How often do you lose your mini quad after a crash, and no matter what, you just can’t find it! In this article I will show you how you can find your downed drone and precautions you can take.
Click on the links below will take you directly to the sections in this article.
The methods depend on whether your quad is still being powered. If the battery is still connected:
If the LiPo battery gets disconnected in the crash (How to tell? You probably lost both radio/video signals at this point):
Must Have – Activate Beeper
Hopefully you already know this one. If not, here is how to Install a buzzer in your quad, and enable beeper mode in Betaflight’s modes tab. Also it’s really useful to enable DShot ESC beacon as backup.
The only downside with buzzer, is that you have to be very close to the quad to hear the beeping,
if you still have radio signal (e.g. telemetry), but can’t hear the buzzer, it probably means you are too far away. Try the next method in this case.
Check DVR (Video Recording)
I cannot stress enough, ALWAYS record your flight with a DVR. When you crash, you can look back and find out where about you crashed. From my last crash in the sea, I was able to get my quad back only because I had DVR!
In Fatshark Goggles, you can enable “Auto-Record” in the DVR menu.
Using Goggles To Find Your Lost Drone
Not many people know this trick, but it can be extremely handy and helpful!
You can use the video receiver in your FPV goggles to find your downed drone! This trick is based on the RSSI value (signal strength).
Remove the onmi-directional antenna, use only one directional antenna, such as a helical or patch antenna (the higher gain the better).
With only a directional antenna pointing at your drone, RSSI will be at its highest. When you point it away from the drone, RSSI will go down. So you can track down which direction your drone is.
I made this Info-graphics to help you visualize how it works :)
This trick would only work if your quad is still powered on. As you get closer to the quad, it will become harder to tell which direction, in this case try to lower the VTX power in Betaflight OSD menu (if you have VTX control setup). And use beeper to help.
Some VRX modules have built in “finder mode” which has nicer interface, but the principle is the same.
Using Radio Transmitter To Find Your Lost Drone
Based on a similar concept, you can also use your radio transmitter to find your downed quadcopter.
It’s best if your TX gives you numerical RSSI readout, if not just look at the signal bar on top of the screen.
The signal is the weakest when the antenna is pointing directly at the quad. So move your transmitter antenna around and when you find the lowest RSSI, walk where the antenna is pointing.
As you get closer to the quad, the signal will get stronger, and it will be harder to identify the direction. Just put the transmitter into range test mode (In Taranis model setup page, right next to “Bind” option, you should see “Range” option).
Again, this will only work if your quad is still powered on. If your battery came disconnected, you will have to rely on some of the following methods.
Buzzer with Its Own Battery
These self powered buzzers will continue to work even when your main LiPo battery gets ejected. And they can replace your ordinary buzzer in the quad, so the added weight and space is minimal.
I have a post comparing a few popular options.
Although some of these options are louder than ordinary beepers, you do still have to be close enough to the quad in order to hear it.
Last GPS Coordinates
If you have GPS module installed, you can either display the GPS coordinates in the OSD, or record it in your Taranis as part of the telemetry data.
Here I have a tutorial explaining how to log GPS coordinates and other telemetry data in OpenTX/EdgeTX radio.
Once you get the coordinates, simply copy and paste them in Google map and it should show you the location.
Drone Finding Systems
There are some other more specialized systems for tracking down downed drones.
Locates your drone up to 120 meters, based on radio waves I believe? Correct me if I am wrong. Product Page: https://amzn.to/2DkCObL
tBeacon GPS Tracker
Some pretty expensive GPS trackers you can install in your quadcopters. Product Page: https://tbeacon.org/?page=10&language=en
I am sure there are other similar products out there, I will keep the list updated. Let me know if I am missing any.