We have a theory, if a drone cannot land safely, it has no business flying. Assuming your drone does fly safely, you can manually manage the flight and landing, or you can utilize a built-in feature for many machines, RTH. Just what is RTH? Simple enough, RTH stands for Return to Home.

  • Camera
    More Info

    DJI Mavic 2 Pro

    (9.7)
    $1,449.00+ BUY
    • 31 - MIN
    • 4K - 30 FPS
    • 44 - MPH
    • 6.2 - MILES
    DJI called the Mavic 2 Pro an iterative update over the original Mavic Pro; It may look like a simple upgrade, but the Mavic 2...
  • DJI Mavic 2 Zoom

    (9.5)
    $1,299.00 BUY
    • 31 - MIN
    • 4K - 30 FPS
    • 44 - MPH
    • 6.2 - MILES
    Along with the DJI Mavic 2 Pro, the Mavic 2 Zoom is one of the safest drones in the sky. You'll enjoy the flight with...
  • Balance
    More Info

    DJI Mavic Air 2

    (9.6)
    $799.00 BUY
    • 34 - MIN
    • 4K - 60 FPS
    • 42.5 - MPH
    • 6.2 - MILES
    The DJI Mavic Air 2 is the first "air" to look like a Mavic drone. It's the perfect midway between the Mini and larger Mavic...
  • Phantom
    More Info

    DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0

    (9.7)
    $1,799.00 $1,599.00 BUY
    • 30 - MIN
    • 4K - 60 FPS
    • 45 - MPH
    • 4.3 - MILES
    Taking the core of the solid DJI Phantom 4 Pro, the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 adds more efficient motors, OcuSync connectivity and more.
  • Typhoon
    More Info

    Yuneec Typhoon H Plus

    (9.4)
    $1,899.00 BUY
    • 28 - Minutes
    • 4K - 30 FPS
    • 30 - MPH
    • 1 - MILE
    The hexacopter design of the Yuneec Typhoon H Plus offers a reliable and smooth flight experience for the attached 20mp camera.

RTH is an automated flight feature that sounds simple enough, but there is more to it than just hitting a button, let’s talk about the capabilities of RTH on your favorite drone to help you land safely.

Drone Rush our philosophy

What is RTH?

DJI Mavic Air 2 flying front bottom

Return to home as a concept is fairly easy to understand, computationally, however, there is a lot going on. For starters, where is ‘home’ exactly?

The RTH function on your drone can be a lifesaver. Particularly if you lose sight of your machine in the air (which you should never do, remember those FAA rules) or your remote loses connection to the drone. A tap of a button on the remote or in the software should soar your drone back to a home location.

As I said, your drone needs to know where home is. This can be done in one of two ways, fundamentally. Your drone may be equipped with tech, like GPS, that records your take-off location, the drone then returns to that point. Other drones may track your travels, then manage to reverse your flight back to where you started.

On our daily flier for the longest time, the DJI Mavic Pro, a combination of GPS and image capture is used to determine where home is. When it leaves the ground it sets the GPS location, it then is able to see forward and downward. When the Mavic Pro returns to home, it narrows in on the GPS coordinates and then does its best to match the images as it comes in for a landing. I dare say, it is very accurate, almost always landing within about ten inches of my launch points.

A few drones use your remote or another physical beacon to hone in on, this for both location awareness and for landing accuracy.

If you are flying for pay, or any other form of compensation, you must operate under a different set of rules and possess a commercial drone license. We call it the Part 107, it’s not too hard to get, but it will take some time to learn all the rules. We want to help you learn the rules and get your commercial license, check out our drone pilot training material.

Drone Rush Drone Pilot Training banner Pilot-Training-Banner

How to use RTH

For most drones and situations the default RTH trigger is a button. Many drones use RTH for safety as well, if your battery is low or you lose connection to your remote control, the drone can fly itself home.

Watch out for that tree!

DJI Drones Guide

You might be wondering about mid-air collisions when your drone is autonomously soaring back to its home spot. Particularly of concern if your drone does not have obstacle avoidance sensors on board.

