Let’s find out a little more about RTH technology in drones and what that can do for you. Also, bellow you’ll find a table with my top 5 Auto-pilot Drones. Hope it will help you get the perfect drone for your budget and requirements.
What is return to home
I think you already know the answer to this basic question, but there are a few details and types of return to home technology that you might not know about.
We will refer to RTH as the ability of a drone to come back by itself to the point it took off from.
So this means it’s not actually your home, but wherever you launched the drone from, be that a point next to a tree in a park, or on top of a roof.
Types of Return to Home
There are actually two main types of return to home when I think about it:
- GPS return to home
- One Key return
GPS return to home
This is what we’re mostly going to focus on, as this is the “true” technology that you can actually use in real life situations.
This means the drone HAS to have a GPS module and at least a few satelites connected.
Usually, drone GPS autopilot also has other features like waypoints and circle around, but more advanced flight modes like these are usually found in more expensive drones like DJI ones.
How does GPS RTH work?
The drone saves a point location at the place you took off from and when the return to home gets activated, it will go in a straight line towards the original point.
This usually happens at a set heigh or at the height you curently are, but we’ll see that some drones have aditional settings that change a few things.
One Key return (fake auto-return)
The one key return home feature you see on very cheap drones (the ones without GPS) is actually nothing more than the drone pressing the back button. Some drones retain the original orientation and put the drone in headless mode and try their best to get it back to you.
This can be useful sometimes, but in my opinion it’s mostly a way to trick people. You could do this yourself just by pressing the left stick towards you… and it would have the same effect, catastrophic if the drone is not facing the right direction.
How to avoid flyaways
Low battery RTH and lost signal
There are two very important situations where the Return to home (by GPS) is very important.
This is when the battery has low battery life, and it should return to home automatically to avoid crashing somewhere randomly.
The more expensive drones like the ones from DJI have a way to calculate how much battery they need to return home, but most other cheap drones usually do an automatic return to home at a certain battery percentage, usually under 20%.
Lost signal is a fact of life and something you’ll almost inevitably stumble upon if you have a drone. If the drone has GPS, it will stay in place, but what if you still won’t be able to pick up signal?
For that, there usually is a function of automatic return to home when signal is lost. Quite important, wouldn’t you think?
My top 5 return to home drones
This is the promised table where I put a short list (this could be way longer) of a few of my top recommendations to people searching for a good RTH drone.
I tried to reach a wide range of prices, for people looking for cheaper drones, so bare with me.
Just keep in mind that you won’t be able to find GPS drones usually under $100… it’s almost impossible, as the GPS module alone costs at least half of that.
Even so, I found an entry that’s very close to that and that I bet you will find interesting.
How to recognise good GPS in drones
There are 3 main indicatives of good GPS quality:
- There is no “toilet bowl effect“
- The drone return to home is very precise
- It will hover in the same spot without much movement
The toilet bowl effect is when a drone flies in circles around it’s initial holding point and it can be very troublesome because it can hit objects if you don’t adjust the direction in time.
The return to home point must be as precise as possible, preferable around 1 or 2 meters range from the exact point it took off from. This is a good indicative the GPS is working well.
Hovering in the same spot is obviously something you want in a gps drone, especially when you want to take smoother video without much shaking or movement.
Is this top list ordered by quality?
All these quadcopters are the best for their price and you can’t really go wrong. It’s up to you to decide!
I have ordered them by how expensive they are, although that correlates with the overall quality too. But keep in mind that the cheaper ones can actually be better value for money than others. And there’s also a surprise at the end.
3.MJX Bugs 5w
6. Bonus Drone
Short reviews for each of these drones are found bellow. If you want to check out what the bonus drone is, then scroll to the end.
mavic air- compact profesional drone
The Mavic air is a recent release from DJI that combines the best of the Mavic Pro and DJI Spark, for quite a good price.
You can capture incredible footage with this drone at professional level, and what’s best you can put it in your pocket. It comes with a bunch of sensors and a lot of flight modes.
Of course it has GLONASS GPS and automatic return to home.
If you’re not that much on a budget and want the top performance and portability with no compromise, this is the perfect choice.
