How To Find A Lost Drone – Steps You Can Take Right Now!

So your drone is gone. You looked for it, but can’t find it. You might have had a flyaway. Maybe the battery failed, or perhaps it was just bad luck. In any case, your little guy is out there all alone and needs help.

If you have lost your drone, don’t worry, you are not the first. Many reasons cause a drone (or quadcopter) like yours to land when or where you did not want it to.

Reasons Why Drones Get Lost

The most common reasons that a drone is lost are:

  • Low battery (causing an auto-landing)
  • Contact with a tree, structure, or steep terrain
  • Flying in high winds
  • When a connection gets interrupted

If this above information sounds at all familiar to you, and you have lost a drone either recently or several months ago, don’t worry. We are here to help. This is how to find your lost drone.

Find Your Lost Drone with a Tracker

Take a moment to post some details about your last flight online via tracking websites, and maybe someone has already found him. If you are going to spend several thousand in a commercial or top of the line drone, then it would be advisable to get some form of tracking system so that you can easily find it if it goes down.

Even if you do not have the money funds to go for a top of the line tracking service, there are cheaper alternatives out there that provide browser tracking services. They are bare-bones and only offer things like the last location. Similarly, there are several ways to achieve this.

Get A Black Box

Just like a black airplane box, the black drone box works just about the same way. It will have GPS data and other flight data that you can access using your computer to give you a precise flight plan that can help you find its last location.

Find My Drone App

This also works like the find my phone app on your smartphone, and it will give you a precise location of where your drone was last found. If a lot of time hasn’t passed, you can still easily find your drone before someone else picks it up.

Browser Tracking

You can also track the drone using software and your browser because companies do offer this service. Usually, the flight path is superimposed on Google Maps to help with the tracking from your computer browser.

Find Your Lost Drone Without a Tracker

If your drone lacks tracking capabilities, then it would be a lot tougher to find it, but it is not impossible. Practical applications become critical in helping you prepare and recover the drone. We know how to find a lost drone without a tracker, and we will talk about that below.

Screen Grabbing

If your drone has a camera and you are flying it around, then the image suddenly becomes fuzzy and choppy, it is advisable to immediately screen grab the location. That way, if it goes down, then you can use the images to try and recognize the area you last saw it. Some typical landmarks that you are familiar with might help you triangulate the possible flight path.

hand holding drone remote controller

The Controller

The controller plays a pivotal role when you are out looking for your drone. By keeping it on, it will allow you to regain communication with the drone once you get in range, and it still has power. If the drone is entirely dead, then you may not have luck. However, you should always have the controller on and with you, just in case you get back in range and can reestablish control.

File A Police Report

Yes, it is advisable to file a police report with your local police station. If you are far from home, then the closest one because you never actually know. There are some good citizens out there who might find your drone, and they most likely will turn it into the nearest police station. So cover your bases.

Online Market Places

Obviously, if a selfish person finds your lost drone, they might try to sell it. If they do that, the most commonplace that they will go to is an online market place like Craigslist. So keep an eye on some of those places, and you might find a for sale listing.

Posters and Flyers

Whether it is a lost cat or drone, you might as well put up posters and flyers with a reward around the neighborhood. Again, if a good citizen finds it, they might have the inclination to give it back, and a lost poster will catch their eyes.

Get A Backup Drone

Well, it would be much simpler to search for your drone through the air than on foot, so while having a second drone is just about an excellent thing for everybody. If you can’t afford one, you could ask a friend or rent one and go searching. For example, if the drone is stuck on a tree that is bound to happen or it is getting dark, then you are better off using another drone to complete your search.

DJI Go App

If you have a DJI drone, then the company has a DJI Go App that you can use to track the drone when it crashes. The app has a find my drone capabilities, which you can easily use.

Use Flight Logs

Without a tracker, it can be almost impossible to find a downed drone. However, it is possible if you have access to the drone’s flight logs, you can try to retrace your steps using the records. Hopefully, with a combination of things like Google Maps, you can easily follow the path and, in the end, also probably find your downed drone.

On the other hand, if you find a drone, the below tips would be beneficial on how to handle it.

How To Prevent Losing Your Drone

Consider a drone or drones as investments that you could lose at any instant, so do the things below to prevent them from happening.

Get a GPS Tracker

This has to be the most practical thing that you can do because it will very quickly help you in finding the drone that goes down, and it will help prevent future headaches.