The most common obstacle avoidance technique for RTH is to set a specific altitude. Many drones default to 20 or 30 meters, about 60 or 90 feet above the ground. Living in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, I try to go even higher, if possible, we have some massive trees around here.

Depending on your flight location, the idea is simply to ensure that your RTH altitude is greater than the tallest tree or building in your flight area.

Are you on the move?

I often fly in a large area with hiking trails, you might have your drone following you while you snowboard or mountain bike. It would suck if your drone decided that the top of that big hill was home and took off without you. There are solutions available that differ by drone, but the idea is to frequently update your home location. You could turn off RTH for that flight as well.

Also take note of where your drone will end up if it does head for home, rather, will you be able to see it make it all the way back? The FAA says you must always be within line-of-sight of your drone, if your set home location is behind some trees or on the other side of a building, you cannot legally utilize the RTH feature of your machine. Sorry. Learn more about the FAA’s rules from the links below:


Warning, look up!

GDU Byrd Premium 1.0 review

The biggest problem I have with RTH capable drones is when they cannot be overridden. I had an incident once where my flight was to hover a few feet from the ground, then land. I just needed a couple photos of the machine in the air. The low battery warning came on, which was fine, I still had ten times the juice I needed to land, but the RTH kicked in and the drone flew up.

It seems ludicrous that a drone that is 5 feet in the air and just 3 feet over from its Home location should shoot straight up to 60 feet just to move over and come back down, but that’s what happened. Or, that is what would have happened, I was under a tall tree canopy, probably forty feet above my flight plan. If this drone would have let me bypass the automatic RTH and manually land, we would have had no issues at all. Long story short, I caught the drone as it plummeted to the ground.

The lesson is easy, your RTH elevation and flight path must both account for flying over objects and staying under objects. Keep it safe out there.

 

Drone legal and safety

Drone Pilot Training   |   Drone starter guide

 

A few great RTH drones

Before we call it quits for the day, let’s look at a few of the best drones for RTH flying.

Camera

DJI Mavic 2 Pro

August 2018

Release Date

Introduced in August of 2018, the DJI Mavic 2 Pro instantly became the best consumer-class folding drone that DJI had to offer. A marked upgrade over the original Mavic Pro, the Mavic 2 Pro rocks a 1-inch camera sensor for 4K video capture at 100Mbps, multi-direction obstacle avoidance sensors for some of the safest drone flight possible, and much more. OcuSync 2.0 enhances connectivity to the remote control and other accessories, now able to transmit 1080p live stream video well beyond the legal line-of-sight.

With an initial launch price of $1449, plus another $319 to get the Fly More kit with extra batteries, there is a barrier to entry with this machine, but if the DJI Mavic 2 Pro is within your budget, we think you will not be disappointed.

 

Zoom

DJI Mavic 2 Zoom

August 2018

Release Date

If you run down the spec sheet, the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom and Mavic 2 Pro are the same machine, with one major exception, the camera. The folding quadcopter design offers great portability, the multi-direction obstacle avoidance sensors assist in safe flight, and the new capabilities of OcuSync 2.0 add versatility for control and accessories. That is true for both of the drones, the Mavic 2 Zoom, on the other hand, rocks a 2x optical zoom lens on top of a 12MP camera. It shoots 4K video at 100Mbps and can digitally double that zoom for an impressive close-up.

Launching with a price of $1299, plus $319 for a Fly More kit, the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom was an instant crowd favorite.

Compact

DJI Mavic Air

January 2018

Release Date

DJI found great success with the Mavic Pro, they followed that up with the far less expensive Spark. The Mavic Air bridges the gap between these two, offering all the fun features from the smaller Spark as well as all the pro flight features of the Mavic Pro. Better yet, the Mavic Air introduced a 100Mbps data rate for video capture on a DJI drone under $1500. That sounds like a mouthful, suffice to say that the Mavic Air instantly took the crown for the best video at the lowest price of any drone on the market.

As with many DJI drones, the Mavic Air comes in two main purchasing options, you can buy the drone alone or upgrade to the Fly More bundle to get extra batteries, a carry case and more.

