How often drones crash [DATA and more]

Before purchasing my drone, I was certainly interested in how often drones crash. A drone can be a relatively expensive investment for a hobby, and I didn’t want to crash it within hours or days of receiving it. The way I like to look at it is it’s like a flying laptop. However, there is no getting around that you need to effectively send drones high into the sky in a relatively unpredictable environment. There could be birds, trees, and many other obstacles that can cause your drone to crash.

There is no publicly available record of the number of drone incidents. Current estimates state that approximately 30% of drone pilots have crashed their drones, causing complete drone destruction. Drone crashes happen to even the most experienced pilot.

Every drone pilot experiences near misses while flying their drone. Learning how to circumvent particular drone flying issues requires experience and many hours flying your drone.

Sending your new gadget up into the sky and flying it around inherently exposes the drone to several unpredictable hazards. Drones are also being used for more purposes for commercial and military personnel. Drones are yet to be reliable enough to deliver packages, but future advances in drone technology may make this more of a reality.

If you are a racing drone pilot, you will likely crash every time you go out with your drone. The high speeds combined with the competitive nature of drone racing means that your drone will regularly encounter other drones, obstacles, and crash.

For camera drones, military drones, or other use cases, many drone crashes are underreported or kept secret.

Underreported numbers

It is very difficult to discover how often drones crash. There is no required reporting for hobby drone incidents. Military drone crash incidents are recorded and have been publicly viewable from 50,000 pages of declassified military investigative reports.

How many drones crash annually?

Pilots and other air controllers typically report the number and type of drone incidents. They report the near misses and collisions with drones due to compulsory reporting requirements that hobby drone pilots are not required to report.

Data From the United States between December 2013 until January 2016 shows that New York had the highest incidence of reported drone incidents at 86, followed by Los Angeles at 39 and Miami at 24.

You can view worldwide drone incidents at dedrone.com:

How often do drones crash?

This map includes reported drone incidents and drone incidents that have been mentioned in news outlets.

I have had several near misses with my drone but have never had an incident that resulted in my drone’s destruction or any third party property damage.

There are many reasons why people do not report drone incidents, even if it results in drone damage or third party property destruction.

  • No significant damage – not all drone incidents result in damage to 3rd party property. A drone incident may only damage the drone’s propellers and will be easy to fix after a crash.
  • Embarrassment – drone pilots can be very embarrassed once they crash their drone. Embarrassment can stop the reporting of large incidents, particularly if you are flying outside of the local laws and regulations.
  • Anonymity – when you are flying a drone you can remain relatively anonymous. It is not until the drone returns to the landing or takeoff spot that people can identify you as the pilot. If something goes wrong with the drone, it can be easy to collect it from the crash site quickly and without anyone seeing you.

Also, many drones are very easy to crash. Drones under approximately $100 crash all of the time but do not sustain any damage because they are very lightweight.

Are drones easy to crash?

Drones are very easy to crash if you are an inexperienced pilot. Learning how to control the drone effectively by utilising beginner mode is the most effective way of avoiding crashing your drone. Practice makes perfect.

Drones are easy to crash because they move quickly in a three-dimensional space. It takes a while for pilots to become comfortable with controlling a drone.

Whenever you are planning a flight or have just arrived on location, you need to ask yourself if you are flying within the conditions that you are capable of flying. These conditions also include the conditions that the drone is capable of flying under.

That includes air temperature, wind conditions, potential weather changes during your flight, and any other environmental conditions like updraft from the edge of cliffs etc.

Most commercial drones will handle almost anything that you can throw at them. I have seen some pretty impressive high wind flights that even the smallest DJI drones can handle with relative ease.

However, I have turned up to a shooting location a couple of times and just not felt right about the conditions – whether it was too gusty or there was a lot of spray coming off the ocean due to the wind direction – I called it off!

Practice makes perfect

So one of the most important things about flying a drone is often practising and in a range of environmental conditions. Practising will do several things for your drone flying ability, but most importantly, it allows you to become more confident. It can take many years to become an expert drone flyer, but that doesn’t mean you can improve your skills along the way and have fun.

Here are the things you need to do to ensure that your practice is beneficial to your drone flying.

