Every drone pilot, sooner or later, finds out how common connection errors can be. And from my experience, they start to get annoying pretty quick.
Fortunately, fixing a drone that won’t connect to its controller is fairly easy. You just need to follow the right methods.
So, what’s the correct way to go about things? I’ve got the answers.
You can fix a drone that won’t connect to the controller by resyncing them properly and gradually going through the main possible problems, like battery issues and technical glitches. You may, however, be forced to see an expert if the problem is particularly complex.
Now that we’ve scratched the surface, let’s take a closer look at how you can get your drone back to normal.
Your drone and the controller may have stopped connecting recently, or it may be your first time trying to pair them. Either way, you need to make sure you’re properly syncing them.
So, what does the syncing process look like?
You can sync your drone and controller together by switching them on and making sure they’re ready to pair. You then connect them using the suitable mode, typically via an app or USB. The lights on the drone indicate whether the syncing was successful or not.
But why does this matter?
Syncing the two devices together is one of the very first steps to ensure a steady connection. And if this is where you’re going wrong, you may not have to go through everything else.
Now, let’s look at the steps in a bit more detail.
Start off by switching on the drone using its power button. Hold on to the button until you hear a beeping sound or see the drone’s lights flash.
You then do the same with the controller. Instead of flashing lights though, you might also see the controller produce a strong red light.
It’s important to note that the feedback from each device differs from model to model. But any type of response, in this case, indicates that your drone and the controller are in pairing mode.
At this point, the drone and controller should already be searching for each other’s signals. But this is where your drone type really matters.
If your drone isn’t programmed to work with an app, you’ll likely have to use a USB cable or the controller itself to pair the two. So, keep the user’s manual close to you and make sure you press the specified buttons in sequence.
This process should only take you a couple of seconds at most. Once you’re done, you may hear another beeping sound or see the flashing lights change to a solid green to indicate a successful link.
If your drone does require you to use an app, you’ll have to download one to establish a connection. DJI drones, for example, require the DJI Go app to connect with the controller.
There’s really only one thing that matters here: compatibility. You’ll have to make sure your phone is compatible with the app, and the app supports the model of drone that you’re trying to use.
Once you’ve done that and launched the app, the drone should automatically make the connection. If it doesn’t, try force restarting the app and reconfiguring its settings. You can do this by entering the flight interface.
By the end of it, you should get an in-app alert to confirm the connection.
Your drone still may keep disconnecting - or not connect at all.
Here’s the truth: coming to the solution is largely a matter of trial and error. Fortunately, the most common problems can be ruled out pretty easily.
But what are they exactly? Here’s my experience.
Your drone may not be connecting to the controller due to software glitches, hardware inconsistencies, or a low battery level. The issue may also arise after a minor mishap during its repair. While these reasons are the most common, a deeper problem may be the cause as well.
And in case it is a deeper problem, you may have to seek the help of a professional. But don’t jump the gun just yet! Let’s take a proper look at the problems that are most likely blocking the connection.
It might be that you are facing other issues besides the controller, so make sure to check out my article on how to fix a drone that won't take off.
Considering the battery level might have already occurred to you, but it’s the most common issue nevertheless.
So, make sure you don’t make any assumptions and skip over this part. If the batteries in either of the devices lack power, the connection will instantly fail.
Try fully recharging your drone and switching out the batteries in the controller for new ones. As a side note, the expensive batteries are typically worth the extra cost.
And if you use a rechargeable pack, it’s also possible the batteries have simply died out. This only happens on the odd occasion but I’d still recommend not ruling it out completely.
Making sure the batteries have enough charge was the easy fix, but you’ll have to look into glitches if connection errors still persist.
The errors may be caused by a software bug, so you’ll have to make sure the drone and the controller are updated. Check for software updates and process them if the devices are lagging behind.
If that doesn’t work, try completely resetting your drone controller (more on it below). You can then pair the devices together to hopefully solve the problem.
This is where things get a bit technical. But don’t get the wrong idea, the troubleshooting process is still pretty simple for the average drone pilot.
It’s entirely possible that it only seems like the drone isn’t connecting successfully. This happens when the drone fails to respond despite a link being established.
The most common cause for this happening is an obstruction inside the hardware. This could be moisture, dust particles, or even hair strands. Therefore, make sure you thoroughly check and clean the area around the propeller.
A faulty connection to the controller can also mean bad footage, but it's not the only reason, so if you face this problem, check out my guide on how to fix choppy drone footage.
If you’re willing to do it yourself, this YouTube video might help out.
This one’s relevant to the drones that have recently been repaired, perhaps after a crash.