After the launch of the Mavic 2 series of drones, we had to recommend the newer Mavic line as the best camera on a compact drone, but the Mavic Air still remains our top pick if ultimate portability is your concern. The Mavic Air manages to pack down to almost fit comfortably in your pocket.

Air 2

DJI Mavic Air 2

May 2020

Release Date

The DJI Mavic Air 2 drone is more than just a successor to the original Mavic Air, it's more of a transition from its own form-factor into a true Mavic drone. The Mavic Air 2 maintains its place as a mid-tier drone in DJI's lineup. In terms of size, price, and capability, the Mavic Air 2 sits almost perfectly in between the Mavic Mini and the Mavic 2 series drones.

In the same way that the Mavic Air stepped up the camera game for small drones, the Mavic Air 2 is an exciting update in the camera department as well. You're looking at a new 1/2-inch sensor that shoots 12MP stills, but does so from a 48MP sensor! You can capture 48MP stills as well, but the 12MP shots are better, using pixel binning managed by Quad Bayer technology. Photos are great, but the new 4K video capture at 60fps, and a data bit rate of 120Mbps, are more exciting to many users.

Check out the DJI Mavic Air 2 for a starting price of $799 for the base package, $988 for the Fly More combo at launch in May 2020.

Favorite

DJI Mavic Pro

November 2016

Release Date

The DJI Mavic Pro is a compact, folding drone that was a pioneer for portability. This quadcopter folds down to fit easily in a backpack, or large pocket, while opening up to take 4K video to over 40mph in the sky. The 3-axis stabilized gimbal offers very smooth footage and OcuSync enables long range and HD live video streaming. The Phantom line of drones may have established DJI as a leader in the consumer drone market, but the Mavic Pro made high-quality aerial photography fun and highly accessible.

 

The DJI Mavic Pro is available in several packages, but mainly you can get the drone alone or bump up to the Fly More combo, which includes extra batteries, a carrying case and more.

Hexacopter

Yuneec Typhoon H Plus

July 2018

Release Date

The hexacopter design of Yuneec's Typhoon line of drones has been quite popular, if not successful. The design has become an icon in the industry and the safety of having extra propellers has been well accepted in the commercial market. The Yuneec Typhoon H Plus is a second generation model of their consumer focus. The Typhoon H Plus lands somewhere in between the DJI Phantom and DJI Inspire line of drones in terms of specs and price. Packing a 20MP 4K camera on a 3-axis gimbal, folding design and market average flight times and speeds, the Intel RealSense obstacle avoidance sensor may a leading reason to consider this drone over others.

You'll be able able to check out the Yuneec Typhoon H Plus for about $1899 from a few retailers.

Hexacopter

Yuneec Typhoon H Plus

July 2018

Release Date

The hexacopter design of Yuneec's Typhoon line of drones has been quite popular, if not successful. The design has become an icon in the industry and the safety of having extra propellers has been well accepted in the commercial market. The Yuneec Typhoon H Plus is a second generation model of their consumer focus. The Typhoon H Plus lands somewhere in between the DJI Phantom and DJI Inspire line of drones in terms of specs and price. Packing a 20MP 4K camera on a 3-axis gimbal, folding design and market average flight times and speeds, the Intel RealSense obstacle avoidance sensor may a leading reason to consider this drone over others.

You'll be able able to check out the Yuneec Typhoon H Plus for about $1899 from a few retailers.

Phantom

DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0

May 2018

Release Date

The DJI Phantom series of drones are some of the best machines on the market, every iteration makes improvements on the previous and in the case of the DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0, we're talking about improved motors, more efficient propellers and the first Phantom drone to rock OcuSync connectivity.

The Phantom 4 Pro series was DJI's best drone at launch for object avoidance technology, a trend that continues and is improved upon with the V2.0 series, adding radar and more obstacle avoidance goodness. The newer drone comes with the same 20MP 4K camera as previous, still one of the best camera drones on the market.

The difference between the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 for around $1,499 and the Phantom 4 Pro+ V2.0 for $1,749 is the inclusion of a 5.5-inch built-in display on the remote of the Pro+. The bright, Android powered display is the only difference between the two machines.

