Do you panic? A drone flyaway is a nightmare for drone owners around the world, especially if the drone wasn’t equipped with a tracker. You broke the bank to get your first drone, and now the drone decides to just leave on its own. Worse, it was a drone without a tracker. A drone flyaway can happen anytime for various reasons—from strong winds, software glitches, and out-of-range flight to malfunctioning, a drained battery, and many more.
More than anything, we hope you’re reading this while it still hasn’t happened yet. Out of panic, you might have unconsciously taken the wrong steps just to get your drone back or it may be too late to do some of these steps.
What to Do After a Drone Flyaway
Most of the tips listed below assume your drone has a camera, by the way. If your drone does not, your best bet is to head in the direction of the drone flyaway and look for it among the trees or bushes.
Do not turn your controller off.
Your drone may have lost the connection from your controller, but do not turn the controller off. Head toward the direction that your drone was last seen, and see if you can reconnect to your drone using the controller. The controller will continue to search for the drone’s signal while it is still powered on.
Tip: A trick that can help boost the signal of the controller is to find a metal cooking pot large enough to fit the controller in. Place the controller inside the pot, and it will act as a satellite that helps boost signal range. Point the pot controller in the direction of the drone flyaway, and you might find that it will connect with the drone. If this happens, you can hopefully fly your drone back to you or locate a landmark that will lead you closer to its exact position.
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Caution: On the other hand, if your controller lost power mid flight, then your drone is probably still in the air hovering. If you can still see your drone, head toward it and try to get as near as you can while being in a safe location. Your drone will not be controlled anymore, so if the wind is strong, it will take your drone with it. Follow it with caution though! Do not cross streets and always make sure you are looking ahead of yourself and not staring at your drone while running.
Press the Return to Home button on the controller.
If your drone loses controller connectivity and you start losing the video feed, immediately press the Return to Home button on your controller. The first thing that happens when the drone flyaway causes the drone to go out of the controller’s range is that the live video feed goes out. But even if you lost the video feed on your controller, chances are you’re still connected with your drone. In this situation, just follow the previous step. Don’t turn your controller off, and head toward the last-seen direction of the drone flyaway. You need to be somewhere closer to it so to be in range and regain control. If the video feed starts working again, you’ll see your drone heading back to you shortly.
Use another drone to search for it.
Now with drones tasked with the mission of locating lost hikers, using a second drone to rescue your wandering drone is actually a great idea. It doesn’t matter how old this second drone is. As long as it has a working camera and can at least fly some distance from the controller, this will help. Use this second drone to get a bird’s-eye view of the landscape. Make a few rounds, look for anything that stands out in the grass, water, rocks, roofs, etc.
If you’re lucky your drone’s battery still has some juice in it, wait until nightfall. Using the second drone, start flying across the general area of the drone flyaway’s direction. With lights blinking from the downed drone, you should be able to easily spot it.
Check your drone’s last-known coordinates.
If your drone’s battery dies but your controller still has power, there is hope. Once again, do not turn off your controller. Some controllers store the drone’s last-known coordinates. If this is the case, plug those coordinates into your phone’s GPS and head toward that location. You will still have to manually search for it, but this narrows down the area drastically at least. If you were using an app to pilot your drone, then check the app’s settings for the last-known coordinates. This is usually stored on your phone or in the app itself.
Check telemetry information.
Most displays and app monitors show telemetry information at the bottom. This is a common feature that can be found on most controllers like physical controllers, iPads, or smartphones. When you start losing connectivity, look very carefully at the telemetry information. It shows you the direction of the drone flyaway and the distance from the last good connectivity point.
If after hitting the Return to Home button the drone starts coming back, the distance numbers on the telemetry viewer should start decreasing. This means you’re in luck. On the other hand, if after hitting the Return to Home button nothing changes with the distance numbers, this means either the return-home button doesn’t work, the drone is grounded somewhere, or you have completely lost connectivity with the unit and it is still flying away (but most likely in the general direction where you last saw it going on the telemetry viewer).
If All Else Fails
If you’re out of luck, you might as well turn to the old-fashioned way of looking. Post signs in the area about your drone flyaway situation. Include your contact number and your drone’s picture and description. If your neighborhood has a drone community, post a comment in the group, asking people to be on the lookout or to join the search efforts. Most drone users know the pain of what you are going through, so it isn’t unlikely for fellow enthusiasts to help you out. The last thing you should do is report your lost drone on the FAA official website. They will notify you if your drone pops up anywhere since it has a registration number tied to it.
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