How far can a drone fly? If you’ve just got a drone, this is probably one of the questions you’re asking, and the question that you’re going to hear more than anything else!
Every drone pilot needs to know how far a drone can fly to keep them from losing their drone, and it’s also helpful to know if you’re planning on buying a drone. Drones that can fly far distances are more fun, and can do more than drones with a short range.
Here’s everything you need to know about how far a drone can fly, what limits a far drone flight, what to do if you’ve flown too far, and how to increase your drone’s range!
How Far Can Most Drones Fly?
A drone’s maximum range is the distance between the drone and its controller before the drone loses signal.
Depending on what DJI drone you have, you can get 2.5 to 9 miles of range.
Midrange drones generally cost between $100 and $300 and have a range of 1 to 2 miles tops.
Most toy drones cost under $100 and have ranges of around 100 yards.
FPV Drone range depends entirely on what parts and systems you use, but generally is between 1000 yards to 5 miles.
What Limits a Far Drone Flight?
Video Signal Range
Without a video signal or watching the drone, there’s no way to control the drone. Video signal is often the first limitation to far drone flights and gives out the first.
The controller range is a limiting factor of far drone flights.
Some control systems are specialized for range and can go over 50 miles, but most camera drones have a range of about 2-5 miles.
Some drones can fly further distances than the battery can last! This drone I built has a battery life of only 8 minutes, but has the range to fly for 15 minutes! I have to be careful not to fly too far, so I don’t get stranded.
The signals from your controller and camera can be blocked, and don’t like metal and water.
Any obstacles like trees and buildings in the way will result in the drone not flying as far, and any water in the air like humidity, fog, or snow results in a worse signal as well.
Drone Laws and Regulations
Drones are required to fly within visual line of sight, meaning that the pilot must be able to see the drone at all times. It can be hard to spot a small drone from miles away, which limits how far you can fly.
The higher you fly your drone the better range you’ll get, but drone pilots are limited to a max height of 400 feet.
What Happens When a Drone Flies Too Far
When a drone flies too far, it can run out of battery, lose video, lose connection, or all three.
If a toy drone loses connection, it’ll just fall out of the air or it might just keep flying away in whatever direction it was heading.
DJI’s and most midrange drones are a lot smarter than toy drones, and you can pick what happens when you lose connection.
If your drone runs out of battery, it might not be able to make it all the way home. Read the next section to learn out what to do!
What to Do When Your Drone Flies Too Far
If your drone actually does lose connection, video, or battery, there are several steps you can take to make sure you get your drone back in one piece.
Make sure to read through this section if you’re planning on a far flight!
Return to Home Settings
If your drone has a GPS, it’ll probably have the option to return to home (RTH).
It’s always recommended to keep this setting on, so that if you fly too far by accident or your controller dies and your drone loses signal, it’ll fly back to you.
Low Battery (Very Important!)
Unless you’re very close to home, when the drone gets closer to the ground there’s going to be more obstacles in the way, and it’ll usually lose signal before you can land it.
Losing signal activates return to home, and since your drone doesn’t have enough battery to get back this is the last thing you want to happen!
To get around this issue, find a safe spot to land so you can go retrieve the drone when it’s landed, and fly directly over it. You can manually set the GPS home point while you’re over the safe landing location, and then even if the drone loses connection when you’re trying to land, it will land in the safe location.
Finding your Drone
If you’ve made a forced landing somewhere or have crashed your drone, there are a couple of different ways you can find it.
Taking a look at any flight recordings can help track down exactly where you’ve landed your drone, and will be the most accurate.
Looking for flashing lights is another great way to find your crashed drone, since even toy drones normally have lights on them.
DJI’s Fly app has a “Find My Drone” section that’ll show you exactly where your drone is on the map if it still has any charge!
How to Increase Your Drone’s Range
The way your antennas are oriented has a direct impact on your range. The type of connection your drone uses determines how you should angle your antennas
For my DJI Mini 2, I get noticeably better range by pointing the antennas directly at the drone.
Clear Line of Sight
Make sure there are no obstacles in between the controller and the drone. Having nothing in between the controller and the drone guarantees the furthest range possible.
Upgrading the Drone
On an FPV drone, it’s easy to upgrade the drone and install a more powerful VTX and better antennas.
If you’re having range problems with a DJI-type camera drone, you can’t upgrade parts easily and should consider investing in a new drone with a longer range.
How far a drone can fly depends on many things, such as its connection and video signal power, antenna orientation, obstacles, and more.
Keep safety precautions in mind if you’re ever planning on flying out far with your drone. A little planning can go a long way!
Comment below with any questions, and let us know how far you’ve flown your drone!