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 height or at the height you currently are, but we'll see that some drones have additional settings that change a few things.
The farther a quadcopter flies, the more important RTH is, so I recommend you check my article on the Best Long Range drones if you want to have the best of both worlds.
No GPS return to home (one key 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.
Another very different way for a drone to return home is when we're talking about underwater drones since they have a tether cable that can be pulled to get the drone back from the water. However a normal waterproof drone can certainly come with GPS.
My top 7 best drone with RTH
This is my top list of Return to Home drones updated for 2023.
Unlike other articles out there, I actually included the best drones for every price category (with well stabilized cameras, not shaky ones).
This is the part where we look more in depth at the drones mentioned in the table above. They're super good drones, ranging from the cheapest GPS ones to some of the professional level ones, so everyone can choose one.
These are my top 7 drones with Return to Home, from the most expensive ones to the least expensive ones (even under $200).
To be frank, this and the DJI Mini 2 are my main drones currently, the Mavic Air 2 is without a doubt the most "worth your money" professional drone in 2023 and is a next step up from the DJI Mini 2 in regards to sensor quality, obstacle avoidance, active track and much more. It has incredibly precise GPS and flight modes too (that includes return to home).
3 axis gimbal
DJI Mavic Air 2s
The Mavic Air 2s is my current main drone for many reasons, one of them being the stunning half an inch camera sensor that handles low light pretty well and can also shoot in 4k 50 fps.
The other one is the amazing build quality and how long it can actually fly for.
There is a lot of technology in this drone that can make your life easier, including a lot of flight modes like active track, circle, waypoints, and pretty much the best obstacle avoidance you can have for this price.
3. Swellpro Spry+(best waterproof return to home drone
The SwellPro Spry+ is one of the most durable drones on the market as well as the best waterproof return to home drone that's relatively affordable.
The durability of the drone comes from the fact that it doesn't have a 3 axis gimbal, but electronic image stabilization instead, as well as not being foldable and coming with a very solid frame.
It can land and float on water, and even swim underwater with its propellers if you turn it around.
If you're looking for having a fun drone that can use FPV goggles and are frequently fishing or near sea or lakes, this drone is sturdy, fun to pilot and delivers decent video results.
Of course it comes with GPS and return to home capability. The most interesting thing here is that it's the only drone on the list that returns to home at the controller location, so if you move, the drone will return exactly where you are.
Relatively lower battery life compared to the others on the list
4. Autel Evo 2 - Pro RTH that's not DJI
3 axis gimbal
The most expensive drone on this list so far, but one of the best spec-wise. The Autel Evo 2 made it here as an alternative of the DJI Mavic 2 Pro, as people sometimes just want to see something else besides DJI thrown in a list like this.
It's a bulkier top of the game drone that not only comes with return to home, but also with a long battery life, amazing camera and all around sensors.
It can come with a 6k or 8k cam depending on the model you want to choose.
It's one of the best quality drones in terms of footage you can get for the price. Incredibly good 4k (stabilized by a 3 axis gimbal) and quite a few flight modes included, waypoints and a solid return to home if the battery is low.
3 axis gimbal
The zino comes with a 3 axis gimbal and a really good one that's on par with high-end DJI drones in my opinion.
The Flight modes it comes with are also really capable and well made, from Waypoints, circle me function to course lock and it even returns back home on low battery.
7. SG906 Pro 2 - Best 3 axis stabilized drone under $150
This one is at about the same level as the previous one mentioned, the MJX Bugs B12, which means you pretty much choose whichever is cheaper at that time.
One differentiating factor is that the SG906 Pro 2 comes with a 3 axis stabilized camera, which is slightly better than EIS in my opinion.
The 3 axis gimbal upgrade from the original 2 axis gimbal of the original SG906 Pro drone makes a slight difference, but you can definitely consider this closer to DJI, and for a price that's affordable for pretty much anyone!
This drone is very capable for its price indeed, it comes with solid GPS and return to home, as well as an amazing flight time and brushless motors, one thing is sure, it doesn't come with any image stabilization, and that's kinda hurting the overall image quality.
However, for many people, the drone being under 250g more than compensates for it!
Image quality isn't that great, but nothing more to expect for the price.
Frequently askes Questions
In this section we're covering some of the most important FAQ's regarding GPS drones that have the return to home function.
So keep reading if you don't want to make a mistake the first time you fly your drone.
Here are a few of the FAQs answered quickly if you don't have the time to read more in depth about everythinHere are a few of the FAQs answered quickly if you don't have the time to read more in depth about everything.
What is the drone return to home accuracy?
The return to home accuracy of a drone is usually 1 to 2 meters from the start point. If the drone is cheaper, it can extend up to 5m.
What autopilot flight modes are there?
GPS drones can have a few autopilot modes, inlcuding: waypoint mode return to home circle flight follow me mode creative quickshots
Can you set a return to home altitude for a drone?
Yes, you can set up the return to home altitude in most drones apps. They usually have a minimum return to home heigh and a maximum.
Can Racing FPV drones return to home?
No, racing FPV drones usually can't return to home because they aren't equipped with a GPS, but there are exceptions to that rule.
How do I use RTH?
RTH can be used by the press of a button on the controller or is triggered automatically on low battery or loss of signal.
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?
How to recognise good GPS in drones
There are 3 main indications 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 its 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 indication 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.
Hi, I'm Paul. A big drone enthusiast, reviewing, comparing and writing about drones since 2015. I'm all about helping people enjoy and even monetize their hobby.