Drone lying on the ground.

What Causes a Drone Crash and How to Prevent It?

Estimated reading time: 14 minutes

Drones are some of the most coveted electronic gadgets, besides iPhones and computers, and drone crash is not something new. Drones have revolutionized several industries, including real estate and photography. However, they pose a major risk since they are prone to crashing.

So, what do you do need to do after you crash your drone?

The first step is to retrieve the drone and assess the damage. If there isn’t extensive physical damage, remove the propellers and power up the drone. This helps determine if the motors and other internal parts are functioning correctly. If there’s extensive internal and external damage, it’s advisable to contact the manufacturer for further steps.

Even though drone crashes are inevitable, they can be prevented in most cases. Please keep reading to find out why drone’s crash and how to prevent them from crashing.

What Are The Most Common Causes for Drone Crashes?

Below are some reasons drone crashes occur.

Distractions:

This is the most straightforward case. And unfortunately, it often happens, even to experienced pilots. You may be flying your drone when talking to a friend. Or without paying attention to any obstacles close to the drone.

There are instances where you need to move backwards a bit to take better shots, and you’re not aware of obstacles behind the drone.

Always make sure you have your drone in sight at all times. If that’s not possible, you can have a friend help by alerting you when you’re close to obstacles.

Flying FPV:

Flying FPV (First-person view) is similar to flying backwards. It gives a real-time video feed of the drone’s camera.

You can even purchase the goggles so that you can view the feed in 3D. However, you will most likely to run into obstacles since you’re not aware of the drone’s surroundings.

It is like when flying backwards, fly the drone in open areas or have someone to alert you when you’re close to an obstacle.

Interference:

There are many factors that could interfere with the drone’s connection.

For instance, if you have a smartphone, or a smartwatch, they send Wi-Fi signals which may interfere with the drones.

Industrial machines, power lines, and cell towers also have magnetic fields that may interfere with electronic devices, including drones.

These interferences make it challenging to control the drone, causing it to crash. Other sources of interference include a boat’s radar, cars, concrete and metal buildings.

Not doing a preflight check:

Some preflight checks include compass calibration, checking the motors and propellers, checking the battery, and selecting the correct flight mode. If you skip this step, you may not pick up on any problems, and your drone may malfunction when in flight.

Another step that most people skip is the GPS lock. The drone has to orient itself and pick the coordinates of the base station so that it will quickly return home in case of any issues.

If it doesn’t lock the GPS, it may end up crashing in other places when attempting to return home.

Preflight checklist

Flying Past the visual line-of-sight:

Most advanced drones have an operating range of up to 7 kilometers. However, the FAA requires drone pilots to fly within a visual line-of-sight, which is usually less than 3 miles.

Flying too far can lead to a loss of signal due to interferences such as buildings, cell towers, and power lines.

Flying too far away also drains the batteries since the drone will have to travel a very long distance when returning home.

Some drones are designed to calculate and warn you when you’re going too far. However, they can’t really consider issues like strong winds which drain the batteries even faster.

As a result, the batteries die mid-flight, causing the drone to crash.

Flying indoors:

Flying a drone indoors can be very risky, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. You are “hidden” from GPS satellites so you can’t rely on GPS when flying indoors. 

The sensors may also not work as they should since you may not be close to the ground. The lack of these two features makes it challenging to maintain a stable hover.

There are several obstacles within buildings too, so the obstacle-detection mechanism may not be very useful. The drone will often stop when it senses a barrier, making it very challenging to fly it. 

When a drone loses connection, it may attempt to return home. The return home function causes the drone to go higher, crashing into the ceiling or other objects.

Still, drone pilots who can fly indoors are in demand. With practice, you can comfortably do it. But don’t purchase a new drone and start testing it within your house.

Person trying to fly his drone inside his room.
A person trying to fly his drone inside his room

Harsh Weather Conditions:

Weather conditions such as winds and rain can really destroy your drone. When you try to fly against the winds, you’ll drain the battery faster before the drone returns home. Rain can damage the internal parts of the drone.

Birds:

You do not want to get into a fight with a bird, especially predatory birds. They move fast, and they can easily maneuver in the air. Predatory birds like eagles can attack you drone or even snatch it and fly away with it.

Dead batteries:

When you push your drone too far, you may drain the battery before it starts its journey back.

Most drones are designed to return home at 30%, and they will automatically land at 15% battery levels. 