  • Practice the fundamentals over and over – working on the fundamental skills such as hovering, flying through enclosed spaces, and other line of sight drills will help you have a base skill to build on. For example, a figure of eight formations practising flying while the drone is facing you are all important fundamentals.
  • Buy some racing gates – racing gates are one of the best things you can use to practice your flying. They are prefabricated obstacles that are designed to help you practice flying without breaking or damaging your drone. Practice gates are designed to fall over when you hit them that way; you never have to worry about hurting your drone beyond a broken propeller.
  • Use a less expensive drone – if you’ve just bought a very expensive drone like the Phantom four pro, you may be very scared of crashing it and never push your capability beyond very simple manoeuvres. Consider buying a much less expensive drone for extending your capability without worrying about losing thousands of dollars.

Remember to have fun while flying and learning; otherwise, you will be scared and unlikely to improve your drone flying skills. Now, let’s take a look at one of the easiest drones to fly currently on the market.

What is the most common cause of drone accidents?

There are plenty of common causes of drone accidents that you can easily avoid as a new drone pilot. If you want to know more about why drones lose control, check out my other article, where I go through the top 12 reasons.

Why do drones lose control? [12 reasons]

Cheaper drone

cheaper drones tend to lack all automated safety flying features that keep more expensive drones from crashing. If you have spent under $100 on a drone, it is unlikely to come with any advanced features such as auto-hover, auto stabilisation, GPS lock, or headless mode.

If you have a toy drone, you have to fly it at all times with the joysticks. If you take your hands off of the remote control, it will simply move in the direction of the strongest air currents.

Inexperienced pilots

Inexperience is one of the primary causes of accidents and drone crashes. Many drones are designed to be able to be flown within minutes of receiving your package. Because many drones have beginner mode, which allows the pilot to fly safely at lower speeds, it often increases the pilot’s confidence.

It takes a while to get used to all of the features and flight controls of a drone. Too many pilots get very heroic in the first days of owning their drone because it looks very simple. Unfortunately, the simplest of mistakes can easily lead to a drone becoming damaged and broken.

New pilots need to slowly increase their skills and slowly get used to all of their new drone’s features.

Using beginner mode and familiarising yourself with all of the local laws and regulations over a few weeks will allow you to fly confidently in the trickiest of circumstances. The more you fly, the more likely you will encounter environmental hazards and learn how to avoid crashing your drone.

Flying in enclosed spaces

enclosed spaces are very hazardous for drones. The walls and ceiling create unpredictable turbulent air patterns, which can easily disrupt a drone’s flight.

Smaller drones, designed to fly indoors, are light and not very powerful not to hurt themselves or other things in the room. Attempting to fly a very heavy drone in an enclosed space is a recipe for disaster unless you are experienced and can use propeller guards.

Low battery

it seems like a silly mistake to make low battery is a very common reason drones crash.

It could be that the battery has not been charged sufficiently before the flight, or it may run out during the flight.

Running out of battery is particularly common when the pilot does not consider the wind speeds and direction. To return to the takeoff spot, it is recommended to fly into the wind on the outward leg of their mission.

This direction will ensure that you have enough battery to return home. Software used for determining the return to home time does not consider the direction of the wind.

Returning with a tailwind means that your drone we use less battery and make it home safely.

Damage to propellers

Propellers are a very important part of flying your drone. They should always be the first thing that you check when about to launch your drone.

A simple check using your fingernails along the leading and trailing edge of the propellers, as well as feeling the surface with the pads of your fingers, will tell you everything you need to know about your propellers and whether or not you need to replace them.

Propellers are light and typically made of a plastic material. This plastic material can be very brittle when colliding with hard objects at very high speeds. The slightest bumps or knocks against obstructions such as tree branches, walls, powerlines, and other aerial structures can easily damage the propeller and cause the drone to fall out of the sky.

How often do drones crash? Summary

In this article, we have discovered that drone pilots do not often report their crashes, and therefore it is hard to estimate how often drones crash. Racing drones crash regularly due to their high speed and pilot error.

We have also looked at how you can ensure that your drone stays safe throughout your flight by minimising the most common causes of drone crashes.

You will likely have near misses in the future with your drone, but you can slowly become a confident and capable drone pilot with practice and patience. Slowly expanding your skillset and understanding all of the features of your particular drone will help you avoid catastrophic damage to your drone or third-party property.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton is a writer and YouTuber with a PhD in science. He has written and/or produced videos for Science Alert, COSMOS magazine, and Australia's Science Channel among others. Andy started droneflyingpro.com to share his love and the research of all things drone! He has been a drone pilot for many years and has flown many types of drone. His favorite is still the DJI Mavic Air for the portability and functionality packed into a small and portable drone!