Missing Drone Posters Are A Hilarious Look Into The Future


Sure there are reward posters for missing cats, dogs, and other various pets — but now in Denver, a man named [Merrick] makes a plea for his $2400 missing drone.

We couldn’t help but chuckle at this news story because it could be the tip of the iceberg. As drones become more and more common place, seeing missing posters for them could become pretty normal! The problem is, when you’re using a long-range drone, and flying it in a city, it is very possible to lose your line of sight and lose the device altogether. That is exactly what happened to poor [Merrick] the other day. Thinking quickly, he started making lost drone posters, and after channel 7 news reported on it, it was discovered in an alleyway the following day. The person who found it thought it was government related and didn’t want to mess around with it — it’s a pretty serious looking drone.

The odd thing is, this type of drone has a homing feature that will automatically return the drone to its starting position in case of something like this happening — but for whatever reason, it didn’t work.

Personally if we were flying a drone worth the same amount as a decent used car… we’d throw a GPS tracker on it.

[Thanks for the tip Chips!]

86 thoughts on “Missing Drone Posters Are A Hilarious Look Into The Future

    1. “The odd thing is, this type of drone has a homing feature that will automatically return the drone to its starting position in case of something like this happening — but for whatever reason, it didn’t work.”

    2. The article stated more than once the drone has a “boomerang” function. Turn off the transmitter and it’s supposed to return to its launch location. In this case, however, the function failed and it landed a block away from the take off point.

      1. Most of the time these fail because of the owner not knowing what they are doing. GPS needs time to get a fix, you don’t turn on the drone and go flying, you turn on the drone and let it sit for 2-4 minutes until the green “FIX” light turns on and it stores that location as “home” then you go flying. Typically guys that just buy the drone instead of building it run into this problem as they do not really understand the device completely and it’s operation.

        1. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
          – If you’re flying in an area densely populated you may lose GPS fix and can’t Return To Launch.
          – The RTL function may start by flying into the air straight up and hit something overhead.
          – How about the simplest answer, maybe the battery ran flat while attempting to RTL.
          – RTL functions typically follow a straight path and don’t return on the path from which it came, so maybe it hit a building. Even if it did return along the same path a GPS error of a meter or two means it may still have hit something.

          The drone was found in an alleyway. I challenge you to find a drone which will safely RTL from within a confined space.

    3. I lost my quadcopter about a year ago due to radio malfunction and had flyers all over the Mesa, AZ area. Never did find it though. Some kid saw it in the sky and thought it was a UFO because i was night flying with a bright blue light on it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpldhrYD1Xw&index=2&list=LLxWg5yDut4j_uEL0mbBGztQ check out his video. lol.
      Mine did have return to home function but for some reason it though my home was elsewhere. lol

  1. I saw a “Missing Guinea Pig, please help!” poster today. Seriously, how does one lose a guinea pig? If you’re flying a drone, you need transceivers w/ batteries for when it fails and your neighbor finds your personal intel machine (more like revenge machine for assholes and bulllies).

    The best ones have a pre-programmed function to fly back home in the even of lost comms or to make it back w/ enough power; how to securely implement that is beyond me right now. I do like R/C cars and planes though :)

        1. Sorry, every Guinea pig I’ve ever seen was sorta enormous for a cat snack. Not that they wouldn’t try, I’ve seen cats go after jackrabbits, but it seems a little doubtful they’d do too much harm. That’s just my guess though.

  2. I’m more curious as to how hard would it be really to over-ride another users radio? I mean I’ve dealt with ham operators that use russian cold war amps (illegally) to blast the snot out of their signal, is this that much different? Is the signal encrypted at all, are the handshakes that hard to duplicate if they are transmitting back and forth during flight. Seriously I’m actually fairly curious about drone theft and hijacking now.

    1. Rookie here, I’ve been reading about rc multicopters and fixed wings for 6 months at DIYDrones. They can operate on a number of frequencies, 433MHz, 900MHz, 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz are some common ones I believe. Modern radio Tx and Rx (transmit and receivers) use frequency hopping to mitigate overlap from multiple users in one area. 2.4GHz is wifi and cell phones and stuff so they are fairly robust links but there was a quadcopter that could automatically take over other quadcopters on here awhile ago.

    2. illegally? I can transmit at 1500 watts LEGALLY. and if you are doing some special modes of operation like EME, you can go higher LEGALLY.

