Where is your drone going? There is little question that the addition of GPS to the modern drone has been of great benefit to navigation and flight, but is it required? When we refer to GPS, we are talking about all of the variants, including GPS, GLONASS and more.
Join us as we discuss some of the pros and cons of a GPS enabled drone, and some of the alternatives if you’d rather fly a little different.
Early drones, and many current toy-class machines, did not come with a GPS module installed. Like most hobby aircraft, you just got a RC controller and receiver to fly your machine. Skill was required to manage flight with these beasts, often more skill than the average pilot cared to develop.
Dropping a GPS module into a drone made for an easy method to assist pilots with steady flight. Accurate global positioning wasn’t just reported back to the remote, it helped navigate the drone. This is how most current drones hold a solid hover, they lock onto a fairly precise GPS position and fly themselves back to that spot if they drift out of place.
Sticking to a designated height or ensuring you don’t accidentally fly above the 400 foot mark are also functions of GPS. Altitude hold is an important function, I dare say that holding a steady height is the hardest thing to do when you fly manually.
Related reading: FAA rules explained – 400 foot max height
Aside from all that, GPS can be used just for reporting, if that’s what you want. Your DJI drone, for example, creates a flight log for you and you can use GPS to help find a crashed drone.
GPS goes both ways. Your remote control may also have GPS, if not, it may pull GPS coordinates from your attached mobile device. This way your drone knows where you are, great for an accurate RTH.
Drone legal and safety
GPS makes everything better?
GPS sounds like a wonder drug for all things that ail drone flight. It’s hard to dispute that GPS makes most advanced flight-features possible for a drone, but there are some drawbacks.
The first point of contention with GPS in a drone is battery consumption. This is a weak argument against it, but is still accurate. Even if the battery consumption sounds negligible, it is still extra drain on your small batteries.