General Question

gondwanalon's avatar

Recreational drone pilots, why does the drone lose controller signal?

Asked by gondwanalon (22539points) June 3rd, 2023

Today I lost my DJI Mimi 3 drone over water while trying to capture canoe races. Too bad as I think I videoed some spectacular paddling action. Also too bad because it’ll cost $450 to replace the drone and batter.

The drone was well in controller range 572 meters away and 28 meters high. Drone lost signal in just 4 minutes after launch. Drone had 3 bars (out of 4) of power at launch (equivalent to about 20 minutes of flight time). Controller also had 3 bars (out of 4) of power.

Suddenly for no apparent reason my controller verbally announced “signal lost” and immediately stated, “landing”. I hit “return home” but of course that didn’t work because the connection was lost. Drone landed in the water and quickly sank out of sight.

In the past I’ve flown that drone 2.06 kilometers away at 101 meters high with a flight time of 14 minutes with no problem.

The drone and its controller are fairly new (only a couple months old and never crashed or dropped).

What do you think?
Is there something that I could have done when the controller lost signal?
Has this happened to you?

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5 Answers

kritiper's avatar

It flies out of range of the control signal.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Out of range is a possibility.

Also consider the likelihood of:
a) someone jamming your signal (either accidentally; they might have been on the same frequency) or on purpose – some idiot with an illegal jammer.

Unlikely to be the hardware itself.

gondwanalon's avatar

@kritiper @elbanditoroso according to the record on the DJI RC controller the drone was 572 meters away and 28 meters high. That’s well within range. Also there is a limit programmed into the controller that won’t allow the drone out of range.

Jamming is a good likely cause. Nowadays there’s radio waves of all kinds of frequencies going and coming from all directions. I can understand how that could cause the drone to lose controller signal. But the drone should have stayed airborne to wait for the signal from the controller to be restored. Not immediately land.

I just remembered that I saw another drone operator in the same area a few minutes earlier. I don’t know what kind of drone he had. By the looks of the gimbal-less camera that it was a cheapo. Perhaps he interfered with my drone control (accidentally or on purpose).

kritiper's avatar

@gondwanalon Telephone and electrical power lines might also disrupt the signal. An aluminum building or metal transmission tower. Maybe even a chain-link fence. Or a ham radio antenna/transmitter. Maybe even a CB radio. Somebody’s mobile phone. I would think there would be some other cause beyond a jammer.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

Probably just flew into the path of a microwave tower.

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