      Note, real ham radio operators know that more power is usually useless, I think you are confusing ham radio with CB radio.

      1. 1500watt legally in what country? Here in portugal and most of europe, the limit is 5w Am and 1w Fm or vice versa, i’m not sure, and even for that you need a specific ham radio license And from what i hear, you are only able to transmit at max 100mW in common devices like 2.4Ghz ou or 5Ghz wifi or so and on the other user free avaiable frequencys.

        1. We get 1500 watts on most bands in the US. That doesn’t give us the right to transmit off frequency though. There shouldn’t be an interference problem unless there is a hardware issue. That can happen on either end but often it is at the receiver. Electronics are built cheaply with poor filtering these days.

        2. Sorry your country is terrible however that is not true for most of europe or the USA.

          From wikipedia: 2.25 kW in Canada, 1.5 kW in the United States, 1.0 kW in Belgium, Switzerland and New Zealand, 750 W in Germany, 500 W in Italy, 400 W in Australia, India and the United Kingdom, and 150 W in Oman.

          5 watts is pretty low. Typically people use 100 watts on HF.

        3. It’s fartface. He says….things. In the US you can’t transmit at more than a handful of watts without a license. For what he says to be true he needs a serious license and pony up some significant five figure recurring fees. It varies with band, area, power at time, and some other things. He could be telling the truth, if he owns a popular, high power commercial station. Something makes me think he does not.

          To illustrate how dumb his statement is, if you were to broadcast 75 watts without a license in the US, the minimum fine is $10,000. The expected fine is $15,000. Oh, and the FCC measures perceived wattage at distance. Special modes or equipment that technically uses 1 watt but focuses it so narrowly that it has the signal strength of 100w at distance does not skirt around the law. It is there to prevent interference, not enforce technicalities.

          1. In the USA you can run 1.5kW with a ham licence.
            It costs 15usd to get and the reoccurring cost is also 15usd/year.
            Here in Finland, EU I can run 1.5kW on HF and 150W carrier and 600W peak (SSB) on 145MHz/433Mhz/1.3GHz/2.3GHz/3.4GHz/5.6GHz :) I pay 19.90eur a year for this.
            And yes that does mean I could legally run 150W wifi :)

            The 4W FM/ 1W AM is CB radio, or 5W FM for PR-27, 500mW EIRP for PMR446.
            But you don’t need to pay extra or know anything to operate on those bands.

      2. Quite possibly. That kind of behavior is way more prevalent among CBers. But.. there are bad apples everywhere. Maybe he lives next door to k1man.

        I kind of share your doubt about the illegal amplifier though. What would anyone even do with greater than 1500 watts? More likely the real problem is that his neighbor (ham or CBer) needs a better low pass filter. That or Josh has an equipment problem himself. Most electronics these days are made cheaply and don’t reject out of band interference very well.

    3. Theft I’m not so sure about. There is initial handshaking and a binding code that link a receiver to it’s remote. If you drown out the signal you’re likely to initiate the fail safe response which may be land in place or return to launch or hold position.

      I’m not sure if the binding key is transmitted continuously but I doubt there’s any encryption on the $20 devices and I presume it would be relatively easy to sniff this over the air, in which case you could override the controller.

  3. It is worth noting that while the the legality of commercial flight is more questionable than ever, there is absolutely no question that flying beyond line of sigh is a violation of FAA rules.

    1. I wish there was more people out there.

      I need to get my quad back. I flew it up to my roof with camera attached to locate a leak and a friggin bird flipped it onto its back on the roof. So now my quad is stuck and I still have no idea where the leak is until I can get a ladder.

  4. Just thought of yet another scenario bad people could take advantage of or at least cause problems. Yes it would be illegal, but what is stoping the bad guys from using gps spoofers on these as well. it sure doesn’t matter where home is if the drone thinks it is on the other side of the world. so if someone really wanted to snag one, jam the 2.4 ghz frequency and spoof that it is at an extreme and it should fly in a very specific direction. follow the expensive toy until it falls from the sky.

    yes i know and understand the FCC would freak out over this but lets not kid ourselves those toys are out there, even lady ada did a writeup on an rf jammer.