As mentioned earlier, factors like wind can cause the drone to consume more battery power. It may end up landing in trees, in the ocean, on rocks, or other unsuitable places.

Automatic fly modes:

Auto-fly modes like Return-to-home, ActiveTrack, and automatic take-off are some of the best things that have happened in drone technology. But they are the leading causes of crashing since it’s not the same as flying the drone manually. 

During automatic take-off or RTH, the drone tends to move to a higher altitude. There’s no telling what the drone will bump into during these flight modes.

Drone Flyaways:- According to me the most threatening cause.

Drone flyaways occur when the connection to the drone is interrupted or lost entirely. Motor failures can also cause the drone to fly away. 

This makes it difficult to control the drone. It may crash into objects or even fly unattainable.

CREDIT- Ian In London

Below are some ways you can prevent a drone flyaways.

Preflight Check:

You need to make sure that the motors are working correctly. Also, ensure the battery is fully charged and conduct any necessary firmware updates.

You should also make sure the weather conditions are favorable for flying the drone. In areas where there’s a lot of electromagnetic interference, you may need to recalibrate the compass.

Set The RTH:

Make sure you set the return home point accurately. When the battery is low, the drone needs a place to go back to. Please make sure the RTH altitude is higher than any barriers within the area to make sure it doesn’t crash into them.

Keep the Drone in Sight at All Times:

Just like the FAA requires, make sure you can see your drone at all times. If it flies too far, you may lose connection causing it to fly away. Unless it’s necessary, don’t fly the drone when there’s limited lighting.

Install a Tracker:

Drones may fly away due to factors we can’t control. To be on the safe side, install a tracker on the drone so that you’ll know where the drone will land once it flies away.

An image of a drone flyaways.
Drone Flyaways

What Causes Drone Flyaway and How to Prevent It?

How Often Does Drone Crash?

Due to technological advancements, drone crashes often occur due to the pilot’s error.

If you push your drone too hard, fail to check it before flying, or fail to conduct regular maintenance, your drone is prone to crashing.

Of course, there are unavoidable circumstances such as interruptions and weather conditions. So, there are no actual statistics on how often drones crash, you just need to be more careful when flying them.

How to Prevent Drone Crash?

Below are some ways you can prevent a drone crash.

Check The Drone Before Flying

Check the motors, propellers, and the compass to make sure they are working correctly. You should also check the video’s transmission to make sure it’s working.

Fly The Drone From a Level Ground – 

Avoid flying your drone from grass or any other uneven ground. This will make it easier for the drone to orient itself and lock the GPS. 

It would help if you also let it hover for some time for it to register the coordinates.

Some drones take time to lock the GPS, so if you fly it before it locks, it may not successfully return home. 

If you change your location, make sure you reset the GPS lock since some drones will save the coordinates from the previous session.

Have a Spotter

When flying a FPV, or taking some complex shots, make sure you have a spotter, or a person who alerts you in case of any issues.

Assess The Areas – 

Conduct a reconnaissance to ensure there are no barriers, power lines, trees, or other objects that may cause interference.

In some places, you must deal with these obstacles, so a reconnaissance helps you plan the route and establish ways to avoid them.

Check The Weather Conditions – 

Several apps can help gauge temperature, wind, and even predict rain. So make sure the weather is favorable. If it’s foggy and you still want to fly the drone, keep it in sight. 

Remember that it may be calm at the base station and still be windy when the drone goes some feet above the ground. If it’s too windy, lower the drone’s altitude and fly it back home.

You can even lower it to areas with obstacles since the obstacles will help block some wind as you fly it back home.

Monitor The Battery Life – 

If your drone is designed to return home at 30%, don’t keep pushing it. Make sure you’re always within a considerable distance from the base station to make sure it doesn’t force a landing along the way.

Avoid The Vortex Ring State – 

When the drone’s propellers rotate, they push a lot of air beneath them to initiate a lift. This air is known as the “downwash”. 

So if you descend the drone too fast, it will end up into its downwash. Since the downwash has less pressure, the drone will start falling too quickly, causing it to crash. 

Each drone has its predetermined descent rate. So make sure you check the manufacturer’s instructions.

Breaking Speeds and Distances – 

Just like when driving a car, or even flying a plane, you need to slow down when you’re about to land. 

If you need to land at a higher speed, remember that you’ll need more distance. You should also slow down when flying close to the obstacles.

Practice

This is one of the best ways to avoid crashing. Practice in open spaces, around obstacles; learn the best calibration practices, and how to fly the drone indoors.

