The Top 5 Reasons Why Drones Crash And How to Prevent Them

I recently saw this hilarious, yet true pie chart about drone crashes on a Facebook group and the reason it was hilarious was because it said that 90% of all crashes happen because of pilot error (or stupidity basically) and that is SPOT on.

You will find that in the following cases, this is why drone crashes occur:

  • 90% of cases it’s the pilot’s fault (lack of knowledge).
  • 5% of the time, it’s the quality of the model, meaning if it sucks, it’s harder to fly and thus easier to crash.
  • The remaining 5% are due to miscellaneous things that happen outside your control. Remote control errors happen, something happens to the bird in flight, something unusual and out of place. It happens rarely, thus it’s classified as 5%.

why do drones crash

I’ve had my own close calls and still do, and let me tell you, most of the time, even though I’m experienced, my own foolishness is what led to the close call happening in the first place. As such I have provided a list of 5 reasons why drones crash and how to stop it. Let’s get to them:

Reason 1: You don’t fly in an open area.

People who get their first drone get so excited and decide to fly it in their backyard, on the street, in areas where that area has who knows how many obstructions in the way (wires, poles, houses, people, garbage cans, you name it…) and without proper experience with the bird (and especially if it’s hard to control), you’re asking for a crash to happen, or worse, if you hit a person, that’s an even bigger issue.

Just try to fly in an open area where there are no people and the space is large enough to make mistakes in, and because it’s so large, at least if something goes wrong, you won’t hit anyone or anything. Try to fly in grassy fields so if it crashes, it’ll land on soft grass and not get damaged.

Reason 2: You get a bad, cheap drone model.

I’m not saying you should buy the most high end drone you can find, but just know there’s a STARK difference between high end, medium end and low end models and the higher up you go, the safer they are made to fly.

The only time I’d suggest getting a low end model is if you don’t care about drones and just want to play around with one. In that case, get a cheap, small one and just experience it in an open area.

Just do know that the flying experience will probably suck and if you want to truly experience how fun it is to fly a drone, you may want to try a higher end model, like these:

All of these are pretty expensive but very reliable drones, so odds are, if you crash anyone of these, it’s likely through piloting error (rare exceptions excluded).

The only exception to this rule so far is the Gopro Karma which I think is an awful drone beyond it’s weight in price.

Reason 3: You fly your drone in areas with high connection interference. 

Generally, you will have one of two things when you fly a drone: A controller or a phone. Both these things will transmit a signal to the bird, allowing you to control it.

That signal can have a ton of interference if it’s in an area where there’s signals going back n forth. An example would be a city. The strong the interference, the worse your connection will be, especially if it’s WiFi and what will generally happen is that the range of your bird will be negatively impacted.

So if you for example get a drone that claims to fly at least 1 mile, if you try to fly it in strong interference areas, odds are, that range will be cut down at least 2-3 times. If you’re currently experiencing this issue, I’ve got tips to improve the drone’s range potential here.

In addition, that connection interruption is what can lead you to not see where you’re flying (or what you’re about to fly into).

One of the best ways to prevent this accident from happening is to fly within your line of sight, this will ensure you have a strong signal and altogether, to avoid flying in strong interference areas in general. 

Another option is to get a bird with a strong signal connection that won’t be as flaky in strong interference areas. Currently the bird with the BEST signal you can get is the Mavic Pro 2. It uses the ocusync connection which is the strongest in the industry. It also has an 8 kilometer MAX range.

Reason 4: You fly near magnetic interference areas (too much metal). 

This is different than the reason above. Examples of this can include train bridges and any area with a lot of metal. Stay away from those areas.

I’ve seen too many crashes happen, for instance in areas where a person tries to fly within a train bridge area. Because there’s so much metal, it screws up the bird’s compass and causes it to swerve in all directions, giving you less handle over it. And that my friends, increases your chances of a crash by many times.

I will never forget how I tried to fly near a metal bridge and my Mavic Pro was going crazy, giving me “Compass errors” and “magnetic interference”, even though I was 30 feet away from the bridge, that’s how crazy the impact of metal can be on your bird.

And the Mavic Pro, by the way is considered one of the BEST birds for preventing signal interference, and yet in this case, it had no chance. 

What happened was, atti mode was activated and basically what this means is, I have less control and all sensors are out, meaning it won’t fly safely. 

Now I was fortunate, because I flew close to myself so I was able to catch it before things got crazy, but not every drone model will tell you this stuff, they’ll just start going crazy and you won’t know why it happened.

Reason 5: You fly too far into areas where landing is not possible.

The best point to show this is if you fly too far into water. I can’t tell you how many stupid people try to do this and fail miserably. Now there’s who knows how many drones at the bottom of the sea because of this mistake.

You should understand things like weather conditions, wind speeds and most of all: DO NOT fly into open water. Why risk it? 

All this being said, there’s more safety tips:

I have 10 drone safety tips I have written about here. And regarding the 5 you just read about, just note that they come about from the pilot error and not knowing about things like magnetic interference, open water flying and other stuff is a reflection of the pilot’s lack of education on drones.

This is why I said most crashes happen due to their piloting error, not the bird’s. So with all that said, learn from the masses of foolish people who have crashed their birds unnecessarily and those who have had close calls like me. Don’t make our mistakes and have a safe, fun time flying!

