How to Track Your Drone – 5 Best GPS Trackers

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Camera quadcopters with tracking modes are the most popular these days. We call these ‘Follow Me’ drones, and they autonomously track their target. That means they can follow and film you or another moving object without someone at the controls. This guide reverses the tracking order. There may be times when you need to know how to track your drone. Keep reading to find out how.

People lose drones for all kinds of reasons, and it’s a pilot’s biggest fear. Prevention is always better than cure, but let’s assume it’s too late for that. And even if it’s not, knowing how to track a lost drone is an essential skill. You hope you never need it, but you’re glad you know how—just in case.

Budget
best-budget-drone-tracker
Spy Tec STI GL300 Mini
4.4/5.0
Technology: GPS
Weight: 2 ounces
Track & map in real time over the internet, regular updates, geo-fencing.
Check Amazon
Best Value
best-value-drone-tracker
AMERICALOC GL300W
4.9/5.0
Technology: GPS
Weight: 2.24 ounces
Long battery life, configurable updates, works worldwide, no contracts.
Check Amazon
Top Pick
top-value-drone-tracker
Marco Polo Advanced
4.8/5.0
Technology: RF
Weight: 1.3 lbs.
Versatile mounting system, push-button search, decent range, no monthly fees.
Check Amazon

How Drones Get Lost

Sometimes a drone can land where we didn’t mean it to. That’s problematic if it comes down in long grass or thick foliage some distance away. And the smaller the quadcopter, the harder it is to see. Other times, the precious craft can keep on flying and not respond to controls. These events are known as the dreaded flyaways. They don’t happen as often with newer drones, but they still occur.

Flyaways happen when the controller and drone stop communicating. Most of these events are the result of pilot error. For example, they failed to bring the drone back when the battery got too low. Another is that the pilot dared to operate their quad outside the recommended control range.

Here’s a summing up of the four most common reasons why drones become lost:

  1. Sudden, strong gusts of wind (an act of nature)
  2. Failsafe features like Return to Home (RTF) malfunction
  3. Receiver/controller distance is too far (large)
  4. Battery dies

The only one that’s not preventable is point 2 where there’s a malfunction with a failsafe feature. Savvy pilots always check weather conditions before they fly (#1). Taking a drone out of the line of sight (LOS) is illegal in most cases, and it tempts fate (#3). And batteries rarely die without warning (#4). So, how can you find a drone after it flies away or becomes lost in an emergency landing?

How to Find a Lost Drone

One way to find a lost drone is with a special tracking device. The good news is that these tiny gadgets don’t have to cost much. They can help to pinpoint the exact location of your missing quad by giving you its coordinates. Knowing the longitude and latitude can take you within a few feet of where your flying robot last came down.

How Drone Trackers Work

Drone trackers are lightweight devices that often come packed with helpful features. Most of them work on cellular networks and coordinate with satellites in real-time. These trackers are app-controlled. The ones on this page work with modern iOS and Android mobile devices like phones and tablets. Some also use web-based tracking and work via a browser interface.

There are many trackers available that bring something different to the table. The aim is always the same, though, and that is to find your beloved quadcopter.

Types of Drone Trackers

There are two types of trackers used to find lost drones:

  1. GPS (global positioning system) drone trackers
  2. RF (radio frequency) drone trackers

GPS trackers rely on the global network of satellites that circle the planet. GPS trackers are perfect in ideal conditions. That means there aren’t any solid obstructions to block the signal. That’s always going to be a problem in some case, especially if the drone comes down in built-up areas. GPS trackers also need a cellular plan to send the data to a mobile device. These small gadgets tend to be power hungry.

RF tracker detection works by broadcasting radio waves. They are better than GPS trackers for a couple of reasons. They’re not reliant on cellular signals for one, which makes them more reliable. They are also more precise and have a longer battery life. The downside to most RF trackers is their restricted range which is typically a couple of miles.

