What Happens When a Drone Goes Out of Range?

There are plenty of people using drones now, and a portion of them lack the necessary skills to operate them safely. Many beginners make the mistake of flying too far. And sometimes this can happen due to some sort of system malfunction. But what happens when a drone goes out of range?

When out of range, cheaper drones are more likely to either drop to the ground or keep going until it crashes into something. Some newer and more advanced drones have an autonomous mode which guides them back to their starting point when their connection is severed from the controller.


If it’s due to a system error, your drone will most likely be lost and require you to go out and find it. It’s necessary that you learn, understand and avoid all the reasons your drone might fly out of range. This is so you can take the proper preventive measures. And in case the worst happens, take proper action. Good thing here I’m going to discuss all of that.

Reasons Why Your Drone Might Fly Out Of Range

There are various reasons for drones flying out of range. Some of them are negligence on the operator’s part, while others are natural phenomena. Sometimes technical issues with auto settings might cause such issues.


Here is a list of primary reasons for drones going out of range:

  • Faulty System

The firmware of drones is not that reliable. They often give wrong readings on various system-related information. This misleading information could cause people to make wrong choices.

Sometimes the system may malfunction entirely, causing one to lose control of the drone. Sometimes the battery status, camera feed, and other navigation-related data may appear faulty.

Your GPS might give you wrong feedback for various reasons. The signals from cell towers and electrical circuits can cause problems for the drone.

  • Excessive Wind

Drones are not resilient against weather conditions. That is why most people advise against using them during bad weather. But the wind is an unreliable element, and will often pick up speed on a clear day.

The sudden emergence of a strong wind is one of the most common reasons for drones flying out of range. Wind channels on higher elevation is a huge trap for newbies. The wind gets stronger as the drone gains more altitude, and it can easily lose control due to the wind in those places.

You can only avoid disaster if you act prudently and regain control fast enough. But most new people do not have the experience to make fast judgments in such a situation.

  • Auto Flight Mode Error

Autonomous flight is a relatively new feature for household drones. It acts as a preventive measure against flyways and similar problems.

You can set a coordinate of a location for your drone to follow back. However, this autonomous function is not entirely reliable. On the other hand, it can make you lose control of your drone. A drone with a broken autonomous system will roam until it runs out of battery or hits something it should not.

  • Running Out of Battery

Running out of power in the middle of a flight is likely the most embarrassing way of losing a drone. It may sound unbelievable but it does happen quite often. The primary reason is the inexperience of the operator.

See, people need to consider the distance before letting a drone go too far. One doesn’t just need enough power to reach the destination. They also need to consider the return trip. Novices often fail to calculate this and end up running out of juice midway into the return trip.


How to Prevent Drones from Going Out of Range?

Locating a missing drone is a pain in the backside. That is especially true if you lost your GPS signal. So, most people will encourage you to avoid letting it go out of range in the first place. Many preventive measures can help you avoid this hassle. Here is a list of what you can do:

  • Pre-flight Testing

Ignoring a preflight checkup is rookie mistake number one. A lot of novices skip this step thinking it’s a hassle only to regret later.

A preflight check-up will help you find interface, Firmware, GPS related faults while it isn’t too late. You can check the condition of all your gears in a safe environment before letting the drone out into the wild.

This step will sharply improve your chances of not having your drone fly out of range. As you will have already eliminated any technical issues before the true flight begins.

  • Try Keeping It in Visual Range

Flying within visual range is quite possibly the best safety measure against flyway drones. You can at least see where your drone is. You could launch an immediate rescue operation in this case.

At least this way you will never lose your drone. People often lose their drones once they fly out of range because of GPS failure or other reasons. Finding a drone in a wide area without a locator might end up being impossible. That’s why people put reflective tape and other markers on drones. For beginners though, it would be best if you keep the drone within eyesight.

  • Set RTH Altitudes and Return point coordinates

Setting a Coordinate for a return point is extremely crucial. It is a solid safety measure against lost drones. A drone will immediately start returning to this location if it goes out of range.

A relative to the home point or RTH altitude is how high your drone can fly. You must set the altitude high enough so your drone can avoid any obstacles on its way back. However, you cannot set it too high, or it will fly away in the wind.

  • Avoid Flying Near Cell Towers and Electrical Poles

Avoid flying drones near residential buildings and places with high electrical interference. These signals can mess with your controller and make you lose control of the drone.

Pick a location with a lot of space for drones. Be careful of power stations and cell towers, these structures are often seen far away from residential areas. Electromagnetic fields from these places interfere with the controller signal.


How To Recover a Drone That Went Out of Range

You have two primary options for recovering a fallen drone that went out of range. The first one is an automated method, and the second is manual:

  • Use Autonomous Mode

Autonomous mode is one of the reasons why drones fly out of range, but that is if there’s a malfunction. A functioning autonomous mode will allow your drone to fly back to your home point by itself.

This is the best recovery option if your drone flew off due to strong wind and not some technical difficulty.

  • Manual Search

You need to manually locate it if your drone has no autonomous mode or if it malfunctioned. You could do that by going through your last video feed from the drone.

Try cross-referencing the images with a Google map to pinpoint the general location of the drone. The reflective tape would be tremendously helpful in this situation. If you had the foresight to strap a bit of reflective tape on the drone, it will make searching a lot easier.


Drones With Autonomous or Return to Home Mode

We talked about the good and bad of autonomous mode in drones. But, if you can ignore the problems caused by an autonomous mode malfunction, then this feature can be really useful for new drone owners. You can fly your drone freely without worrying about it flying off into the distance. Now, which drones have this feature? – You might be wondering.

Well below is a list of some of the best drones with autonomous mode features. Check them out if you are searching for something like this.

  • DJI Mavic 2 Pro
  • DJI Mavic Air
  • DJI Spark
  • Parrot PF728000 ANAFI Drone
  • Autel Evo II


So, what happens when a drone goes out of range? Well, if you’re using any of the more advanced drones like the ones I mentioned in this article, you have mostly nothing to worry about. Unless there is a system malfunction or environmental difficulties, your drone should come back to you automatically.  Learn more about increasing range.

But, if you’re using an old or cheap drone, then it’d be wise to start searching for it.