The thought of permanently losing a drone is always unsettling. And a short communication range only makes things worse.
But in today’s day and age, every problem seems to have a solution. As long as you know what you’re doing, that is.
Fortunately for you, I’m here to lay out the important details - without all the technical jargon. I’ll be covering the most effective ways to maximize your drone’s potential, and more!
Before we dive in deep, it makes sense to ask the obvious question: is it even possible? Here are the facts.
Increasing a drone’s range is definitely possible. There are different types of additional equipment, like signal boosters, available on the market for this very purpose. However, not all of them offer the results you may be looking for.
The range can also be increased without spending an extra amount. One way to do this is by modifying the drone itself, which I’ll get on to later in this article.
It’s clear how annoying signal loss can be, but this problem isn’t random in nature. In fact, numerous factors affect how far a drone can fly without issues.
The range of a drone is largely determined by the frequency used and the surroundings. The latter refers to the amount of interference caused by other obstacles and sources. Other factors are to do with the technicalities of the drone itself.
External factors that can interfere with a drone's signal are:
Now, which parts of a drone actually play a role in this? These three technical aspects are always considered when determining the range:
One factor that may seem a little obvious, but is often overlooked, is the battery life. A drone with the technical capability of flying to distant points isn’t uncommon. But if it’s equipped with a small battery, the drone definitely won’t be making the trip back.
If you're having issues connecting the controller to the drone it might mean that there can be a faulty hardware or software issue stopping you from reaching max range, so check out my guide on how to solve the issue of a drone that won't connect to the controller properly.
It’s important to take in most of these factors if you’re a pilot yourself. Having to find a lost drone is a mission in itself, which really isn’t fun to be part of.
When talking about fixing signal-related issues, range extenders are always part of the conversation. But do they deserve the time of your day? More importantly, do they even work?
Drone range extenders, or signal boosters, do work as they’re advertised. They generally increase the range of communication by 15% at the very least. However, the results can vary depending on the drone and the type of range extender used.
These devices are generally pretty cheap and give you a lot of bang for the buck. Users have even reported around 30% more range.
But if you don’t mind getting a little creative, you can also make one yourself for free! This YouTube video does a great job explaining how you could do so.
By the way, it’s still important to properly analyze your situation. You might find other reasons as to why your drone’s range is so short.
We now know that range extenders are worth the money or effort. But if you truly want to maximize your drone’s range potential, you’ll have to focus on the little details.
So, how do you go about doing that? Let’s take a look.
You can increase the range of your drone by modifying it to prioritize distance, reducing overall interference from other frequency sources, and ensuring the surroundings suit a long-range flight. Additionally, investing in a good-quality range extender can always prove to be beneficial.
We’ve already discussed the use of range extenders, but let’s dive a little deeper into the other ways that can boost your drone’s signal.
In this case, interference refers to the disrupting of a drone signal due to other sources of frequency. These sources could be power lines, routers, or even phones.
Fortunately, there’s a one-step solution to this: fly higher.
As a drone gains altitude, the interference is reduced as it moves away from other traveling signals. This strengthens the overall connection and hence, increases the range.
But remember not to get too excited! You still need to keep your drone within the regulations set in your region.
Besides removing frequency sources, it’s important to analyze your surroundings in general.
You’ll have to make sure there are zero hindering obstacles for a drone to fly at its maximum potential. These could include buildings, trees, hills, or crowds of people.
So, if you have a busy setting in mind, you might want to think of an alternative.
An open field is generally considered ideal for drone flight, as there aren’t any obstacles that could block the transmission of a signal.
It may be a bit obvious not to fly a drone in a thunderstorm. But in this case, the weather conditions refer to a bit more than that.
The capability of most drones reduces when they’re used in thick fog or air with high moisture content. This inevitably messes with the connection and reduces the range.
Therefore, checking the weather conditions for your flight date is a good measure to take. Drones generally fly the farthest on a sunny day.
As we mentioned before, antennas play a big part in determining the range. Now, how do you make sure they’re doing their job properly?
Most drone pilots that are new try positioning the remote antenna towards the drone in an attempt to strengthen the signal.
This is a common misconception, and it does not work. Instead, make sure the antenna is pointing directly towards the sky.
Additionally, investing in an antenna extender may also result in an improved range.
This one’s a bit more technical, so it’s naturally geared towards the more experienced pilots who’re serious about their affairs.
You’ll need to make sure the antenna within the drone is positioned under it, so the battery isn’t functioning as a blocker.
And lastly, be on the lookout for a more powerful transmitter. More power will directly result in an amplified range.
WiFi is the most common type of transmission system used in drones. So, if you manage to boost the Wifi signal, you’ll automatically improve the range.
Fortunately, there are devices available in the market for this as well.
You can boost your drone’s WiFi signal by setting up a WiFi repeater system. The sole purpose of a repeater is to take in a signal, amplify it, and then retransmit it. This considerably increases drone range. The system can, however, be a little complex for some pilots.
WiFi repeaters are particularly effective for upgrading a beginner drone’s range since that’s typically their weak point. You may find this YouTube video helpful as it goes through the entire process.
But that’s not all: it’s equally as important to factor in WiFi frequencies.
The two types of frequencies used in drone technology are 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz. To put it simply, 2.4 GHz travels further, while 5.8 GHz travels faster.
So, you’ll have to choose the right frequency for the moment. 2.4 GHz is ideal for long range but 5.8 GHz might give you a more stable connection in busy conditions.
Now, things are different if we talk about flying FPV. This is because video signals are evidently more difficult to transmit as compared to the usual one-dimensional signals.
So, how exactly do you improve the connection and establish a longer range?
You can increase your drone’s FPV range by setting up a proper video and control system. This includes using lower frequency options and increasing the battery capacity. You’ll also have to carry with you extra gear and equipment to use for replacements.
Here are a few pointers to get you started:
This Youtube video shows how to go about setting up an entire drone for long-range FPV flying.
Once you’re done with your setup, make sure you also have extra replacement parts. These include transmitters, antennas, cameras, batteries, and SD cards.
Let’s talk specifically about DJI. Are things any different when using their drones in particular?
DJI’s OcuSync technology already does a great job at ensuring a strong connection over a super long distance. However, there’s still room for improvement.
You can boost your DJI drone’s signal by using signal boosters especially designed for a DJI drone model. These can, surprisingly, double the range of communication. They are cheap, compact, and easy to use - making them a popular choice.
And if you’re still skeptical about the whole thing, this YouTube video shows an easy-to-follow test that will likely clear up your doubts.
We’ve talked about everything to do with increasing a drone’s range. But to be honest, those were all things you won’t have to worry about if you break the bank for the right drone.
These drones come with an exceptional range straight out of the box. Let’s take a look at which one tops the leaderboard.
The consumer drone with the longest range is the DJI Air 2S, which is capable of a remarkable 12km. On the other hand, the Albatross has a whopping 100km of range which makes it the longest-ranged fixed-wing drone. Military drones, like HALE, trump both and have an indefinite range.
Drones that use a frequency of 1.2 GHz can fly further than the Air 2s, but those fall under the commercial category and are even illegal in some states.
If you’re interested in more detail, you might want to check out my article on the best long-range drones sorted by their price and max range.
To wrap it all up, you can easily push your drone a lot further than what is advertised.
You can make your drone fly farther by using a compatible signal booster, modifying its settings, and using the right type of environment for drone flight. Put simply, the goal is to make sure there is no interruption with the signal.
As long as you follow these measures the right way, you’ll end up with a safely upgraded flight experience.