Practicing also minimizes pilot errors which is one of the main reasons drones crash.

           Practice makes a man perfect

Switch off The Sensors When Flying Indoors – 

As mentioned earlier, GPS, obstacle avoidance sensors, and other sensors may not work indoors. So, you should switch them off and fly the drone in Attitude mode. 

Remember to switch the sensors back on when you’re back to flying outdoors.

Avoid The CSC Command-

The CSC (Combination Stick Command) is a command in the DJI phantom.

It’s designed to stop the drone in case of an emergency. If you use this function when the drone is in flight, you may end up crashing it.

A deadly CSC Command
Deadly CSC Command- DJI PHANTOM 3

What to Do After You Crash Your Drone?

When the drone crashes, the first step is to locate it (obviously). Just to emphasize further, you need to fly your drone within your line of sight to make it easier to find when it crashes.

The tracking app and compass can also help locate it, especially if it fell in a bushy area, or an area you aren’t very familiar with. 

FAA also requires pilots to report crashes that amount to more than $500 in damages. Once you retrieve the drone, you can assess the damage to find out if you can fix it yourself or you’ll have to send it to the manufacturer.

Assessing The Damage:

Start by checking the battery. Remove it from its compartment. If it has dents or swellings, you shouldn’t use it in the drone before contacting the manufacturer. 

If there are just surface scratches, the battery may still be fine, but it would help if you contacted the manufacturer.

In most cases, the propellers will be damaged, and some parts of the drone may be scratched. You need to conduct some tests to determine if there are any internal damages. 

Find a new battery and remove the broken propellers. Then attempt to fly the drone to make sure the motors are working.

If the motors are making a high-pitched continuous sound, then they’re fine. But if it sounds like something’s stuck in the motors, they may be damaged and will need to be replaced. 

It would be best if you also cleaned off the sensors and motors in case dirt reached these parts.

If the motors are working, you can install new propellers and fly the drone. Start at a low altitude and monitor the drone’s functionality. If the GPS lock is not working, that’s one sign of internal damage.

Ensure you also have control on the drone and that the transmitter is working. If the drone doesn’t take off, then more internal components have been damaged.

You should be taking notes of how your drone functions from the time you retrieved to the testing part. These notes can help the manufacturer troubleshoot the drone.

Contact The Manufacturer:

When you establish that the drone has some internal damages, it’s important to contact the manufacturer.

People who’re experienced in dismantling and assembling electronics may not have much of a problem since they may be similar. But still, if you attempt to fix it yourself, you may not be eligible for the Company’s warranty.

Most manufacturers have authorized repair centers so you can check which centers are near you.

Sending to the manufacturer is always a last resort for significant damages, and your drone could take weeks before it’s sent back to you.

Bear in mind that you will have to pay for some repairs, especially if the pilot’s error is not covered in the warranty.

Drones have black boxes that record the flights. So if it was your fault, you won’t get off that easy.

If the damages are too extensive, it’s better to replace the drone other than spend a lot of money fixing it.

You can take advantage of offers like the $219 DJI Care or the GoPro’s $149 2-year coverage. These covers ensure the manufacturer can repair or replace your drone in case of a crash.

How to Repair Your Drone? A Guide for Everyone

Can You Buy Care/Insurance After Crashing Your Drone?

A drone crash could easily damage your drone, or worse, injure people and destroy property. Companies like GoPro and DJI provide insurance coverage at an extra fee. 

So if it applies to the model you’re purchasing, you should take it. But what you should be more concerned about is liability insurance.

It would be best if you looked for an insurance company covering both the damage to the drone and the damage it causes. 

Such companies include:

  • The Hartford
  • Droneinsurance.com
  • Verifly.com

Final Thoughts:

Is It Easy to Crash Drone?

It’s not that easy to crash a drone. Drones are now more advanced, and most accidents occur due to lack of practice and some negligence on the pilot’s part.

Drone crashes can be very dangerous. There have been cases where they crashed into planes, railcars, airports, and even the White House. We have explained some ways you can prevent them and what you should do after a crash. 

The pilot needs to follow the FAA guidelines by keeping the drone in sight, flying in areas that they’re allowed to, and maintaining the drones regularly.

An insurance cover is also necessary to compensate for some damages.

Happy flying folks!
Summary
Drone Crash: What to Do Now?
Article Name
Drone Crash: What to Do Now?
Description
What to do when you crash your drone? How you prevent your drone from crash?
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Nick Cast
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