Fixing an issue without attentive care can inadvertently give way to more issues which, in your case, may be connection failures. This could be the result of something as simple as a loose wire.
You can fix this by taking a look inside and retracing your steps. This includes making sure the propellers are attached in the correct positions and the antenna is properly connected to the board.
But if you got your drone repaired by a professional, you may want to return it as soon as possible.
We discussed earlier how a controller reset could be an easy fix for software bugs. But how are you supposed to safely go about it?
You can reset a drone controller by deliberately switching to an older firmware version and updating it to the new one again. An alternative method could be to completely reinstall the control app to return the settings back to default.
The exact process of downgrading the firmware depends on the control app, but most of them follow the same theme.
Try to launch the app and go into the settings. You may find a section dedicated to firmware and its different versions, where you can select an older version.
If you attempt to establish a link now, the controller should prompt you to update the app. Once you do that, the drone controller will be reset.
But that’s not all. There still may be hiccups depending on the app’s restrictions. In this case, you can try deleting the app’s data from your phone and uninstalling it. You can then reinstall it to get to a fresh interface.
This alternative may take you comparatively longer but your controller will be reset nonetheless.
Here’s a hands-on YouTube video that shows an easy way to reset the DJI Smart Controller:
Since DJI is one of the most popular consumer drone manufacturers, it makes sense to talk specifically about DJI drones.
These drones require an app to be controlled. The app does make everything easier, but it’s important to make the connection using the right steps. Let’s take a look at what these steps are.
You connect your DJI drone to your phone by downloading the compatible DJI app and launching it. You can then turn on the drone and connect your phone to its WiFi network. Once you’re done configuring the app’s settings completely, the connection will be made.
As you might have already noticed, not all DJI drone models work with the same app. So, here’s a quick rundown:
You may also have to connect your phone to the remote by placing it in the mount. The process is relatively straightforward, but you’ll also get instructions through the app to make things even easier.
The remote will make the connection once the drone is turned on. And if things didn't go wrong, you’ll be led to the camera feed.
This how-to YouTube video uses the Mavic Pro as an example.
Unfortunately, things can go wrong often - even with DJI drones. But don’t worry, connection errors on DJI drones generally boil down to a few simple reasons.
Your DJI drone may not be connecting due to a faulty USB cable, outdated firmware, or an incompatible mobile device. At the same time, it may also be because of other reasons that apply to most drones in general. These include low battery power and software bugs.
So, let’s take a look at some of the quick fixes that have usually helped me out.
Try switching out the USB cable and then use a different phone. You may land on your solution right here but if not, this will eliminate malfunctioning and compatibility errors respectively.
You can then try making sure the app is fully updated. But even if it is, the error might still be software-based. So, make sure you restart the drone and the controller at least once.
And lastly, connection issues with DJI drones also commonly arise when the controller isn’t set as the primary one. You should be able to find this setting in the DJI app’s remote control linking section.
If none of these steps work out, you may have to narrow down your search for a fix using your exact model.
This one can really be frustrating: you set everything up but your drone’s WiFi network just isn’t connecting with your mobile phone.
I did some digging to find out why this usually happens, and here’s what I found.
Your drone’s WiFi may not be connecting to your phone due to system settings, app restrictions, compatibility issues, technical bugs, or maybe even an error in manufacturing. Whatever it may be, the reason usually doesn’t require the help of an expert and has an easy fix.
There are a couple of solutions that I found to be most commonly successful.
Try looking for the drone’s WiFi button and switching it on and off. This should allow the network to appear on your phone if it isn’t already.
If the network is visible, try resetting it on your phone and re-enter the password. You can even try configuring your phone’s network settings.
If these steps don’t work, the connection failure might be happening due to a lack of support. Try using a different phone, in case your current one isn’t compatible with the drone’s WiFi frequencies.
If all else fails, you can try resetting the WiFi settings of the drone itself. You can generally do this by locating the aircraft settings on your drone’s mobile phone app.
To sum everything up: it really isn’t possible to instantly point a finger at the exact problem your devices may be facing - unless you’re an experienced professional.
You’ll have to go through the necessary steps and hope you get lucky to find the problem early.
Your drone may not be connecting due to a calibration error, incompatible network settings, unsupportive devices, or other technical issues inside the frame. These reasons can differ from model to model and you may need to check in to all of them to ensure a connection.
Now, the troubleshooting process really shouldn’t take you too long once you actually get to it. Drones generally don’t feature complex issues unless they’ve faced serious punishment.
Still, you may need to consider leaving it to a professional if things get a bit too frustrating.