Does your drone want GPS?


Flight Radar 24 ADS-B airplane map on LG V20

The place is your drone going? There’s little query that the addition of GPS to the trendy drone has been of nice profit to navigation and flight, however is it required? After we check with GPS, we’re speaking about the entire variants, together with GPS, GLONASS and extra.

Be part of us as we focus on a number of the professionals and cons of a GPS enabled drone, and a number of the alternate options in the event you’d fairly fly a bit of completely different.

Jonathan Feist, Drone PilotJonathan Feist

Why belief Drone Rush?

I’ve been a fan of flight since a younger age; whereas I’ve had few alternatives on the helm of manned plane, the hours on my fleet of drones proceed to develop. I take pleasure in placing cameras into the sky, silky clean aerial imagery makes me blissful. My aim is to assist all pilots take pleasure in flight legally and safely.


Historical past of GPS in drones

Early drones, and lots of present toy-class machines, didn’t include a GPS module put in. Like most interest plane, you simply received a RC controller and receiver to fly your machine. Ability was required to handle flight with these beasts, typically extra ability than the typical pilot cared to develop.

Dropping a GPS module right into a drone made for a straightforward technique to help pilots with regular flight. Correct world positioning wasn’t simply reported again to the distant, it helped navigate the drone. That is how most present drones maintain a stable hover, they lock onto a reasonably exact GPS place and fly themselves again to that spot in the event that they drift misplaced.

Sticking to a chosen top or making certain you don’t by chance fly above the 400 foot mark are additionally capabilities of GPS. Altitude maintain is a crucial operate, I dare say that holding a gradual top is the toughest factor to do if you fly manually.

Apart from all that, GPS can be utilized only for reporting, if that’s what you need. Your DJI drone, for instance, creates a flight log for you and you should use GPS to assist discover a crashed drone.

GPS goes each methods. Your distant management might also have GPS, if not, it could pull GPS coordinates out of your connected cell gadget. This fashion your drone is aware of the place you’re, nice for an correct RTH.

Are you aware your drone legal guidelines? Every thing that you must know earlier than you fly!

Necessary replace: Drone Distant ID

On April 21, 2021, the FAA in america formally rolled out a brand new drone Distant ID requirement. A part of compliance with the brand new legislation requires that each one drones broadcast their GPS coordinates, thus, all your drones will want GPS by October 2023! In case your drone is just not outfitted with GPS, and you can’t improve it, there shall be exterior modules you could connect to the drone. Backside line, the reply to at present’s query is fairly easy, sure, your drone wants GPS.

GPS makes the whole lot higher?

GPS feels like a marvel drug for all issues that ail drone flight. It’s laborious to dispute that GPS makes most superior flight-features attainable for a drone, however there are some drawbacks.

The primary level of competition with GPS in a drone is battery consumption. It is a weak argument towards it, however remains to be correct. Even when the battery consumption sounds negligible, it’s nonetheless further drain in your small batteries.

Subsequent, value. No means round it, a drone with GPS not solely has extra elements, the software program to manage it’s extra sophisticated as properly. It upsets us to see an enormous worth bump when a producer takes an present drone and provides GPS, however it’s value a bit of extra at the least.

With out a dependable GPS connection, many drones won’t allow you to fly

Problems. I’ve seen points in a number of methods with GPS in drones, not the least of which is an easy delay. As most of you realize, a GPS enabled gadget advantages most when it has connection to at the least three satellites concurrently. If I’m not mistaken, DJI drones look for no less than seven or eight earlier than the drone experiences as able to fly.

A delay in gathering these GPS connections could be annoying, however what occurs when there should not that many satellites to be discovered? Easy sufficient, you both fly unassisted otherwise you don’t fly in any respect, relying on the software program limitations.

Associated studying: DJI GO 4 app alternate options

I’ll have used the fallacious phrases there, it’s unlikely the satellites should not round, however interference is actually a actuality. I’ve an space close to my previous home that could be a rock mattress with a number of metals, the magnetic interference is past what a drone can handle.

The identical is true in the event you’ve ever tried to launch from the roof of your automobile. It may be performed, however my Mavic Professional experiences an excessive amount of interference to takeoff.

Flying indoors or below a metallic roof/bridge could cause a disconnect from the satellites. Not good. Mix bridges with rocks which might be wealthy in metals… watch out.

The final time I flew in a magnetic-rich atmosphere, the drone crashed. Reviewing the flight logs, I discovered that the drone behaved correctly, what occurred is it thought is was at a selected GPS level, however then as I flew a bit of larger, it related to a different satellite tv for pc. The system stated “I have to be at Level A,” which it thought it was. Then, a break up second later it up to date and realized that it was not at that GPS level. As an alternative of claiming “OK, I assume I’m at this new level, I’ll keep right here,” it took off like a rocket to get to Level A.

On this scenario, the drone was unresponsive to the emergency cease button and my management. Or was it?!? See, emergency cease advised the drone to remain the place it’s. It didn’t know the place it was, it was alleged to be at Level A, so it accepted the Halt command as Level A – which suggests it nonetheless needed to course right over to that time.