DJI Mavic Air Video Review
This drone has it all, but before buying it you should check a more detailed review and see how it actually behaves and how good the camera is. The RTH function is absolutely perfect for the drone, so I’m not even going to comment on this.
In the meantime I recommend you to read the following article (will open in a new tab).
DJI spark - best under $500
Another drone from DJI, and it’s just as high quality as the previous, but a lot cheaper, and with a few compromises.
This drone is actually under $400 with the basic package, so it’s quite a great deal if you get it from the DJI site.
If you’re on a tighter budget, the next best thing after the Mavic Air is the DJI Spark, as it’s still an amazing flying device capable of shooting very good quality videos and photos.
This drone has also perfect GPS stability with automatic return to home ( at a button press or when low battery).
Another similarly priced pick would have been the Xiaomi MI 4k drone, which is also amazing, but I wanted to keep the list populated with very portable drones. That’s why I picked the DJI Spark.
DJI Spark video review and footage
The Spark has been reduced in price lately, and it’s still relevant as one of the best Return to home GPS and gimbal stabilized drones out there. The quality of this aircraft is stellar and you can be sure it’s worth all the money.
MJX bugs 5w - Best Cheap GPS drone
They have evloved and released quite a few other drones, but the one I’m talking about is my favorite of them all.
Especially if you’re interested in return to home technology, the Bugs 5w has very precise GPS and you need only press a button to return to home. It also comes back at the starting point when it’s low battery or lost the signal.
When speaking about the camera, it’s something else from what I’ve seen on similarly priced drones, this time around you can actually move it up and down from the remote controller and the image quality is Full HD and quite good quality.
Bugs 5w video review and footage
This is a review made by me, so I have had a pretty good experience with it and although the expectations were low, I was quite surprised of the end result.
In the meantime I recommend you to read the following article (will open in a new tab).
This time around we’re going to take a look at how commercial drones, the friendly ones have evolved in time.
JJRC h55 - GPS drone under $100
I got the JJRC h55 for testing a few months ago and I was surprised to find out a drone that costs about $100 also comes with GPS and return to home.
The camera is not half bad and the package also comes with 2 or 3 batteries, so you’ll have a lot flight time for this drone.
Btw, you can charge all the 3 batteries at the same time.
The camera is not so bad either, even though it’s 720p.
JJRC h55 video review and footage
Another review made by me (suggest to follow the youtube channel at this point). I tested it to see how well it returns to home and how precise it is. Spoiler alert: it’s very precise.
The return to home range was not bigger than 1m. However, it is a bit annoying to calibrate the GPS before every flight and there’s also not many fancy functions to brag about, that is if you care.
JXD 528 - Cheapest RTH GPS drone
Yes, this drone is incredibly cheap for what it can do.
To have a perspective about how cheap this drone is, a standard GPS module can cost $20-$30 at least, so you’re wondering already how they had the budget to make the other parts of the drone too.
But this drone is not only that, it can also follow you and fly to preset waypoint locations and do a circle around flight.
These features are combined with a decent camera (it’s not that great, but it works for having some fun with it).
JXD 528 video review and footage
This is a review made by the all-popular Quadcopter101 channel, and he is definitely surprised by how cheap this GPS drone can be, considering all the flight modes it has and the fact that they work properly.
CME folding Drone - BONUS
And here is my bonus quadcopter. It’s on the very low priced range of GPS drone, pretty much as cheap as the previous one, but this is a much slimmer quadcopter.
It’s actually the smallest drone on this list and it’s also foldable.
The camera is 1080p full HD and it does a very good job recording, I’d say it’s on par with the DJI Tello, but this drone has GPS and Return to Home belive it or not.
The app of this drone is quite unique, as it comes with in depth settings for the camera, like white balance, exposure and more. This means it has the potential of becoming quite a great photo drone, if you put the time to learn some photography.
C-me CME video review and footage
The CME drone has been released a few months ago and has become very popular because of its high quality camera, GPS and low price. More on top of that, it’s also very small and foldable. It’s not perfect, of course, but I’m not going to complain a lot for the price.
If you want to check a comparison between my favorite two drones under $100 I recommend you click here:
In this article I’m going to help you decide between buying either the Xiaomi MITU drone or the Ryze TELLO. Just watch me