Return Home

Nearly every drone has a return-to-home function, so remember to set this function on your drone as soon as you put it together. It might just save your drone in case of a multifunction.

There Is An App For That

If your drone comes with an app, then please install it on your smartphone asap because it will help you track it, especially if it has the before mentioned find my drone capabilities.

Keep It In Sight

When flying your drone, whether it is during the day or at night, then it is advisable to keep the drone where you can see it. Just in case something goes wrong and it crashes, then you can find it easily. This also especially important when flying at night.

Proper Lighting

As I stated earlier, lighting becomes crucial, especially if you are flying the drone at night, and you would like to keep it in sight.

What If You Find a Drone?

Sometimes you may find that a drone has landed in your backyard or maybe ends up on your roof or even driveway, but it does happen. First, we would like to request that you become a good citizen that you are and return it to the right owner, please.

Here is some helpful information if you, like many people, have little to no experience operating drones and multicopters. You can find lost quads in three primary and general conditions.

drone on the ground

The drone is completely dead

This means the props are not spinning. There are no on lights anywhere, and possibly it could be in several pieces if it crashed from high above the sky.

The drone is still active

In this case, the props are not spinning. However, the lights are still on, and maybe it is several pieces if it crashed.

The drone is still alive

This means that it is still trying to fly. The lights are on, and or possibly it is in several pieces if it crashed.

Dead Unit

Most factory-built drones and many home-built drones feature multiple lights and indicators visible from outside the unit. These lights generally serve two purposes:

  • Increase the drone’s visibility when it is far away.
  • The lights also help in showing that all the systems are working optimally for example the flight mode, the status of the battery, and the status of the GPS.

So if a drone has gone completely dead with no kinds of lighting, then it basically means that the power is off and the battery is dead which also means that it will not operate at all.

A drone that is dead is safe to approach but be cautious. You can look for any identifying markers or labels because owners will usually have some kind of contact information on the drone.

A Dead Unit Safety Assessment Rating: Proceed with Caution

Active Drone

With an Active drone, the props are most likely not spinning, but the lights are still on. Many drone manufacturers incorporate an “autoland (automatic landing) when the battery is low” feature in their systems. Really, this is more like the “Return to home” feature where the drone will return to the same point it was flying from.

In some cases, the drone may not have enough battery life remaining to make the return trip, so it then “autolands” as a safety measure. This will result in a drone that is on the ground, usually with the lights on for at least a few minutes and maybe even as long as an hour or more.

Most drone systems will shut down their motors after a forced autoland, so the props won’t be spinning if that was the reason for landing.

Dead Unit Safety Assessment Rating:  Proceed with Caution

drone on the ground

Live Drone

With a live drone, the lights are usually still on and the props are also still spinning. Please do not approach this type of drone unless you are very familiar with the operation of the specific model, or there is some imminent danger to a person or property.

The good news is that most drone and multicopter manufacturers incorporate crash detection software that will shut down the unit motors in the event of a crash.

Dead unit Safety Assessment Rating:  Keep Everyone Clear

Common Lost Drones F.A.Qs

Actually do I have to or need to pay anything to file a lost or found drone report?

No. There is no fee in filing a police report. It is advisable because when someone surrenders it to the authorities, then they will have your contact information.

What if I lost my drone a few months ago, should I still file a lost drone report?

Yes, even if you lost your drone several months ago, someone may still find it or be looking for the rightful owner.

I lost my drone, should I offer a reward in my lost drone report?

That is up to you, but it probably can’t hurt.  A $50 or $100 reward could turn a lost unit into a found unit.

Should I put all my contact information in my search posters?

We don’t recommend it for people filing Found Drone Reports. Usually, making contact through an intermediary like a police officer is more desirable. If you are registering a Lost Drone Report, you may consider leaving just a number to receive text messages. If you are under 18, you should leave your parent’s phone number instead.

How can I tell what kind of drone or multicopter I found?

Usually, you can regularly check with the police in your area also search local postings in your area like supermarket boards or craigslist.


Losing your drone can be quite a sad affair, so please take heed of our advice in this article. If you follow these instructions, there is a fairly good chance that you’ll be able to find your lost drone. It’s important to stay positive and stick with it. This will increase the odds of successfully recovering your drone. Good luck!

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