As for controlling it, the drone was nonetheless confused about the place it wanted to be, maneuvering the controls to the left, whereas the drone was rushing proper, modified the place Level A was situated, however the drone nonetheless needed to recover from to that up to date level.

From the center of the sector, increase, it took off over fifty toes, uncontrolled, into some bushes. No hurt performed to the drone, however I’ve not taken that factor out since. I don’t belief it.

That was an extended story, what I hope you bought from it’s that this specific drone makes use of GPS as a crutch. It fails to function with out a stable GPS connection and it has no fail secure if the GPS fluctuates. On this case you’re on the mercy of a GPS connection and that doesn’t sit proper with me.

Greatest GPS drones

DJI Mavic 3

DJI Mavic 3

  • Unbelievable digital camera
  • 5.1K video
  • Large flight time
  • Secure and succesful drone
  • Class-leading flight vary

Autel Robotics Evo Lite

Autel Robotics Evo Lite

  • Nice flight time
  • Nice digital camera
  • As much as 6K video

DJI Air 2S

DJI Air 2S

  • Nice digital camera
  • 5.4K video
  • 8X zoom
  • Compact and simple to make use of
  • Unbelievable vary

DJI Matrice 300 RTK

DJI Matrice 300 RTK

  • Versatile industrial platform
  • Exact and dependable

Yuneec Typhoon H3

Yuneec Hurricane H3

  • Skilled digital camera drone
  • Nice Leica digital camera

DJI Mini 3 Pro

DJI Mini 3 Professional

  • Extremely moveable
  • Good 4K video
  • Sub-250g
  • Optionally available 47 minutes flight time

Options to GPS

Earlier than we faux you are able to do away with GPS and get the identical flight expertise, you possibly can’t. Not at present at the least.

Ryan Vergara

Producers and accent creators have been toying with extra sensors to reinforce the expertise. Primarily, you’ll discover imaginative and prescient sensors on many drones. Impediment avoidance prevents injury to your drone, but in addition provides your machine reference factors to keep up a hover.

Your digital camera could be utilized together with laser and different proximity instruments. Probably the greatest examples of that is Intel’s RealSense expertise. A brief bar of sensors that attaches to your drone to offer collisions avoidance with sufficient accuracy it will probably assist with navigating round an impediment, not simply halting in spot.

NVIDIA is taking that to the subsequent section. Using the Jetson supercomputer board, they’ve been constructing full autonomous flight right into a check drone. Working alongside a mountaineering path, the sensors guarantee secure navigation round rocks, timber and tall grasses. Greater than only a single flight at a time, throw in some AI that remembers secure tracks over a number of flights, constructing a map for navigation and extra.


Flight help comes within the type of a barometer as properly. When you haven’t heard of the barometer in your telephone or health tracker but, all of them work the identical, measuring air strain is a good solution to measure elevation. It’s not good, however neither is GPS, so mix the 2 for impressively correct altitude measure.

Bluetooth and WiFi are additionally in a position to assist. Though, they’ll solely actually be used as a tough measure of proximity to your distant management. That could be simply what you’re in search of, it actually helps with any RTH performance.

Radar is one other device that may… I’ll cease proper there, it’s attainable to get radar based mostly techniques in your drone, however at this level, it’s value prohibitive and too heavy for our primary yard drone. Business functions with LiDAR are an actual factor, in the event you’re out there for $15K+ drones.

Pure arithmetic – Do you know that Digital Aerolus drones, such because the Aertos 130IR, are constructed to fly in GPS-denied environments? If that you must fly in a tunnel, these drones make the most of some loopy math expertise, fastidiously managing their flight via gyro-sensors and visioning techniques to make sure secure and dependable flight.


Answering our primary query: no, you don’t want GPS in your drone. GPS is the only handiest flight help and navigation device at present in use on our favourite flying machines, however there are alternatives on the market.

The largest factor is to discover a drone that mixes GPS together with different instruments. That is fairly easy, most the entire mainstream drones use this finest apply.

Please tell us if we missed one thing on this subject. We all know that GPS is a robust device, and we all know there are mainstream strategies to help or keep away from GPS use, however we dwell with the mainstream drones, we would have missed one thing.

Regularly Requested Questions

Do I want GPS on my drone?

No, however GPS drones are normally a lot simpler to fly. A non-GPS drone will depend on you to manually fly the machine, they could have gyroscopic sensors within the flight controller that work to maintain the drone stage and keep away from upward and downward motion within the air, however so long as it’s stage, it’s free to float round wherever it desires. A GPS drone locks onto a set of GPS coordinates and autonomously navigates the drone with a purpose to keep in that spot – the result’s, normally, way more correct hover than the ATTI mode of simply utilizing gyro sensors and possibly a barometer to gauge the altitude.

How a lot does GPS value for drones?

We will let you know that you could find (respected) flight controllers with GPS for as little as $100, or plugin modules for some flight controllers for as little as $10, however if you take all the flight system into consideration, together with the software program to handle the GPS knowledge, the {hardware} and software program to navigate the drone with a purpose to preserve that GPS place, and extra, you’ll discover that the majority GPS-enabled drones begin at round $300. We’re nonetheless speaking about toy-class machines at that worth level.


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