Types of Return to Home
There are actually two main types of return to home when I think about it:
- GPS return to home
- Non GPS return to home
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 satellites 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.
The GPS Return to home can also be useful in case you're fishing with your drone and want to get it back to shore.
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 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.