Finding Drones without a Tracking Device

There are less sophisticated ways to find a drone than tracking devices. These can include:

  1. Use the controller to check the drone’s last known location
  2. Do a simple foot search
  3. Look up if there are trees in the fly zone. Lots’ of drones get stuck in trees
  4. Use another camera drone to scout the area
  5. If the drone has lights turn them on and search after dark

Point 5 is only doable if the battery had some power left when the quad came down.

About this Drone Tracking Guide

This guide looks at some of the best ways to track your drone using independent trackers. I handpicked all the products on this page based on value, functions, and reliability. I also took the opinions of industry experts and pilot reviews into consideration before finalizing the shortlist. Not all these products advertise drone tracking, but they’re all capable of the job.

The reviews are short and to the point and highlight the product’s best features along with any cons. The first three in this shortlist are the Best Budget, Best Value, and the Top pick.

Drone Trackers Comparison Table

Make and ModelTechnologyWeightPrice
Spy Tec STI GL300 Mini GPS TrackerGPS2 ouncesCheck Price
AMERICALOC GL300W Mini GPS TrackerGPS2.24 ouncesCheck Price
Marco Polo Advanced RC Recovery SystemRF1.3 lbs.Check Price
FindtheDrone, Find the Drone, CommunicatorGPS3.4 ouncesCheck Price
Trackimo Multi-Purpose 3G TrackerGPS1.48 ouncesCheck Price

1. Spy Tec STI GL300 Mini GPS Tracker | Best Budget

Spy Tec STI GL300 Mini GPS TrackerView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.4/5

The Best Budget pick goes to the affordable Spy Tec STI GL300 Mini GPS Tracker. It’s a multi-purpose tracking device, so you can use it to track people as well as things.

  • Best feature 1: Multipurpose GPS tracker
  • Best feature 2: Compact 2” design, ultra-lightweight
  • Plus points: Track & map in real time over the internet, regular updates, geo-fencing
  • Minus points: Fragile, compulsory service plan

Product Highlights

This Mini GPS Tracker can keep going for two weeks on a single charge. That’s reassuring if you need to return to the search area another time. The device is simple to set up and activate, easy to use and packed with features. You can track and map with Google Maps in real time online. The STI GL300 updates at selected regular intervals depending on the plan (see below).

The STI GL300 Real-Time Mini GPS Tracker also comes with a magnetic waterproof case. The case adds to its heft but can be invaluable for flying over water. Users can set up a geo-fence to add a virtual map perimeter. That’s also useful for cheaper drones that don’t have out-of-range alarms.

The Not So Good

This tracker is incredibly light at just over 2 ounces. It’s also quite fragile and could potentially break up if your drone suffers a hard landing. The compact, lightweight design is also an advantage, though. It won’t upset the balance or add much to the payload of medium-sized quads and bigger. Another disadvantage of this—and other GPS trackers—is that users must select a monthly payment plan.

amazon

Tech Specs
Tracking Technology: Real-time GPS
Monthly plans: 3 options (no contract)
Dimensions: 0.9 x 1.5 x 2.7”
Weight: 2 oz.
App Compatibility: iOS/Web
Battery: AA rechargeable
Running time: 2 weeks
The Pros
Multipurpose GPS tracker
Compact design
Ultra-lightweight
Track & map online
Regular updates
Geofencing feature
Lifetime warranty
The Cons
Fragile. May break in a crash
Needs a service plan

2. AMERICALOC GL300W Mini GPS Tracker | Best Value

AMERICALOC GL300W Mini GPS TrackerView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.9/5

The GL300W Mini Real Time GPS Tracker by AMERICALOC makes our Best Value pick. It’s another compact, lightweight tracker. This device is small enough to use with most medium-sized drones.

