As a drone pilot, I am terrified of losing my drone. It is expensive to lose a drone completely, but having to source another drone and the embarrassment of admitting that you’ve lost your drone is painful.
The best drone trackers include Trackimo, VIFLY and Apple Airtags. Drone trackers rely on a range of different technologies, including GPS, Bluetooth, and radio frequency tags, to identify the location of your lost drone.
Even if your drone has a GPS, it is important to consider purchasing a drone tracker if you fly over 500 m away from the takeoff spot.
A drone should always be kept in a direct line of sight, but at distances greater than 500 m, you will struggle to see it with your naked eye.
Drone trackers are perfect for people flying over dense vegetation and urban areas where your drone could become lost between trees and buildings. You could be right next to your lost drone but not able to see it.
Using the highly precise GPS location afforded to you by a drone tracker will allow you to pinpoint the drone easily.
The pros and cons of drone trackers
drone trackers are relatively inexpensive and can save you a lot of headaches if you are in the unfortunate position of losing a drone.
They are perfect for people who regularly fly over dense vegetation or far away from the takeoff spot.
They are also perfect for drone pilots with very expensive drone equipment. Some of the payloads and drones can be very expensive.
Pros of drone trackers
drone trackers may become an indispensable bit of kit in the future. As the technology decreases in expense and weight, more and more people will be using drone trackers as insurance against loss.
Here are the pros of drone trackers:
- inexpensive – drone trackers are inexpensive when compared to the drone itself. Consider your drone tracker and insurance on flyaways and other unexpected landings.
- Don’t rely on drone batteries – a drone tracker will work for a long time even after the drone battery has run down and depleted completely.
- Rugged – even the hardest landings of a drone tracker will not damage it. They are built to survive the highest of drone falls.
- There are many options and technologies you can choose from for a drone tracker, which we will go through later in the article. There is a solution for every type of drone pilot from GPS to noise generating trackers.
Cons of drone trackers
Like everything in life, drone trackers are not a one-size-fits-all solution to losing your drone. Here are some cons of drone trackers that you need to consider if you consider purchasing one.
- Extra weight – the drone trackers are getting lighter, but they still add a little bit of weight to your drone. The drone’s weight is directly related to its flight time, and the lighter the drone, the more flight time you will achieve.
- Attachment – often, these drone trackers are attached to your drone using an adhesive. If you are considering selling your drone in the future, this may inadvertently damage the frame and body of the drone when you remove it.
- Balance – depending on the size of the drone tracker, you will have to determine the best place for positioning the tracker. If it is in an odd location, you may throw your drone off and cause overheating in some motors due to the extra power required to stabilise the drone.
- May change the takeoff weight of your drone – adding extra weight to your drone may cause you to go over the 250 g weight limit for licensing and registration requirements in some countries.
Do you need a drone tracker if your drone has GPS?
If your drone has a GPS inbuilt into the hardware, you will still need a GPS tracker to locate your drone once it has landed.
The drone may become damaged if you have lost control of it and it has crash-landed.
The drone tracker is not powered by the drone and will therefore continue to send out its location for many hours after the drone battery has depleted.
The drone GPS signal is great for determining the last known location of your drone; however, the GPS tracker will enable you to check the location for many hours after the drone has landed.
Best drone trackers
Here is a selection of the best drone trackers that you can use to track the drone if it goes missing. Here are the best drone trackers using GPS, Bluetooth, and buzzers.
|Drone tracker||Tech||Size||Weight||Battery life|
|Trackimo||GPS||1.75×1.5×0.55in 43x38x14mm||45 g (1.26 ounce)||Up to 90 hrs|
|VIFLY||Audio||Finder – 24x13x16 mm Mini – 19x11x12 mm||Finder – 5 g (0.18 ounce) Mini – 2.7 g (0.1 ounce)||Finder – 7 hrs Mini – 30 hrs|
|Apple Air Tags||Bluetooth||31.9 mm (1.26 inches) diameter 8.00 mm (0.31 inch) thick||11 g (0.39 ounce)||Up to 1 year|
Trackimo – Best GPS tracker
Trackimo is a smart GPS/GSM/WiFi tracker that keeps track of your drone. It alerts you of troubles and keeps your drone safe and secure.
This drone tracker has unlimited distance real-time tracking using the 4G data transfer. A monthly fee is required for the full USA and worldwide coverage with an international Sim card.
It is a very small tracker that only weighs 1.6 ounces, approximately 45 g.
The Sim card is embedded into the tracker, and the tracker comes with a strong magnet, belt clip, keychain and LAN yard for attaching it to anything you can think of.
I recommend a sticky pad straight onto the drone’s body for your drone. You can then remove any adhesive using isopropyl alcohol if you want to remove the tracker completely.
There are five years worth of history, and there are live seven days a week phone advisors to help you locate your drone if you need help.
The tracker primarily works with GPS satellites and uses WiFi as a secondary backup tracking if it is inside or near a strong WiFi signal. You can see the tracking live on a smartphone app, including Google Street view. The tracker comes with a lifetime warranty and is easy to set up with your smartphone (both android and iOS and all Internet browsers)
Lost drone alarm – VIFLY Finder – best buzzer tracker
VIFLY is a trusted company in the racing drone world. Recently they released their smartest drone buzzer which works even after the drone battery is ejected.
The lost drone alarm is ideal for people racing drones.
When you activate this drone buzzer it will be up to 110 dB in volume.
