My drone is stuck on the roof! Safe and not so safe things to try.

I was so surprised by the features of the NEW DJI range at these prices!!! Check them out:

One of the worst things that any drone owner will have to deal with – a drone stuck on your (or another person’s) roof! There are a number of things that you can try but the first and most important thing is – don’t do anything STUPID! Don’t put yourself or anyone else’s safety at risk! In the US there are 500,000 falls from ladders annually; 97 percent occur at home or on farms. It’s simply not worth it – no matter how expensive your drone it!

If your drone is stuck on the roof you should first check the legalities of trying to get on your, or someone else’s roof. Make sure you use a stable ladder that reaches the roof safely. If you cannot get on top of the roof you can try using a fishing rod and fishing line to retrieve the drone. If it is in a really high place you may want to use the services of someone who regularly works at heights – Solar panel cleaners or an areal installer. These people will have all of the right equipment and licenses to retrieve your drone safely.

The legalities of getting on a roof

Before you jump straight into getting up on that roof you should consider the trespassing laws of your country and state and whether you are allowed to get up on your roof – working from heights issues.

Trespassing laws

If the drone is on your roof then I think you are good to go! You don’t have to worry about trespassing laws. If you are not the OWNER of the roof that the house is on – then you probably should ask permission. If you are a child or adolescent you should also ask permission from your parents – it only polite!

If the roof is not your property you run the risk of trespassing.

Criminal trespassing is defined as entering or staying on a property where you do not have the right to be (either through authorization, licenses or privilege). You can ask for permission and it is OK if it is given verbally.

Check the trespassing laws for your country and state – if you are in the US there is a compilation of all of the trespassing laws at this handy link – Click here.

Working at heights law

The second thing to note is that a lot of private and commercial property have requirements for permits and licenses for working at heights:

Working at height is a high-risk activity that refers to work undertaken in any place where, if there were no safety precautions in place, a person could fall a certain distance, resulting in personal injury (e.g. falling through a fragile roof). It is recommended to undertake a risk assessment prior to working at height to determine if the work can be avoided.


Getting on a businesses roof can certainly fall under this banner.

Once you have cleared this too issues off of your list – you are ready to get your drone back!

Get on the roof with a ladder – obvious option?

This first option is the best by far as long as you have a ladder that is suitible for the job at hand:

  1. It is stable and the ground on which it will be place is stable
  2. It is long enough to reach the roof that you need to access

Getting on the roof with your ladder is likely the best option if you have a flat roof or working on a single-story building. It can get very very dangerous if you have to start going higher than that and it is something that I don’t recommend.

Fishing line technique

This technique is great if you have a long fishing rod – like a beach caster. Quite often people have fishing rods and line in the garage so can be a viable option.

You can use the fishing rod in two ways.

Firstly, you can use the fishing rod to reach from a ladder to the drone and sweep the drone towards someone who’ll catch it (safely) or you can sweep it towards yourself. Luckily fishing rods have “eyes” through which you put the line which you can use to hook the arm or body of the drone.

Secondly, you can combine the rod with a fishing line and a small weight on the end to cast a line over the drone and reel it toward yourself. Make sure that you do not use too heavy a weight – one that could damage the drone. You may want to put a blunt hook, or something else, to snag the drone as you reel it towards yourself.

Get it with another drone

This is probably the riskiest way to rescue a drone that is stuck on a roof! but it is also the most fun – I am sure of it!

Many commercial drones (DJI pro+) are able to list a coke can with relative ease. That means that it is likely that it’ll be able to list another smaller drone with no issue.

The worst outcome with this method is that you are running the risk of have TWO drones stuck on a roof instead of one!

If you are planning you use a drone to rescue another drone you need to make sure that the drone you intend to use to lift the other is capable of listing the drone you need to lift. Check for:

  • How much does the drone to be rescued weight?
  • What are you going to use as a hook?
  • What are the weather conditions? – once you start lifting something the aerodynamics are heavily effected by wind.
  • Do you have a full battery on the rescue drone – carrying stuff takes up more battery quicker.

I would suggest that you also do a dry run at a safe height to practice before sending another potential lost drone up!

Check out this video for inspiration if you feel like this is the best option for you:

Get a professional with working from heights certification

If your drone is in a particularly hard to reach area – or it is just not safe to retrieve it – you’ll need to call in a professional. This professional will need to have to work from heights checks and clearances before doing anything on a roof. This is not going to be the cheapest option – but if your drone is expensive it’ll be the safest way to ensure it is returned to you in one piece!

Here are a list of professions that will get on your roof safely:

  • Solar panel cleaners
  • Antenna installers
  • Tree loppers
  • Roofing professionals
  • Chimney cleaners

I’m in no doubt that all of these people would be happy to come and help you if your expensive drone was stuck on the roof.

So there are the best and safest options that you have if your drone is stuck on the roof!

Let’s take a quick look at the things you definitely shouldn’t do:

What NOT to do when your drone is stuck on a roof!

This things seems like a good option at the time and it isn’t until you are sat in hospital that you are aware that it wasn’t such a good idea after all!

  • Use water – Drones are full of circuitry that can be damaged. There are plenty of people online that are joking that you could use a hose to get your drone down – but this is here as a firm reminder – NO!
  • Throw stuff at it – Even light projectiles like small rocks or light things like foam pool noodles can easily damage an arm or propeller.
  • Climb to get it – The moment you have to climb to get a drone stuck on a roof – you need to immediately stop. Unless you are a world-class rock climber it’s far more dangerous than you think!
  • Do anything that could harm yourself or others – there’s a reason companies get people to perform risk assessments! Take a moment to work through the possible options for getting your drone off the roof. If it is likely to cause harm to yourself r other it isn’t worth it! A drone is just a drone and replaceable. You are not.
The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton is a Drone pilot, Writer and YouTuber with a PhD in science. His drone footage has been featured on TV (ABC Documentary) and he has written and/or produced videos for Science Alert, COSMOS magazine, and Australia's Science Channel among others. He has been a drone pilot for many years and has flown many types of drones.