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“Drone Is Disconnected”: Why This Happens and How to Fix It

Updated in 2024 by Paul Posea
Drone is disconnected from the controller

If you've ever had your drone "disconnect" mid-flight, then you know how scary that is, when you think that your prized $1000 is about to crash for some unknown reason.

Luckily, most drones will just hover, or land or return to you when that happens. In rare cases though, your drone might crash...

Which is why it's important to understand why drones disconnect, how to prevent it and how to fix it if it does happen.

This post is all about helping you do just that. We’ll be covering what the root problems may be and how to fix them. You’ll also find advice on troubleshooting some of the most popular DJI models.

What happens if your drone disconnects?

A Drop in Connection: What Happens to Your Drone?

A temporary drop in connection typically lasts only a few seconds. During this time, your drone will alert you of its disconnection before the connection is automatically reestablished.

But What If It Doesn't Reconnect?

What if your drone stays disconnected? Could it crash? Here's what might happen.

What your drone does if it loses connection depends on its setup. New, fancy drones have special tricks to keep safe. They can go back to where they started or land by themselves if they can't find the GPS signal.

Take DJI drones as an example. If they lose connection for a bit, they start their "Return to Home" thing.

Is Landing by Itself Always Good?

Landing on its own isn't always the best. If your drone is over water when it disconnects and tries to land, it might not make it.

Other Ways Drones React to Losing Connection

Sometimes, your drone might just wait in the air until it connects again. This is okay if you can get it back fast. But if it waits too long, it might start to move away and end up crashing.

The YouTube video below shows how a DJI Mini 2 executes its safety features when it disconnects.

Why does your drone keep disconnecting?

I did my research and found a select number of problems that are typically to blame for connection failures.

Your drone may be disconnecting because it’s flying out of its connectivity range, isn’t being operated in a suitable environment (due to interference), or is low on battery. Connection issues can also come from using a faulty USB cable or delaying firmware updates.

In some cases, your drone controller’s antenna may simply be facing the wrong direction. The antennas should ideally be parallel to each other and perpendicular to your flying drone.

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Let's take a closer look at these issues to better understand what causes them and how they can be addressed.

Out of Range

This one’s self-explanatory. As you increase the distance from a drone to its controller past a certain point, you lose out on signal strength.

What this point is for you depends on the range of your drone model. It identifies the radius within which a strong signal can be maintained and can typically be found on a specification sheet.

If you fly your drone a bit too far away, veering it out of its range, you’ll start to notice connectivity issues. Communications get harder because radio waves lose intensity.

It’s ultimately pretty obvious that you’re required to fly your drone within its range.

However, I wouldn’t blame you if you accidentally fail to do so. It’s easy to overlook your drone’s capabilities while trying to shoot the best footage possible.

Poor Flight Setting

Most pilots make sure they’re taking their drone out on a sunny day to avoid the weather getting the best of their mission.

But here’s the thing: there are a few more setting-related boxes you should check before flying.

And one of the most important ones refers to electromagnetic interference, which is typically found in areas with surrounding technology. Sources of interference could be anything from power lines to a simple high-frequency device.

Similarly, pilots of drones using WiFi transmission often face disconnections.

All of this means that your drone may keep disconnecting because you're flying in a developed region with signal crowdedness.

And that’s not all.

Another little challenge is presented by physical objects. If you’re operating your drone with metallic objects around you (or below you, because the ground counts as well), there may be evident disruptions in data transmission.

Faulty Cable

For a camera drone to be truly useful, there needs to be a way for the pilot to see exactly what is being recorded. This is accomplished by a live feed. 

An extra device is linked with the controller through a USB cable. The device may also then function as a platform for additional control features.

Now, here’s why this part is important.

If you’ve set everything up properly but use a faulty USB cable, there will obviously be hiccups in the (what needs to be continuous) flow of data. And this points toward connectivity issues.