Toy-class

Hubsan H501S

January 2018

Release Date

The Hubsan H501S was one of the first GPS enabled drones from Hubsan to offer a 1080p camera and brushless motors. This sounds like a common thing, silly to celebrate by today's standards, but this was a game changer for Hubsan and the toy drone market. Looking at 2017 and earlier, most toy-class drones, which included most all of Hubsan's drones, used inefficient brushed motors and all flew in what you might call ATTI mode. While the early drones had no navigation or a tools for object avoidance or flight assist, GPS in the H501S gave it the ability to hover and even set a GPS controlled route through the mobile app on your smart device.

With RTH functionality and more, the Hubsan H501S remains one of the best drones that live in between toy-class and what we might call the premium experience of full GPS flight control. Check out the Hubsan H501S for around $168 and watch for deals as low as $150.

Folding

Yuneec Mantis G

October 2019

Release Date

The Yuneec Mantis G is everything we had hoped for in the original Mantis Q. We can't see the difference between these drones, save for the new stabilized camera Gimbal. Superb flight time, easy controls, voice activated features, a compact design that folds small for transport and a 4K camera all sound good to us.

Yuneec understands they have stiff competition in this portion of the drone market. They build mostly for the commercial space, but fun drones like the Mantis line and larger Typhoon hexacopters have a tough battle. The Mantis G is a leap forward for the company. We had a hard time recommending the Mantis Q to users that cared about shooting video, now we can put the DJI Mavic 2 drones and this new Mantis G in the same sentence.

Based on price and camera sensor size, the Yuneec Mantis G best competes with the DJI Mavic Air, which is to say it is a viable option for hobby pilots looking for a reliable drone to fly.

The Yuneec Mantis G is $699 today.

Mini

DJI Mavic Mini

November 2019

Release Date

With a long list of drones that start with the name Mavic, DJI has launched yet another consumer machine, perhaps their most consumer friendly yet, the new, very compact, folding DJI Mavic Mini.

As the name implies, the DJI Mavic Mini is a very small machine, and in true DJI fashion, it has few compromises to make it all work. The first thing to note is that the Mavic Mini weighs less than 0.55 lbs, which means you do not need to register it with the FAA before flight. Registration is quick and easy, but not requiring it at all is a bonus.

Related reading: DJI Mavic Mini review

Reminder: You may not have to register the Mavic Mini, but it's still a drone, you still have to follow the rules!

Don't let the small size fool you, this drone packs a 12MP camera, shoot 2.7K video  from a 3-axis stabilized Gimbal and has all of the flight features you'd expect from a Mavic drone today.

Starting price for the DJI Mavic Mini is $399, grab the Fly More combo for $499.

Time to go home

Tap that RTH button, it’s time to wrap up this article and head on home. Be sure to look into your settings when you fly, automation is fun and all, but you are still responsible for your drone making it back to earth safely.

Have any fun RTH success or failure stories you’d care to share? Hit the comments below.


Looking for something else?

See More
See More
See More

Frequently asked questions

How accurate is RTH?

The accuracy of RTH varies based on many factors, the hardware in the drone, the available satellites in the area, and the amount of signal interference, to name a few. In ideal conditions, GPS can get your drone within a few feet of it’s take-off location. With additional tools, such as DJI’s visual positioning sensors, GPS gets the drone close, and the camera uses pattern matching to narrow the accuracy to within a few inches.

Should I trust RTH?

The best advice we can give is to test your drone’s RTH a few times, in different conditions, before you need to rely on it. You’ll find different accuracy in different terrain, and you should check apps like UAV Forecast for info on satellite data and other environmental variables. If you find that your drone returns safely in poor conditions, you’re probably safe to trust it in most other conditions.

When should I user RTH?

RTH is a quality of life feature that you can use any time you don’t really feel like flying your drone. At least I hope that’s all you need it for. RTH is invaluable for a safe return if you ever lose sight of your craft, or if your controls have otherwise stopped responding. Many drones will automatically trigger RTH when the battery gets low, but please do not rely on that for your flight, with even just a little bit of wind your drone may not have enough power to make it all the way home before the battery depletes.