A drone caught in crisscrossing branches or simply hanging up high in a tree is a sad and frustrating scene. If you’re feeling hopeless, keep in mind that you can still recover it. And until you hold it again and see how bad the damage is, there’s a silver lining to this situation.
Before we share with you How to get a drone out of a tree, we have a few reminders. First, it can be easier to retrieve a quadcopter that’s stuck in a backyard tree compared to rescuing one that is trapped in a tree that’s out of nowhere. Second, some tips can cost you. And third, you will probably need a lot of patience, too.
Let’s go over your options.
How to Get a Drone out of a Tree? Some Great Tips
Using a Fruit Picker
Have you ever heard of the fruit picking drone developed by an Israeli startup? It sounds like a fun concept, right? But forget fruit picking. Fun is probably the last feeling you’ll have if your quad gets stuck in a tree. Don’t discard that thought about fruit picking, though. What if you can use a fruit picker to poke or pluck the thing down?
For this, we hope your drone landed in a backyard tree. If it’s in a deserted place, you can abandon the idea now. But if it’s the former, then we also hope you have a fruit picker at home. You can borrow from your neighbor if they have one, and you don’t. If you tell them what happened, they’re probably going to lend you theirs quickly.
You can also buy one but do it fast. Leaving the drone for hours or overnight may make it vulnerable to the elements, especially water and moisture. We know of someone who got their DJI trapped in a tree and borrowed their neighbor’s 75-foot cherry picker. Fortunately, only one propeller was damaged after all the hullabaloo.
Climbing the Tree
Climbing a tree is a life skill, at least for the people trained to do an aerial rescue. But if you have never tried rescuing even a cat, then this option may not be a no-brainer for you. So, let’s review some safety techniques.
For one, we suggest you do this step if the tree is not above 20 feet. It will make more sense, though, that a drone is stuck high up. So you may have to climb to the top of the tree. So as a safety measure, find a rope with a thickness that can handle your weight as you pull up your body toward the treetop.
Secure a weight with a tight knot on one end of the rope. Swing the weighted end around a sturdy branch, make sure it’s steady, and then start climbing to rescue your quad. This photo from Instructables shows how it looks like:
Using a Ladder or a Long Pole
If you do not want to climb a tree manually, a ladder would be a good alternative. You can rent one from a local equipment shop if you don’t have it at home. Going this route is safer because it’s a given that a ladder can support your weight. You can also have someone hold it steady for you on the ground.
The risk of slipping or falling is one you should watch out for. In this regard, your companion can help boost your confidence and focus. But what if you can’t see the area where your drone landed? Then you can use a long pole, preferably a fiberglass model, to poke the drone out. Aim to hook the stick into the propeller guards.
No long pole? No problem. Try a long flat object like a pool cue or even a broomstick instead!
Trying the Throw Weight
If you’ve scrolled down to this point, you’re still probably searching for the right step to take. A throw weight is a bit similar to the idea of adding weight to one end of your rope. But this time, you are not going to climb it. You will need a heavy object that you can throw at a reasonable distance. Tie a light fishing line to it, securing it fits snugly.
Then, walk away from the tree for about 100 feet, unwinding the fishing line as you go. Once you have covered the distance, return to the starting point. Throw the line over the spot where the quad is stuck, overshooting a bit to the left or right. The line should be rubbing the tree correctly so that it won’t break.
Shake the line until the drone falls. Try experimenting on different angles until you find what works for you.
Calling the Fire Department
This step should be considered carefully. We understand that you may have run out of options by now. But if you choose to call the fire department, it may not work for you as it didn’t for a few of the people who shared their experience on the internet. They were either ignored by their local firefighters, asked to pay a fine for wasting resources, or, worse, locked up in jail in some cases.
To avoid miscommunication, make sure you explain your situation clearly to the officer. If they refuse to help retrieve your drone, then it’s probably for the best. Usually, rescuing cats or even drones is beyond their scope of duty. That would entail using up the resources of the department on something quite personal. That is perfectly understandable.
But you’d be lucky if it’s a slow day and you get the fire brigade to come to the area where your drone is stuck.
