Why does my drone keep disconnecting? 7 common issues

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Sending up a drone seeing it disappear into the distance is all part of the fun of flying! But occasionally – just as it is out of sight – you’ll get a disconnected warning from your controller. This is surprisingly common with DJI drones and other commercial drones. Here we will look at the common issues your disconnection and how you can stop it from happening in the future. Why does my drone keep disconnecting? 7 common reasons…

Drones disconnecting from the transmitter or remote control is a surprisingly common issue faced by drone owners. These are the common things that you should check:

  • Is your drone flying near sources of electromagnetic radiation (wires, generators)?
  • Is your drone communicating on a crowded data channel (2.5GHz wifi for example)?
  • Are the cables in good working order?
  • Are the connections to the controller secure?
  • Does your antenna point the right direction i.e – max signal towards the drone?
  • Are you using the most up to date firmware?
  • Are you trying to fly your drone too far away?

You should check each of these points for your drone to see if you have been able to resolve your issues. There’s a little bit more to signal issues than you may first think – check out the detailed run down, below!

Are you near sources of electromagnetic radiation?

The most common issue I have seen while flying my drone is the drone disconnecting while I am flying in urban settings. This is primarily due to to how noisy the urban environment is in terms of electromagnetic radiation and WiFi and phone signals.

I’ve noticed in the past that when my DJI drone was using the 2.4GHz (a common wifi signal) that it would disconnect very often when flying in airspaces near cities and apartment buildings.

The urban landscape is also full with overlapping wires carrying electricity at high voltages. Wires carrying data and underground cables carrying all sorts. This can lead to quite a noisy world for a drone.

Electromagnetic radiation interact with each other making some signals larger and other disappear almost completely. Your drone has to detect the signal coming from your remote and distinguish it from a range of other signals – quite the mission!

You may also get a warning about aircraft signals and interference.

I often fly very close to the legal limits of an airports airspace. Other flying creaft have mush bigger emitters and anennta than my tiny drone and controller. This can also interfer with the communication between the remote control and the drone!

Weak or crowded signal

Okay, once I realized that the above was the biggest issue for me I had to find a communication channel that wasn’t as crowded. A channel that had very little other traffic on it.

I’d played about for ages with my DJI drone until I found the right channel. But to save you the hassle here’s the best way that I’ve found on YouTube to do it:

I found that choosing a 5Ghz channel resolved all of my problems and I now never have an issue with my drone disconnecting even when I fly it about 1 kilometer away from the controller. Always a clear and strong signal.

Be warned that the 5,8GHz channel has 20x less allowed power in Europe than it has in the US and almost no Android phone can use it.

You may have to find the right settings for your model and make of drone but if you are seeing this problem all the time you may want to look at the appropriate forms for device-specific advice.

Damaged cables or connectors

Quite often the controller for drones connects requires you to connect the device to a smart phone or tablet. This smartphone or tablet becomes the live view and also provides as interface for controlling some of the important features of the drone.

The cable also sends vital information to the software running on your phone – including the signal strength. If you cable is damaged in some way or it doesn’t connect securely to either the controller of the phone – the software may mistake that loose connection for a weak signal.

Try new cables to connect the drone controller to your phone or smartphone.

If after new cables are used for connection you are still getting the same error messages. It may be a loose or faulty connection to the controller or smartphone. Does the connector feel secure when you put it in?

If the answer is no you’ll either have to use a different phone or you’ll have to buy a new controller for your drone.

Remote control antenna pointing the right way

The signal on all remote controllers comes from the antenna but may not come out the way you think it does.

The signal for an antenna comes out the SIDES not the end.

This can be a little confusing because intuitively you may want to point the antenna towards the drone. When, in fact, you should face the sides of the antenna towards the drone.

This little trick may just give you the boost required to gain enough signal back for a strong connection.

Is the app working properly?

Sometimes the app you are using to control the drone plays up.

The phone and app ecosystem is so diverse that a particular app may not work or be unstable with a particular phone or tablet. Take the time to test the app for stability with your brand of phone and edition of apple ios or android.

Often it is only the little things that can cause a disconnection problem. If in doubt you should check that all of the firmware on each device is as upto date as possible.

Run firmware updated for the drone and app. Here are a list of DJI iPhone and Android versions that are recommended:

Are you flying too far away?

One issue with a disconnected drone could be that you are trying to fly at distances that cause signal disconnections.

There have been some excellent YouTube footage of the distances that commercial drones are able to achieve. If you want to know how far your drone will travel google the term “range test” along with your drone model and there should be plenty of videos describing and showing you how far you can really fly before it gets disconnected – you’ll be surprised how far I’m sure!

This is a range test with a DJI Mavic Pro:

Before doing your own test you should always start by flying in closer proximity to yourself and building up the confidence slowly over time.

You’ll build confidence in your flying skills and also build confidence in the drone as it shows you that it has everything under control!

What happens if your drone loses signal?

The DJI series of drones have a return to home function – this gives me the piece of mind that if my controller or phone dies I’ll be able to get my drone back safely.

The home point is set on take off and you can also have the drone return to the controller if you are moving about. Pretty nifty stuff from DJI!

The drone will climb to the RTH height you’ve set and fly in a straight line towards the HomePoint before finally landing. You can interrupt the RTH anytime by pressing the RTH button once.

The return to home setting is the default option for DJI drones but you can change it in the “advanced settings” section of the app. It’s probably best you leave it alone, however!

I hope that answered “Why does my drone keep disconnecting?” for you! Happy flying!

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.