  • Best feature 1: Multi-purpose GPS tracker
  • Best feature 2: Multiple alerts
  • Plus points: Long battery life, configurable updates, works worldwide, no contracts
  • Minus points: Monthly pay plan, software needs improving

Product Highlights

The great thing about this tiny app-controlled tracker is that it has multi-use appeal. You can use it to keep tabs on all kinds of things when you’re not tracking a drone. These can include vehicles, people, assets, and whatever else is important. As a drone tracker, it sends alerts of the quad’s speed, time, and last known location, etc. It transfers all vital data to any Android or iOS mobile device.

AMERICALOC’s GL300W real-time GPS tracker uses a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery. The battery life is impressive too, but the time it lasts depends on how regular the user sets the updates for. It can go for a couple of weeks on a single charge. The device comes with an international sim card, so it should work in most countries around the world. There are no fixed contracts nor activation fees.

The Not So Good

This GPS tracker doesn’t require a contract to use it, but there’s still a monthly fee of around $25. When you don’t need it to track, you don’t pay—it’s as simple as that. The fee is still a con for folks who only need the tracker for occasional use. The other negative is the app software, but everything works as promised. It’s just that the app’s a bit clunky to use and not as intuitive as some devices.

amazon

Tech Specs
Tracking Technology: GPS
Monthly plans: $25 (no contract needed)
Dimensions: 2.7 x 1.5 x 0.9”
Weight: 2.24 oz.
App Compatibility: Android/iOS
Battery: 1 Lithium-ion Rechargeable
Average Running time: 1+ week
The Pros
Multi-purpose GPS tracker
Multiple alerts/alarm functions
Works worldwide
Long battery life
Regular updates (configurable)
No contracts needed
The Cons
Monthly pay plan
Software could use some improvements

3. Marco Polo Advanced RC Recovery System | Top Pick

Marco Polo Advanced RC Recovery SystemView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.8/5

The Top Pick goes to the Marco Polo Advanced RC Recovery System. The company designed the device to work with RC multirotor craft. Their ad reads, ‘Never Lose your Drone Again.’

  • Best feature 1: Tag transceiver waterproof to IP67 standards
  • Best feature 2: Crush resistant polycarbonate case
  • Plus points: Versatile mounting system, push-button search, decent range, no monthly fees
  • Minus points: Restricted range compared to GPS, initial cost

Product Highlights

This tracker uses radio frequency (RF) rather than GPS. There are some definite benefits to that. There are no monthly fees as it doesn’t need a GPS reception and paid cellular services. The kit includes a crush-resistant case, IP67 waterproof tag transceiver, and a versatile mounting system. The device is easy to attach to any drone. And the range is an impressive 2 miles which is adequate in most cases.

Tracking Afar (out of range)

You can put the tracker into its “Search Mode” with longer flyaways. All you do then is head off in the right direction until the drone is within range. You can also perform highly accurate grid searches. The robustness of this tracker is no small detail either. It’s much less likely to suffer damage from crash landings than the flimsier multi-purpose GPS trackers. Moreover, there’s no mad panic in the search.

Marco Polo Advanced tag transceiver comes with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. It can last up to 15 days on a full charge, so you’re not racing against the clock to find your precious drone. That’s providing you remember to fully charge the tag transceiver battery before each flight.

The Not So Good

The range is only 2 miles, and that might be inconvenient for some distant flyaways. There are ways to counteract this though (see review). The initial cost of the Marco Polo Advanced RC Recovery System is high compared to most GPS trackers. However, there are no contracts or monthly fees, so it’s an excellent long-term investment.

amazon

Tech Specs
Tracking Technology: RF
Monthly plans: None
Dimensions: Not specified
Weight: 1.3 lbs.
App Compatibility: N/A
Battery: Rechargeable lithium-ion
Running time: 2 weeks
The Pros
RC specific tracking system
IP67 waterproof tag transceiver
Crash-resistant
Versatile mounting system
Simple push-button search
Decent range for RF tracker
No monthly fees or contracts
The Cons
Restricted range compared to GPS trackers
High initial cost

4. FindtheDrone, Drone Communicator Tracker

FindtheDrone, Drone Communicator TrackerView on Amazon

Editor’s Rating: 4.6/5

FindtheDrone is a purpose GPS drone communicator tool. It’s a reasonably priced tracker and an excellent investment to protect against lost quadcopters.