Getting a Lift
Having a bucket truck or a lift comes in handy. This solution is by far the most efficient on our list. But unless you work for a tree service company, you probably don’t own either and are not about to go shopping for one.
So, if the unthinkable happens to you, you can opt to shell out a few hundred bucks and rent this kind of service. If none of the alternatives above seems sufficient for your needs, hiring the pros with the bucket truck or lift can get you results quickly.
However, this option does not mean your plane is going to get out of this situation damage-free. Paying for the service, then, is a risk you must take. Do take note that the fee may equal the price by which you purchased the gadget.
Managing your expectations may help cushion the impact. If you flew your precious quad into a 75-foot oak tree, it’s likely to sustain some issues.
Sometimes, all that’s left to do is let the drone go. This is easier said than done. But if your quad is worth less than $80, some experts say it’s probably best to give it up.
We think that the amount really depends on your calculations. Make your own assessment of the situation based on the impact of the crash, potential damage and repair costs, and the expenses related to your chosen drone retrieval solution.
Take note of the terms included in your drone’s warranty. Crashes can be counted under pilot error. For models like those from DJI, pilot error is not covered by the warranty. You can have it fixed or replaced for a cost, though. If you availed of DJI Refresh, you could cash in one of your two replacement units within a year from the date of purchase.
Other brands and models will have different terms.
What Not to Do When Your Drone Gets Stuck in a Tree
Knocking It Down by Force
Yanking the drone out of the tree using tremendous force can cause some significant and irreversible damage. You may even hit it while it is still trapped high up there, breaking some parts along the way. There’s no way you can ensure that you’ll catch it when it falls. Plus, you may also be destroying public property if the tree is found in a park or another garden.
During our research, we found suggestions to try using a slingshot. That would be filed under this drastic measure of knocking down the quad out of a tree. Personally, we think it’s just another drone disaster waiting to happen.
What should you do then? Well, we recommend the throw weight technique or the ladder and the long pole to gently and safely rescue the plane from being stuck. Either way, you can control the fall of the drone and ask someone to catch it for you if you’re the one climbing the ladder.
Hosing It Down
Initially, we did consider this solution. A high-pressure hose can cause the drone to fall out of the tree. However, we realized soon enough how terrible this idea is. You’re actually going to spray water on your device. That spells major d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r. Aside from wasting lots of water, the unit itself is vulnerable to water and moisture.
Your drone may not be thoroughly damaged upon crashing into the tree. But your action may end it for good. After all, most drones are not waterproof. The water can penetrate the internal parts, short-circuit your device, and destroy an important electronic component.
On top of using a high-pressure hose, some also shared how they used a BB or nerf gun in setting the drone free – another terrible idea. Again, it may cause damage to the drone’s body and external components if they fall or get hit badly.
Both solutions can counter the fact that you should be trying to retrieve the done quickly. You should act fast because it might rain, or the moisture produced overnight can envelop the drone the next morning.
Rescuing It with a Different Drone
Last but not least, do not attempt to retrieve the quad with another quad. Sending another unit into the tree can leave you with two drones stuck up there instead of one. Also, knocking the first down with a second falls into the category of taking down your drone by force.
This solution could work in an absolute scenario, though. Suppose your drone landed at the top of a tree. Now, you have a second drone that’s designed for heavy lifting. You can then try flying the latter to lift the former. This option can even prevent causing further damage to the stuck drone. But as we said, this step applies only if the condition for each drone is satisfied.
Your rescue operation should not cause another mishap. So pick the one that works for you without sacrificing your safety and that of your drone. You might also want to ask for help.
Thinking and acting fast is essential when you have to get your drone out of a tree. One way to effectively do this is to choose the most feasible solution from the list above. The options that won’t have you shell out money should be a top consideration.
But if you need to make some computations, we trust that you know what amount is comfortable for you. Some of the most efficient solutions provided require you to pay for a tool or a service. We’ll leave you with this question: Is your drone worth it?
Also, we’d like to remind you to be careful in performing drone rescue operations. Seeking legal help is okay. But if it will cause you to break community rules, then go for the next best alternative.
Owning drones is fun. On top of learning how to get things out of trees, it could even be more enriching if you learn tips and tricks on how to fly or use them well. Check out more of our best how-to articles regularly here at Drones Watch.