  5. Yeah, I might be alone here and might get flamed but if it lands on my property it is not going to get back to the owner in good condition. I’m not a nut that will go hunting for drones and shoot them out of the sky, but I’m pretty sure my dogs would demolish it if I didn’t :)

    Glad this guy got his property back intact though. Any word on what he was actually doing with the drone?

    1. If my neighbor was out playing with a drone and it accidentally crashed on my side of the fence I would happily return it and probably enjoy a nice conversation. If a stranger had a drone hovering around my windows they would get an entirely different reaction!

      1. Good point, neighbor would be different. Just random drone that appears with no explanation with a camera? Especially one that looks kind of professional and intimidating like the one in the post? Different story.

  6. I’d love to play around building drones. I don’t think I will be doing so until the parts come down in price to the point of being almost free because otherwise I would be too worried about losing it to do anything fun. By then they will probably be black bagging anyone who even has information about how to build a drone and doesn’t work for the NSA or DEA. Oh well…

      1. This is HaD. Build one. You can make one for under $300 easy. All you need is a frame, motor, prop, speed controllers, battery, controller, receiver, transmitter and remote. Negative points because most of the open source ones run on the Arduino platform but you don’t need to spend big bucks to get big bucks worth of functionality.

  7. With proper rc gear this will never happen. If he could ping with RSSI he could have found it eventually. Ive had my drone lose complete control and tumble out of the sky, failsafe worked as well as a roll of a toilet paper after not making it, if you know what I mean. It was destroyed. This guy probably hit a tree or roof, its toast no matter how much carbor fiber you throw on. I love my drones. I cant wait for the FAA to say well guys go for it. Amazon will never deliver products as long as blankets exist, lots of drones will suddenly go missing fast.

    1. Because he didn’t think of adding a $15 component to his $2500 drone? They can be set up to send GPS co-ordinates as an overlay on the video feed. While I haven’t seen one yet it would be interesting to add a GSM system so it could SMS you the GPS co-ordinates if it goes into fail safe. Or you could set them to pulse RF at a specific pattern so you can find it using a directional antenna and a power meter.

  8. Aside from the fact that even GPS signals can get pretty messed up within city limits (navigation systems therefor use directional projections to counter-check the GPS data) and therefor a GPS homing function may easily fail, there is the problem of altitude, which can get messed up just as quickly – and the wall of a house usually does not jump out of the way if a toycopter comes along.

    That having said I wonder what some peasant might have said when the copter tried to land on his head with the props running. I do NOT find it very funny to have heavy devices UNATTENDED (meaning within direct view of some “controllers”) flying around within city limits. I hope that guy does not try to repeat that stuff, the copter community does not need bleeding children on their agenda.

  9. I got myself into a similar situation once.
    Had a waaaay overloaded quad that I’d saddled up with extra batteries for first attempt at FPV. Took off from my backyard then things got fun.
    Jury is out on whether I had turned the radio on with my finger on the range-check button or if the dodgey 1w 900mhz video tx had drowned my RC receiver (apparently some FRsky rxs had a PCB trace that was later discovered to be a great 900mhz receiver) but I quickly lost contact with it. It defaulted to RTL (which was the last place it armed with a GPS fix). This happened to be about 35kms north of where I was flying from. In my haste I hadn’t let it get a fix before arming… it proceeded to pitch over and hoof it towards its intended landing site. Obviously it was never going to make it but i might have made it to the CBD between me and where it was trying to go… One hilarious call to a lovely EMS operator later (including questions like ‘what colour is it’ etc) the story almost ended. I saw it flight to auto land after a low battery trigger and watched it descend into a nearby suburb. I drove around looking for a video carrier signal. In a moment of utter stupidity I had shed the telemetry radio to drop some weight before take off. Two hours of wandering the streets looking for any sign of life I gave up. The next day I decided to try flyers. Didnt have much luck there -but- took one into the local primary school and showed the receptionist. I had plotted the probable landing site on a map and it was right in the middle of their catchment area. She said it would make a great addition to their news letter (which was just about to be printed) so I raced home and re-wrote the whole series of events in the first person from the perspective of the quad. They published it like it was a treasure hunt. Several hundred kids went marauding through the suburbs scouring for this thing. Finally I got an email from a parent – they had found my quad, unscathed, sitting on a trampoline.
    I was over the moon – if you loose a nifty looking little UAV be sure to appeal to your local intermediate or primary – 5 – 12yr olds make awesome treasure hunters :-)

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