The real problem is that a cable’s health can often be deceiving, which is why pilots tend to unreasonably disregard it. It’s important to remember that a cable does not need to have visible damage for it to malfunction.

On the other side of things, there may be an issue with the USB ports instead. An insecure connector can definitely be the cause for a drone falling in and out of connectivity.

Outdated Firmware

We’ve discussed hardware through antennas and cables. However, we can’t simply leave our list of causes to just that.

The truth is that a lot of your drone problems may be stemming from software bugs or app instability, both of which can only be fixed through the installation of updates.

If you run with an outdated version for too long, your drone app’s data may become corrupt and cause disconnections. Alternatively, your app may freeze entirely as you’re trying to fly your drone.

It’s needless to say that updating drone firmware is very simple. But if that’s the case, why is outdated firmware even a common cause?

Well, it’s common because drone pilots often forget to keep tabs on their device ecosystem. Update alerts don’t always come through which is why I always recommend checking for one yourself before a flight.

Low battery levels

Often, the drone and its controller have low batteries. This makes the drone work less well, weakening the signal and the link to the controller. 

When the batteries are low, the drone doesn't follow commands well and might respond slowly.

 Also, low batteries can cause the controller to lose connection with the drone completely.

Drone or controller app settings

Sometimes, the drone keeps disconnecting from the controller because of its settings. Also, the app's cache can fill up fast and get corrupted, leading to connection problems between the drone and the controller. If the app crashes, it can mess up the connection to the drone. 

Restarting both the drone and the controller can often fix this.

How do you reconnect a drone?

You now know what kind of circumstances can lead to disconnections. This will help you be better prepared for your next flying session.

But what are you supposed to do on the day? Here’s how you can try reconnecting your drone right there and then.

You can reconnect a drone by visually locating it and moving to be in its range. You can then try restarting your controller and your linked mobile device. If your drone is flying out of range and momentarily disconnecting, keeping it in GPS mode will give you a better chance of reconnecting it.

A drone set to GPS mode will simply hover in the same position when you’re not controlling it. In other words, it will counter the forces of wind on its own (or at least it will try to). This has helped prevent flyaways for many pilots.

Once you’ve managed to reconnect it and bring it back down, here are a few things you can try doing to prevent disconnections for good. (A lot of these points refer back to our causes.)

  • Restart your drone and update its firmware.
  • Try another USB cable and see if disconnections persist.
  • Check your smartphone’s compatibility with your drone.
  • Try a different radio frequency to find a more facilitating communication channel.

A particular drone model may also have more specific solutions. More on that later.

It’s important to note that this section targets an unstable connectivity problem, where your drone connects to your controller but also keeps disconnecting later on.

If you’re unable to even establish a connection, you have a different problem. I’ve written a separate post on drones that won’t connect to their controllers at all.

Why does your DJI Phantom 4 say disconnected?

You’re more likely to come across a “disconnected” notification on a DJI drone as opposed to a different one.

And don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad thing. Other (cheaper) drones may not have a protection mechanism at all.

Let’s take a look at why pilots operating the Phantom 4 come across such an alert.

According to DJI representatives, your DJI Phantom 4 may say “disconnected” due to the drone or remote controller functioning on outdated firmware.  Other commonly reported causes for the Phantom 4 are a faulty USB cable and corrupt cache files.

As a side note, a faulty USB cable is reported as a common cause for most of the popular DJI models. These include the DJI Mavic Pro and the DJI Mini 2. 

The drone firmware can be refreshed through the DJI Assistant 2. The YouTube video below is a step-by-step tutorial for the process.

And as I mentioned in the section above, corrupt cache files are to do with the drone app — which in this case is the DJI GO app. All you have to do is reinstall it to get rid of the issue.

If you address these causes (along with the general ones) and the disconnections persist, you may have to take your drone in for a full diagnostic.

Why does your DJI Mini 2 keep disconnecting?

The DJI Mini 2 has a few specific causes that I haven’t mentioned yet. Take a look.

