Drones make use of ever-improving technology. Each new model has its own unique wow factor. But suppose you’re an ambitious pilot with sights to see (and capture). In that case, you’d know drones are still pretty limited in one area: their connectivity range.
Well, drone range extenders are the supposed answer to that limitation. You’ll find a multitude of extenders on the market. And most of them are pretty cheap.
This post covers the best ones available on the market, all with their main features, pros, cons, and more. But before we get to that, we’ll also be taking a brief look at how effective drone range extenders actually are.
There are many ways to increase your drone’s range, but extenders are definitely the most talked about. Here’s what you can expect once you attach a signal extender to your remote controller.
Drone signal extenders do indeed work, generally leading to at least a 15% gain in range. They do so by focusing your remote controller’s communication signals toward your drone, hence minimizing signal loss and somewhat reducing inference.
A common misconception about how signal extenders work is that they make communication more powerful by emitting more signals. In reality, they simply direct already-existing signals toward a more desired area.
You’re likely to find two types of drone range extenders on the market: Yagi antennas and parabolic reflectors.
Each type uses tried-and-tested engineering concepts that have been around for a long time, the intricacies of which are beyond the scope of this article.
But one fairly important takeaway from their working is that the Yagi antennas are somewhat specific with signal-shaping, whereas the parabolic reflectors rebroadcast signals with more of a spread.
Alternatively, many members of the drone community choose to go the DIY route and assemble one themselves. That is, of course, entirely possible. However, you’re much more likely to get meaningful results from officially sold products on the market.
Speaking of which, you won’t really find extenders that use unparalleled technology compared to their competition. Most of them feature similar designs.
But, according to mass reviews, there are a select few that are more reliable than others. Take a look.
Some of the best range extenders for drones are, in no particular order, the HeiyRC Yagi-Uda Antenna Reflection Signal Booster, the Threeking Foldable Parabolic Signal Booster, the Skyreat Antenna Range Extender, and the BlueProton Range Extender kits for the Phantom 4 and Phantom 3 Standard.
This extender from HeiyRC is amongst the best rated on Amazon, and for pretty good reason. It combines the use of Yagi antennas and parabolic reflectors into one to potentially achieve the best possible effect.
The HeiyRC extender uses soft silicone as its main build material and, despite being a cost-effective product, feels fairly sturdy. The parabolic reflectors are easy to pull apart as well.
Most users found the product to extend their drone’s range in the suburbs by at least around 1000 feet. Those who tested it in more ideal conditions, where they also managed to keep their controller pointed directly towards their drone, found gains of around 2000 feet.
One downside, though, is that the extender can be tricky to set up at first. This is primarily because it comes with small installation pieces.
This range extender from Threeking gains its popularity by being effective yet super simple. It has the typical mirror design, uses aluminum sheets, and is pretty compact once folded.
Users have generally reported the Threeking Signal Booster increased their drone’s range by 750-1500 feet, though reports of much higher gains also exist.
More importantly, though, the extender successfully improves signal stability. In other words, you’re very likely to notice a better video feed and fewer communication dropouts should you correctly attach and use it.
And while on that subject, the Threeking extender is incredibly easy to install and use. Just remember to remove the protective film before you hook it up to your controller.
This one’s for the Phantom drone pilots. The BlueProton extender is a complete kit that’s designed for Lightbridge technology, which is what the Phantom 4 and Phantom 3 Advanced/Professional use.
You’ll find two pairs of antennas that are lightweight and have a high-quality build.
The kit does its job incredibly well. You’re likely to see gains of around 4000-7500 feet in your drone’s range, depending on how crowded your location is.
However, lots of users did find it pretty tricky to get past the installation hurdle. If that happens to you as well, consider watching a tutorial. You’ll find product-specific videos on Youtube.
But there is a catch. Keep in mind that you’ll also be voiding your controller’s warranty (if it hasn’t already expired) during its disassembly.
The Skyreat extender brings things back to the plug-and-play model, with very few steps in its installation process. In fact, this extender is the easiest to use compared to the other products in this list.
Similar to the Threeking Parabolic Signal Booster, one of the biggest plus points of this product is its ability to improve feed over longer distance points.
Skyreat claims their extender increases your drone’s range by “about 30-50%”. Most customer reviews, however, tell us that might be a bit of an exaggeration.
One user found his Mini 2’s range to increase by 2500 feet, but another saw his gains to only be 500 feet.
This doesn’t mean that the extender does not provide any distance gains. While testing results do vary, it’s safe to say the Skyreat extender will likely increase your drone’s range by at least 10%.
This extender is very similar to the BlueProton extender we’ve already covered. As you’d expect, the kit comes with multiple different antennas.
One difference, however, is that users have found the BlueProton Phantom 3 Extender to be relatively easy (albeit not straightforward) to install.
Customer reviews say that the extender impressively doubles their Phantom 3’s range. What’s more, you can expect even better gains should you set the kit up correctly and fly in a suitable environment.
The BlueProton extender is a must-have for enthusiastic owners who currently fly a Phantom 3 Standard and want a more enjoyable experience. But just like its counterpart, it will void your controller’s warranty.
One frequently asked question in (and out of) the drone community is related to the maximum range of drones, specifically whether one could fly as far as 10 miles.
To put things into perspective, that’s about twice as long as the Las Vegas Strip!
Piloting long-range drones can definitely lead to a richer flying experience. Let’s see if one can fly 10 miles.
A drone can definitely fly 10 miles if it's designed to do so. For example, commercial drones designed for agriculture and transport can easily make it past that mark. The DJI Mavic 3 also comes close with a range of 9.3 miles.
If you’re looking for a more comprehensive answer, check out my post on how far a drone can fly away from its controller, where I also discuss drone transmission systems and their effect on range.
WiFi is one of the transmission systems used by drones, though newer releases often use different technology. Here’s how far drones that use WiFi can fly.
Drones that use standard WiFi can typically only fly 300 to 500 meters away from their controller. Pushing this limit can potentially lead to a flyaway situation. However, drones with more advanced features can extend this limit up to a few kilometers.
One way to get more miles from your WiFi drone is to use a WiFi repeater system. If that’s something that interests you, I recommend watching the YouTube video below to see a clearer picture of the process.
In conclusion, drone range extenders have a specific purpose. And most of them fulfill it — all through science. Here’s my opinion on whether they’re “worth it”.
Drone range extenders are a worthwhile purchase for most members of the drone community. Tests have shown that they do increase drone range to a certain extent. And since most of them are only priced in the range of $5 to $20, they’re considered to have great value for money.
It’s ultimately important to understand that drone range extenders (specifically the non-WiFi products) aren’t designed to magically double or triple your range. They’re simply bits of plastic that redirect waves to make your signal more reliable.
So, as long as you have your expectations in check and know what Yagi and parabolic extenders do, you’re likely to find its purchase “worth it”.