10 thoughts on “The Top 5 Reasons Why Drones Crash And How to Prevent Them”

  1. I have an avid interest in drones due to my passion for aerial photography, would you recommend that I take a flying course before purchasing my first drone? I am one of those people who try and just figure things out on the hop but after reading this post its abundantly clear that there are some drastic consequences for not knowing what you are doing. Although I am excited to buy my first drone I think it would be wise to research a bit more and perhaps go out with an experienced flyer and also purchase a quality drone before embarking on this new venture.

    • I think the latter idea of going out with another pilot who has experience is where I’d start Glen. Try to meet someone who has a high quality drone model, so you can see how comfortable it is to fly these things. 

      Any DJI model like the Spark, Mavic, Phantom or others are drones you’ll feel comfortable flying with.

  2. I have a friend that had a Phantom 4 Pro. We went to Hawaii together and he flew it for the first time. Everything was going good and he brought it in for a safe landing. We looked at the pictures it took and they were great.

    The next day we went to the top of a mountain in Oahu and he sent it out. All of a sudden it stopped responding to the remote and went off in the distance until it was completely out of range and then just fell from the sky, never to be seen again.

    After reading these reasons, I’m not 100% sure what interference there was but I think that interference must have been the cause.

    I’m thinking of buying a drone now after seeing how nice his pictures came out. What’s a good starter drone?

    • Hi Eric, wow what a horrible story about the Phantom 4 Pro (I’ll give you my thoughts on what happened in a moment), but first, for starter drones, I used to think the Spark was the best, but now I’d say the Mavic Air is great (it’s like an upgraded Spark).

      Now I have certain suspicions as to what happened to the P4P but of course, without knowing the details, I can’t be a 100%, so let me explain what I think happened based on my experience with this model (since I do have it too):

      1) The P4P is one of the most advanced drones on the market today and for it to fly off the way it did just doesn’t sound like something it would do, unless there was a defect that occurred which it doesn’t look like it happened.

      2) My main suspicion is that the drone lost connection to the remote and flew to it’s previous home point which I assume was the first location you flew the day before it flew off. Whenever the drone starts and you lift it off too quickly, you don’t give it a chance to set the NEW home point (which would be the mountain you were on) and if something goes wrong, the first thing it’ll do even if it has NO connection to the remote, is it’ll fly to the previous home point that was set.

      So this is what I think occurred and the reason it fell out of the sky was because it couldn’t get to it’s previous destination (it was too far) and it either landed due to a short battery or it literally ran out of battery life and fell out. 

      I hope your friend was able to get insurance on it from DJI and replace it. I know it sucks to have this happen and I would certainly be depressed if it happened to me, but I strongly believe the reason this happened was for the second reason I stated.

  3. I’m not a droner and probably won’t be soon, but I was recently amazed at what can happen when a drone and a GoPro camera are married. I was thinking about exploring a resort that’s set in a remote location. The resort’s web site has some photos, but it was the video of the bald eagles on the site that got me interested; it was a video taken from a drone that sold me on the place. From reading your article, I got the impression that not all drone pilots are made alike. The pilot of the drone I saw taking video above this resort had full control of the aircraft and of the camera, enough to produce some spectacular imagery. Thanks for posting the article and for helping me to better understand the skills needed to fly a modern drone.

    • Hi Kevin, most drone pilots probably won’t fly as well as the person you mentioned seeing, but at the same time, a large majority of these pilots are responsible too. The Gopro mix with the drone you mentioned is actually already in existence and it called the GoPro Karma, but it’s not a drone I recommend buying.

  4. I use drones on a recreational basis and also for work once in a while. They are really handy and fun to work with, and the video that you can shoot offers perspectives that only could be captured by a few with deep pockets. This is why I was interested so much in this article.

    Quite naturally, when you use them, there will come times when they will crash on you. This can cost money to replace them, lost time for any footage that you may have lost, and wasted time and stress of recovering them, Learning more about why they crash and how to prevent that from happening captures my attention!

    As I read through the article, I kept relating what you mentioned to the experiences I have had. Right off the bat, I see that in most cases, it is operator’s error. I agree. 

    It takes some time to get a degree of competence operating them, and when I have had people who do not know the basics, accidents happen…

    The other 10% of accidents are perhaps preventable as well, at least most of them. If you know the capabilities of the drone, and do not push the limits, generally I have found that you will be okay. There are instances when mechanical failure will happen, but often it is the quality of the drone that plays a part in this.

    Overall the operator error mistakes you mention are all preventable with a little foresight and caution on the side of doing a little less than you think you can do with the drone. That way you are not crossing the limits and inviting disaster. I have bookmarked this for my team so we can discuss this stuff. Good information, thanks!

    • I agree with everything Dave. When I teach new pilots to fly, I always make sure to do it in an open area and on settings where the drone is flying very slowly and can’t really hurt anyone. Of course, I also make sure to fly with a high quality drone to help people get a better and faster understanding of how to use them.

      I’m glad this article was useful to you and that you’ll be using it with your team.

  5. I would like to fly a drone to record my brother’s second wedding anniversary but you said we shouldn’t fly in an open area where there seems to be an obstruction. Please, can you tell me the guidelines to follow when trying to record an event in an open area where there is obstruction?

    • Hi Lok, I didn’t say to 100% avoid flying in areas with obstructions, but to be careful of them and not fly there if you’re a new pilot. By all means, you can do it and in the case of your brother’s anniversary, I would recommend you first become more comfortable flying with the drone, so when you do film the anniversary, it’ll be a safe flight.

      There are actually business people who fly drones at weddings and other event gatherings, so there’s nothing unusual about this and it can make for some great memories being filmed, just get more experience flying before you do this.


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