Best tips and GPS trackers for finding a lost drone

Best answer: Finding a flyaway drone can be a challenge. You can locate drones that go off course easier by consulting telemetry data on your controller or by employing an external GPS tracker.

  • Portable Powerhouse: SpyTec GL300 ($50 + $25/mo. at Amazon)
  • Multipurpose Tracker: Track-4 ($49 + $6/mo. at Amazon)

Find a drone without a GPS tracker

As advanced as drone technology is in 2019, it's still possible for your machine to end up in no man's land. Lousy weather, user error, bad RC connections, interference from towers and other devices, or a loss of signal can send your drone off course, leading you on a wild goose chase. Finding a lost drone without a GPS tracker is a tough job, but it can be done.

Take a screen capture

If you notice your incoming drone footage is cutting out intermittently, grab a few screen captures of the landscape. If your drone does run astray, you'll then have a visual reference point as to where to begin your treasure hunt.

Look at your telemetry data


Your drone logs this information continuously. Even if your drone is out of range of the controller, the telemetry data last recorded will show you how far your drone is from you and also in which direction it was traveling. Often, this can give you a starting point for where to begin your search.

Use your senses

This one is kind of obvious, but it's important to remember. Drones in a crash position beep and emit flashing red lights that can be easy to spot if you're paying attention.

Keep trying to establish a connection


Lastly, as long as your drone still has battery power, it's going to keep trying to establish a connection with your controller. That means you need to get out on foot and keep moving around. Once the drone and controller have reconnected, the telemetry data will update and be available to you, showing you its exact location.

GPS trackers to help you keep track of your drone

Advanced drones have built-in GPS tracking devices that either send the unit "home" when it encounters a problem or help you recover it in the event of a crash. If your flying machine didn't come with a GPS tracker, you can still equip it with one on your own.

The Spy Tec STI GL300 is a mini GPS tracker that updates in real-time, letting you track and map your drone with Google Maps. It can be attached easily to any drone, and a waterproof/weatherproof magnetic case can be purchased separately to ensure it keeps working, no matter the conditions.

The Track-4 GPS Tracker lasts up to 18 months on a single charge and can be charged with a cellphone charger or USB cable. This easy-to-use tracker is weatherproof for outdoor use.

Both of these trackers require monthly subscriptions to use, but the prices are manageable ($25/mo. for the Spy Tec tracker and starting at $6/mo. for the Track-4). If you fly drones often, they're definitely worth getting.

Even seasoned drone users experience occasional flyaways. Keeping your head cool, staying calm, tracking telemetry data, and putting a few preventative measures in play can go a long way in making sure you locate your machine.

Jodi Owan