How to Set Up the Failsafe Feature on Your Drone in Case of an Emergency

By Mark LaFay

Several variables can affect your drone flying experience. You might lose control of your drone because you flew out of range, or you may encounter some sort of radio interference that disrupts communication between your transmitter and drone.

Unexpected precipitation or inclement weather might make flight dangerous. Battery failure or simply not noticing the charge status of a battery can make a crash imminent. Or maybe you’ve simply flown your drone far enough away that you can no longer determine its heading and properly pilot it home.

Regardless the scenario, if you have control of your drone and things are getting a little dicey, land immediately. Once you’ve landed your drone, you can retrieve it and start all over. If you lose control of your drone, you could be out of luck unless your drone has a return-home and land failsafe.

Thanks to GPS, drones can establish location data and reference that data throughout flight. Before you start flying, read your user manual to verify whether or not your drone has a fail-safe mechanism in the event communication is lost between the transmitter and drone.

In order to take advantage of this feature, you must make sure you establish or update your home location. This location will be where your drone takes off. If you are using your drone for the first time, be sure to engage your GPS lock and then test it during your first flight.

To test your return home failsafe, follow these instructions:

  1. With your Home location established, throttle up your motors and lift off.

  2. Fly your drone 50 to 100 feet away from you, and then turn off your transmitter.

    Your drone should automatically return within a few feet of the original takeoff location.

  3. Let the drone finish the exercise before re-launching and commencing with your flight plans.

One problem with this feature is that most drones lack collision detection. Without a human pilot controlling the drone, it will fly the most direct route back to home, which happens to be a straight line. The drone will collide with anything in its path. To accommodate for this potential problem, you might be able to intercept the drone by re-establishing a connection. Refer to your user’s manual to determine the procedure to do this.

There has been a lot of discussion within the industry about how to make drones more self-aware with collision detection capabilities. Five years ago, this may have been categorized as science fiction, but it’s coming soon. Maybe as soon as 2015. Several drone startups like DroneDeploy, Airware, and Ascending Technologies are developing drones that use micro cameras that perceive objects and movement. Intel is leading the charge with their Realsense 3D camera.