Your DJI Mini 2 may keep disconnecting because of the inserted micro SD card. It may be physically damaged or storing corrupt files. Other causes include remote controller issues and a weak signal due to electromagnetic interference.

The Mavic Mini series is a bit notorious for being easily affected by interference from neighboring areas. Whether that’s because DJI cut a few corners or not, I can’t tell.

Make sure you’re not testing the drone’s range, your controller is positioned correctly, and perhaps try a different location.

Finally, the SD card may not be the most common cause of disconnections, but it’s one that has been reported nonetheless. 

You can test your SD card by flying your drone without it and seeing if the issue still comes up. If it doesn’t, you can try formatting the card through your drone app or replacing it (for a recommended one) altogether.

Preventive measures for future disconnections

To ensure a smooth and uninterrupted drone flying experience, it's crucial to adopt certain preventive measures. These steps can help mitigate the risk of your drone disconnecting from the controller during flight:

Stay Within Range: Always keep your drone within its specified connectivity range. Exceeding this range increases the risk of disconnection.

Choose Flight Location Wisely: Opt for locations with minimal electromagnetic interference. Avoid flying near power lines, cell towers, or in densely populated urban areas where signal interference is more likely.

Regularly Check and Replace Cables: Inspect the condition of USB cables and connectors regularly. Replace them if they show any signs of wear or damage to maintain a stable connection.

Keep Firmware Updated: Regular firmware updates are crucial. They not only enhance the drone's features but also fix bugs that might cause connectivity issues.

Proper Antenna Alignment: Ensure that the controller's antennas are correctly positioned. They should be parallel to each other and perpendicular to the drone for optimal signal strength.

Monitor Battery Levels: Low battery levels in either the drone or the controller can lead to disconnections. Always start your flight with fully charged batteries and keep spares handy for longer sessions.

Avoid Crowded Airspaces: Fly in authorised airspace and avoid altitudes where signals from other aircraft might interfere with your drone's communication.

Regular App Maintenance: Keep the drone controller app updated. Reinstall or clear the cache if you encounter frequent disconnections, as this can resolve underlying software issues.

By following these measures, you can significantly reduce the chances of experiencing disconnections, ensuring a safer and more enjoyable flight with your drone.

Conclusion - How does a drone stay connected?

To wrap it all up, a drone stays connected through a process that allows data transmission. And interruptions in that process result in disconnections.

A drone stays connected through radio frequency. The transmitter in a controller sends radio signals to the receiver in a drone. This allows wireless communication. Most drones also have built-in WiFi, which is what they use to send a live feed to a device.

Drones aren’t the only devices that use radio waves for data transmission. Therefore, the transmitters and receivers need to be tuned to the same frequency and use radio frequency identification.

The deeper you study the process, the more complex it starts to sound. But the good news is that it’s all automatic. So you don’t have to think about the intricacies of drone connectivity — as long as you’re facilitating it properly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Weather Conditions Affect Drone Connectivity?

Yes, weather conditions like rain, fog, and strong winds can negatively affect drone connectivity.

How Do Obstacles Like Buildings or Trees Impact Drone Connectivity?

Obstacles such as buildings and trees can block or interfere with the signal, leading to reduced drone connectivity.

How Can Firmware Updates Improve Drone Connectivity?

Firmware updates can enhance drone connectivity by fixing bugs, improving signal stability, and optimising communication protocols.

Can Multiple Drones Operating in the Same Area Cause Connectivity Issues?

Yes, having multiple drones in the same area can lead to signal interference, causing connectivity issues.

How Does the Drone's Altitude Affect Its Connectivity?

Higher altitudes may improve connectivity by reducing obstructions, but extreme heights can strain the signal range and stability.

author-paul-posea-picture
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.

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paul posea
Paul Posea
Hi, I'm a long-time drone reviewer and I hope my articles and comparisons on this site as well as Dronesgator's youtube channel are of as much help as possible.
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