pattern.

Use the ‘Return To Home’ Button

Before you panic and spend much time looking for the lost drone, use the ‘Return to Home’ (RTH) button.

As long as the connection between the drone isn’t lost, and the drone is in flight, it’s possible to use the RTH button.

You can also set the automatic RTH feature for whenever the drone loses connection.

So if you wait a few minutes, your drone might fly back automatically. If it doesn’t, start considering other methods of tracking it down.

Use the Telemetry on the Drone’s Controller

Telemetry information tells you which direction the drone flew and the distance so you can know how far you’re from it and which direction to take when looking for it. 

It doesn’t matter if you were operating your drone using a physical remote controller or a smartphone, or any other electronic device, telemetry information is available on the Apps or screens.

Better yet, if you can still connect with the drone, it becomes straightforward to find it because the nearer you get to the drone, the lower the distance becomes. Knowing you’re getting closer to the drone’s current location boosts your confidence. 

When used with flight logs or coordinates, telemetry information can be incredibly effective in finding the drone, making it easy to know the direction the drone was taking when it got lost.

Use ‘Lost Drone’ Posters

If you still can’t find your drone after trying all the above ways, try using ‘lost drone’ posters. Someone might have spotted your drone and carried it home, waiting to see if someone might claim it. 

Posters are an effective way to tell people you’re looking for a lost drone. 

So, in the poster, include your name, contact, drone type, the last seen location, and for how long it has been missing. 

Better still, you could include a reward. Everyone wants a reward. Therefore, some people might even start looking for it in the ‘last seen location,’ hoping to be rewarded if they find it. 

Check the Drone’s Online Market

If you’ve not had luck finding your drone after a day or two, look for it in the drone’s online market. Some people may have opted to sell your drone soon after seeing it. 

It’s no surprise that such cases have been reported in the past. So, it’s best to look for your drone there, too, lest someone buys it without your notice.

Drones have unique serial numbers. So, if you see a drone on sale with a serial number similar to yours, then look for the receipt you received after purchasing it to prove that you’re the legal owner of that drone. 

Don’t break the news yet! First, contact the ‘seller’ and ask for their contact and location. Notify the police so that they can help you get your drone back.

Some online markets you should check for your drone include Facebook groups, eBay, Craigslist, and Facebook marketplace.

Mistakes to Avoid So as Not to Lose Your Drone

Newbies and experts both lose drones due to unavoidable circumstances. However, there are various measures you can take to minimize losing your drone.

They include:

  • Always set the ‘Home’ point before flying
  • Never take off with a low battery life
  • Avoid setting a low or very high ‘Return to Home’ altitude
  • Avoid flying at night or in bad weather

Let me discuss the above briefly. 

Always Set the ‘Home’ Point Before Flying

Before flying the drone, wait a few seconds for it to register the ‘Home’ point. 

Otherwise, if you don’t give your drone a few seconds to register its ‘Home’ point, it will register a different point away from you. Consequently, if you lose it, it might be challenging to find it, especially at night. 

With an accurate ‘Home’ point, if the drone battery has life, your drone could fly back to its initial take off point, thereby making it easy to retrieve it. 

Moreover, you can also use the telemetry information on the remote screen to know which direction the drone is and how far it is from you.

Never Take off With a Low Battery Life

Don’t fly higher in the air when your drone notifies you that the battery is low. Quickly force it to land.

Some drones, however, automatically ‘Return to Home’ when the battery is low. However, some may crash, and you could lose them.

Avoid Setting a High ‘Return to Home’ Altitude

Always set the RTH altitude slightly above the surrounding bushes or other obstacles. 

Otherwise, a high altitude would drain the battery and cause the drone to crash while trying to ‘Return to Home.’

On the other hand, setting it too low could cause the drone to crash into objects along the way.

Avoid Flying at Night or in Bad Weather

If your drone doesn’t have night features, avoid flying it at night because the chances of losing it are very high.

Drones with strobe lights or LED lights make it easy to see them and maintain the Line of Sight. 

On the other hand, never fly the drone when it’s windy or rainy. Such weather conditions make it easy to lose the drone. 

Avoid Flying the Drone if It Has a Technical Problem

Drone flyaways caused by technical problems are not many. However, a few people have reported losing their drones due to hardware or software malfunction. 

Remember the incident I mentioned earlier with my Air 2S? Turns out my drone had motor issues, so one of the motors failed with the drone mid air, and it came crashing down as a rock.

Luckily I was able to retrieve it , but it could have been worse if I had flown it too far from the take off point or if I was flying over a water body.

So, ensure the drone is in good working condition before flying it. 

Parting Shot

Finding a lost drone doesn’t have to cost you days and lots of money. 

Simply follow the flight path, check the last known flight logs, locate the GPS coordinates, use the ‘Find my Drone’ App, or scan the area using another drone to find your lost drone. 

You can also use the telemetry on the drone’s controller or ‘Lost drone’ posters. 

If none of these works, check the online drone market to see if anyone could be trying to sell it there.  

Despite knowing how to find a lost drone, it’s also good to apply the measures I’ve shared to minimize drone loss occurrences: Avoid flying the drone at night or during bad weather and ensure the battery is full before flying it. 

Also, check if the drone has any software or hardware malfunction; work on it before a flight, and never set a very high ‘Return to Home’ altitude. Lastly, always allow the drone to register an accurate RTH point. 

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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