  • Best feature 1: Real-time GPS w/ google maps
  • Best feature 2: Text message alerts
  • Plus points: App control, useful tracking data, status updates, geo-fence, low monthly fee
  • Minus points: No international coverage, not waterproof

Product Highlights

This is an Android/iOS app-controlled device that works with the 2G TMobile service. It has a monthly fee of only $5. Consider FindtheDrone if you want a tracker for your quad within the USA. The product is simple to use and ready to go right out of the box. It’s set up so that it can call you and you can call it. For example, FindtheDrone can text you its exact location shown via Google Maps.

You can call for status updates by sending a text request to the device during flights. The tracker then informs you of the current signal strength and battery life among other things. There’s a geo-fence option for pilots who want to set up virtual flight boundaries too. The geofence function is also handy if your drone doesn’t have an out-of-range alarm installed.

The Not So Good

DroneScape’s FindtheDrone Communicator only works within the US. That’s something to think about if you travel overseas with your quadcopter. The gadget is quite sturdy, but it’s not waterproof. Our Top Pick is a much better option if you fly—or intend to fly—your quad close to or over water.

amazon

Tech Specs
Tracking Technology: GPS
Monthly plans: $5
Dimensions: 1.5 x 0.8 x 1.5”
Weight: 3.4 oz.
App Compatibility: iOS/Android
Battery: 1 x Lithium Metal (included)
Average Running time: 7 days
The Pros
Real-time GPS w/ google maps
Text message alerts
Android/iOS app control
Useful tracking data
Status updates
Drone travel history
Geo-fence
Low monthly fee
The Cons
No international coverage
Not waterproof

5. Trackimo Multi-Purpose 3G GPS Tracker

Trackimo Multi-Purpose 3G GPS TrackerView on Trackimo

Editor’s Rating: 4.5/5

The last tracker on our top five list is the Trackimo Multi-Purpose 3G GPS. The device has worldwide coverage where there’s cellular reception. There are no extra costs or hidden charges either.

  • Best feature 1: Worldwide coverage
  • Best feature 2: Waterproof protection
  • Plus points: Small, lightweight, compact design, app control, smart alerts, virtual fences
  • Minus points: Quite expensive, few user reviews, quite expensive

Product Highlights

The tracker is water-resistant but also comes with a waterproof silicon casing. That’s useful if you fly your drone near or over water. The device is small, lightweight, and easy to attach to any medium-sized drone and bigger. You can use the free app with both Android and iOS enabled devices. The smart alerts inform pilots of location changes and changes to user-defined virtual fence borders.

User-defined virtual fences help to keep your drone safely within the operating range. Many drones come with out-of-range alarms today, but they’re not 100% failsafe. Geo-fencing is vital if your drone doesn’t have perimeter alarms and useful as a backup if it does. Pilots can access the Trackimo app from most modern tablets, smartphones, and other compatible devices.

The Not So Good

This tracker is quite expensive for such a small, lightweight device. There isn’t much real user feedback to rely on either. Real user reviews are always useful as part of any buying decision, and the more the better. The Trackimo Multi-Purpose 3G GPS seems to be a good product, but it has cheaper competition.

amazon

Tech Specs
Tracking Technology: GPS
Monthly plans: Free year of service
Dimensions: 1.57 x 0.67 x 1.85”
Weight: 1.48 oz.
Battery: 1 x Nonstandard rechargeable (included)
Average Running time: 5+ days
The Pros
Worldwide coverage
Waterproof protection
Small, lightweight, and compact
Android/iOS app control
Smart alerts
Virtual fences
The Cons
Quite expensive
Few user reviews
0/50 ratings