How To Rescue Your Quadcopter From A Tree

Whether it’s a new rocket, your latest quadcopter, or [Charlie Brown]’s kite, it always seems like there’s a tree waiting to catch and eat airborne projects. Sometimes you get lucky and find a way to climb up the tree to retrieve your wayward build, but most times you’re reduced to looking for rocks or sticks to fling up there in an attempt to shake it loose. But if you want to improve your chances of getting your stuff back, [U.S. Water Rockets] has a build for a retrieval tool made mostly from scrap bin parts that will help.

All you need is some PVC tubing, an old fishing reel and line, some latex surgical tubing, and a few dowels for projectiles. You can tell everything about the build from the BOM and stills, but the video after the break gives detailed instructions and shows it in action. Adding some fins to the dart or even substituting a cheap arrow from the sporting goods department of your favorite retailer might help with your aim. Even without fletching, the accuracy of the launcher is pretty good, and the range isn’t half bad either. Once the fishing line is over the branch that ate your quad it can be used to haul up successively stouter ropes, and pretty soon you’ll be shaking the tree like a boss.

Even if getting stuff out of trees isn’t on your immediate to-do list, this little hack could be put to other uses. Hams will use it to loft antennas up into trees, and tag-line placement for tree removal could be simplified with this tool. But if you still find yourself needing to retrieve stuff, you might want to be proactive and make your aerial robot tree-proof. That still won’t eliminate the need for drone-on-drone rooftop rescues.

26 thoughts on “How To Rescue Your Quadcopter From A Tree

  1. A few small improvements could go a long way with this. Instead of all that tape to hold the reel and tubing just use a hose clamp or two, if the tubing breaks you have to retape everything, a hose clamp is more economical here. Also when attaching a screw to a wooden dowel, rather than taping it on lopsided to the tip I’d much rather seen it actually.. you know..screwed into it? less area to get snagged also.

    1. Hose clamps were suggested by someone on the YouTube comments, and there’s no reason you cannot adapt the design to your own preferences. The only reason I didn’t use clamps was because I put this design together literally with stuff I had in my shop. I didn’t have any large clamps, so I made due with that was on hand, that’s really all there was to it. Cheers!

  2. Dan! You are two days too late for me.I got mine stuck WAY HIGH on Saturday. Took a lineman’s telescoping pole to move the near branches enough to recover it. Thanks for the article. I’m sure it will happen again.

  3. Or you could skip two steps and just fire spider wire into the tree and yank… It’s less crap to carry around and damn near as strong, and you can carry more of it in the same unit volume.

  4. I think I read in a ham article within the past year, that just using the fishing rod to cast the line over the tree is often more successful than attempts to shoot things. Cast a weight over, tie a cord to the fishing line, reel it back.

    1. The fishing line idea is a good one except it is very hard to get the weight over the right branch. I’ve probably had more quadcopters stuck in trees than anyone around! I’ve probably tried every trick imaginable a few examples, fishing line with weight followed by string/rope, bow and blunt bird arrow with reel, shoot the branch with rifle, weighted bottle with drag line, slingshot with weight and fishing line, linesman spurs to climb tree. Even though the tree huggers won’t like this and it won’t work on land you don’t own, the fastest, easiest way I’ve found to get one down is a chainsaw.

      1. In the past I used the fishing pole the reel came off of to cast a weight over the branch. I was pretty good at getting the weight where I wanted, but I ran into problems when I had to get something down from a tree in a wooded area. I had no room in the thick undergrowth to swing the pole. I went home with the intention of making a bow and arrow but I thought it would be hard to reel the line on a bow, so I came up with this design. It’s super simple to aim no matter how thick the brush is. It’s not the only way to do this, but I thought others might be able to use or improve my idea.

  5. An arborists throw weight and throwline is purpose made for this. Throw bags drop to the ground nicely after placement as opposed to the dowel. The you can get throwline in different breaking strengths from 250lb to 1200 lb, and it’s super stiff so it doesn’t tangle when coming out of a flake pile. With a little practice you can easily hit within a few feet of your target up to about 70′ high. This stuff will set you back around 30 USD, but you can break out smaller limbs, haul up ascent ropes, or use a rope saw to take out the limb.

  6. Just tried this method with my DJI Phnatom 3 that was stuck in the top of a 70 ft oak tree. After about a hour and a half I finally got it where I needed it and it shook right out of the tree. Thanks for the information.

    1. I had great success using a tennis ball launcher meant for dogs. (Hyper Pet K-9 Kannon)
      You can purchase some ‘training tennis balls’, they are softer and slightly larger than standard tennis balls, therefore less likely to damage the flyer. Or, cut down the tree. :P

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