We all have the fear that our newly bought expensive drone will run away from home and having a drone tracker in this case is the best investment you can make. Especially since it can be easy to increase the range of a drone, it gets riskier to push things to their limits.
In this article we’ll look at the types of drone trackers, which ones are the smallest and most reliable and why you should have one.
Drone flyaways are very frequent even for more expensive and advanced DJI drones, not to mention the cases where you might simply lose connection out of nowhere and the drone doesn’t come home or simply is hit by a bird.
It’s really hard to pinpoint the drone location and it may be lost forever, but if you have a separate tracker on your drone you’ll be able to use an app and see where it is and go and get your large investment back.
Yes, you’ll still need a tracker if you want to make sure you have the highest chances to find your drone.
For example let’s say you have a DJI Air 2s Drone and you lost it.
You can check the flight log of where you’ve last lost connection to the drone and it could be very close to the landing place, but it’s no guarantee that the drone is in the same position as it might have flown away.
If the drone battery is lost or disconnected it also won’t be able to reconnect back to the controller in case you move closer let’s say, so it’s indeed best to get a separately powered GPS drone tracker preferably.
The smallest GPS trackers I present on this list are about 40 grams (1.2 ounces) so they can be easily carried by most drones (even a dji mini, but keep in mind that it won’t be under 250 grams anymore).
There are 4 types of drone trackers, but in this article I’m going to mainly refer to the GPS one as that’s the one I recommend in most cases, the others being made more for specific uses.
GPS drone trackers are small devices that you place on the drone and allow you to detect the position on an app, wherever it is on the globe. It uses the Global network of satellites to do that, and it works probably the best of all choices, but there are some disadvantages to it.
One disadvantage to a GPS drone tracker is that it doesn’t really work well or at all if you lost your drone inside a building or if it’s covered with a lot of material that can block the signal (in a cave or something). Another one is that you need a cellular plan with a GSM card for the tracker, as it’s the only way to send the position to your phone.
RF stands for Radio Frequency and this drone tracker broadcasts radio waves and are in turn received by a detector.
This doesn’t require a GSM card so it will work even in more remote zones, but the range is very limited, somewhere around 2km max.
While there are trackers that use bluetooth to find any item with your phone (including the drone that you attached it to), these aren’t really well suited unless you know the approximate location of the drone, as usually they work at 20 or so meters away.
Used mostly in the FPV hobby world, these can be attached to your FPV quadcopter (usually) and if you lost your drone and know the general area, but it might be in tall grass or a tree, there’s a solution for that.
It’s called a buzzer, and by pressing a button on the transmitter you can make your drone well… buzz really loud so you hear the direction the noise comes from. It also works at 20 meters away usually, so don’t expect to use it for longer ranges.
In this section we’ll look into my top recommendations in terms of drone trackers for this year and what each of them has to offer.
There’s in fact not many reliable tracking device manufacturers that are small enough and reliable to use on drones. However, the tracker from Trackimo is quite nice to have. Reliable, solid build and even though the price might look high at a first glance, remember this isn’t a simple bluetooth tracker, and it also comes with a 1 year included worldwide GSM that would cost $60 in total.
The battery lasts up to 30 days and it’s more than a small GPS tracker for drones.
It also uses Bluetooth and wifi for very precise detection, so you’ll be able to locate anything outdoors first using GPS with an accuracy of 10-50m (30 feet) and to get even closer, the bluetooth can be used to precisely detect the last 3 to 20 meters.
This makes it one of the most precise small GPS trackers you can buy, and especially useful for drones, that are smaller and need to be tracked precisely.
You might wonder what the SOS button is on the device? If you press it for 5 seconds, it will contact and send an automated message or SMS to the person you set it for, so it can have many other uses.
It can be mounted under cars too with an included magnet so you can play the spy or simply make sure your family is safe.
It can track anything in real time and give you the coordinates on your phone easily and it’s small enough to be fixed in most drones (as long as you don’t want your drone to be under 250 grams) as it weighs only 42 grams (1.4 ounces).
Weight 5 grams
If you’re looking to mount a buzzer on your FPV drone (or any other as long as you connect the proper port) the Vifly Finder is perfect, as it is super loud and easy to find.
You can actually hear this from 100m away and what’s great about it is that it’s self powered (with a battery inserted under it and a splash proof casing… just in case.
It also comes with a flashing LED light, also safe powered from the same battery so now you have a visual indicator, especially useful if your drone battery is disconnected after a crash.
After a full charge it works up to 30 hours of active use, so plenty of time. Keep in mind that you need a drone that comes with a flight controller, like an FPV quad, as this doesn’t work with toy camera drones typically.
Another GPS tracker that’s even cheaper, is this one from Findthedrone.com that just like the Trackimo comes with a free app, and GSM but not a 1 year free GSM service this time, so you’ll have to start paying for it from month 1.
It uses the T-Mobile 2G network and arrives fully activated and the monthly cost is $5 for cell, GPS and text service. This is a bit larger at 3 ounces so you wouldn’t want this on a small drone like a DJI Mini 2.
While it's cheaper than the trackimo, they're close to the same price if we consider the 1 year GSM tracking.
While not the most optimal option, you can use a Cube Key Finder Bluetooth tracker for when you lose your drone and you know the approximative location.
You can also make it buzz, so there’s a sound element to it and the best part is that it’s quite small.
You can also check your app or Bluetooth to see if it’s connecting to it, which means it should be close, and then you make it buzz and hopefully hear it.
It comes with a crowd-finding option, so if you lose your drone in the city it’s perfect (yet that doesn’t really happen often, does it?).
A few more details you should know before you go!
No, most commercial drones don’t come with a so called separate GPS tracker, as that would require a GSM sim and it would make the drone more expensive.
No, unfortunately DJI uses just your flight logs to estimate where you might have lost the drone the last time you saw it, so they can’t detect the position of your drone yet. But if it’s in warranty you can talk with their support and solve your issue.
Yes, the GPS trackers I recommend in this article are all very small (40 or so grams) so they can be easily attached on drones.
Yes, you’ll need a GSM card and cell phone plan for a drone GPS tracker to work, but most of the ones you can buy usually come with this already installed so you’ll need to pay for the monthly service from a point on.
You can't track any drone with just an app, considering you don't have any device on the drone itself or inside of it. Just installing an app on your phone isn't going to do anything.
If you think of your drone investment as being expensive, then you don’t have to think twice before getting a drone tracker like these, especially if your quad costs over $1000, spending $100-$200 will make it worthwhile and you can use the tracker for other purposes in the meantime.