This drone buzzer only weighs 5 g. If you want to go for a smaller version, you can use the mini version 2 reduce the weight of your drone.
Here is a comparison between the mini and Finder 2.
|VIFLY Finder Mini||VIFLY Finder 2|
|Volume of buzzer||Up to 100 dB||Up to 110 dB|
|Working Time||Up to 7 hours||Up to 30 hours|
The drone tracker has a built-in light sensor to detect light intensity and then smartly controlled LED light to flash. It automatically enables the buzzer to enter sleep mode at night to save power and not disturb anyone.
Apple tags – best Bluetooth tracker.
Apple air tags are a recent product release by Apple. It can help you track items, including your drone. You have to attach the air tank to the drone and use the app to track the drone.
These Apple Air tags work by using a crowdsourced GPS. It uses the network of Apple devices in the area to work out its location.
The circuits in the tags can transmit Bluetooth signals up to 800 feet. If any iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Apple Watch, or other Apple products can hear the Bluetooth signal, it immediately sends the air tags location to the Internet.
This complicated GPS location system means that if you have lost your drone in the middle of a desert or somewhere where it is unlikely to get into Bluetooth contact with another Apple product, you may not be able to find it.
The great thing about these trackers is that you can even show contact information to the person who finds it.
Even if an android user finds it, they can tap their NFC enabled smartphone to your every tag, and it will open up contact details.
Air tags are very power efficient and can work for up to one year before the battery needs to be replaced. They are very power efficient with Bluetooth, and because they don’t use standard GPS, they can stay alive for a very long time.
Drone tracker buyers’ guide
There are many different types of drone trackers that you can use. Here is a rundown of the different aspects of a drone tracker to help you inform your drone tracker purchase.
Tracking technology the tracking technology determines can easy it will be to get your drone back after losing it.
There are many different technologies, but the most popular include GPS, radiofrequency trackers, Bluetooth trackers, and audio trackers for drones that crash nearby.
There is no reason you cannot combine the trackers to improve your chances of finding your drone, but each tracker adds a small amount of weight to the overall takeoff weight of the drone and can limit the flight time.
GPS trackers are small devices that use the global positioning system to pinpoint their location. GPS works by using satellite signals to triangulate its position on the earth’s surface.
This drone tracker is the best option for your drone for most use cases as it will take you directly to the drone’s location.
The only downside of the drone tracker is that it requires a direct line of sight of the sky to work efficiently, and you will also need mobile data to plan to send the position to your phone.
RF (radio frequency)
Radiofrequency drone trackers broadcast radio waves which are detected by a separate device. The range is very limited and is dependent on the power strength of the emitter and detector.
The higher the emitter’s power strength, the less the range and battery life of the drone tracker.
Bluetooth uses the same frequency as 2.4GHz WiFi. If numerous devices are running simultaneously, this can cause some problems. The drone community commonly uses Bluetooth to transfer flight data from their drone to their phone.
In ideal conditions, Bluetooth can achieve a maximum communication distance of 100 metres, whereas a WiFi connection can reach 1000 metres. The Bluetooth capability, in actuality, only has a range of roughly 10 metres.
Bluetooth trackers are ideal for situations when you know roughly where the drone has landed, and you can get within 10 m of the landing spot.
The last type of drone tracker emits audio and vibrational signals to alert you to the drone’s location.
They are typically activated by pressing a button on a transmitter to make your drone scream out for attention.
Perfect for people flying their drones close to them and over dense vegetation. The actual volume is dependent on the dampening effects of the things around the drone, which can severely limit the volume.
These emitters are very popular in the drone racing as they are not flying far away from their takeoff spot and are typically crashing in vegetation or urban environments.
It would help if you chose a drone tracker with long battery life.
The longer the tracker’s battery life, the more time you will have for searching for your drone if you were to lose it.
The good thing is that all of the drone trackers in this article give you plenty of time for finding your drone.
Here is a quick comparison between the GPS, Bluetooth, and audio trackers.
|Trackimo||Self replaceable||Up to 90 hrs|
|VIFLY||Self replaceable||Finder – 7 hrs Mini – 30 hrs|
|Apple Air Tags||Self replaceable||Up to 1 year|
Size and weight
The size and weight of the drone tracker are very important since it can significantly change your drone’s battery life.
Another important consideration is that adding a third-party accessory to a mini drone, such as the DJI mini, can cause the drone to weigh more than 250 g. The extra weight would mean that you may need to register your drone and get a licensed pilot that you were previously exempt from.
Luckily, the GPS trackers are very lightweight, and they will only reduce your battery life by a few minutes. Because the drone battery life is heavily dictated by other factors such as wind speed, you may not even notice the difference under normal flying conditions.
Drone trackers are very inexpensive and can protect your drone from becoming lost.
For a very small price, you can ensure that you know where your drone is at all times, even if the drone battery is disconnected or depleted.
Considering that modern drones can get very expensive, the small amount of money required to purchase a drone tracker could be one of the best small accessories for peace of mind.
This article has gone over everything you need to know about drone trackers and the best ones currently on the market.
Selecting the appropriate technology to suit your use case will be the primary decision. GPS trackers weigh a little more but give you worldwide coverage without being near other WiFi infrastructure.
Keeping your drone safe with a drone tracker is a very small investment and can allow you to keep track of your drone at all times. Saving you from pesky flyaways and crashes into dense vegetation or complex urban environments.