A drone tracker is a small device added to a drone that tells the owner where the drone is located.
For example, a device that uses the global positioning system (GPS) may connect with the global navigation satellite system (GNSS) network and get information to use in combination with sending a signal over the global system for mobile communications (GSM) to inform the owner of the drone’s location.
The GPS system has about 27 to 30 satellites that stay in a particular orbital position to give worldwide coverage. At any point in time, 24 of these satellites are operational for use in location determination.
The remaining satellites are kept in a ready-to-go state, just in case any of the other satellites fail.
Trackers are either active or passive. An active tracker constantly sends and receives information to update its location in real-time.
A passive tracker records a journal of entries of location information with a time and date stamp. For a passive tracker, this information needs to be downloaded to be used. For use on drones, active trackers are preferred.
The tracker device attached to the drone receives a microwave signal from multiple satellites that are orbiting in geosynchronistic orbit (staying at the same altitude and position by traveling at the same speed as the rotation of the earth).
The drone tracker needs to have at least three different satellite signals to work and to make the mathematical calculations needed by using the distance from each satellite.
The distance from each satellite is calculated by using the broadcast transmission signal at preset intervals of the time from an atomic clock on the satellite. Then that is compared to the time it takes to reach the tracker.
These mathematical calculations are called “trilateration.” Once the distance to each satellite is calculated, then the position of the drone can be found by finding the intersection of the circular broadcast patterns of the satellites.
From these calculations, the drone’s position, in terms of its latitude and longitude, is determined.
The drone tracker transmits its position automatically over the GSM cellular network to the nearest cell phone towers. This coded transmission passes through the cellular phone network to the Internet and is received by a computer server that is running the tracker software.
Anyone who has a tracker device and is a member of the tracking system service can then go online to find the location of the tracker installed on the drone.
The tracker must be able to receive the satellite signals and be able to communicate with a cell phone tower. Satellite signals may be disrupted due to bad weather and obstacles.
Also, if there is no cell phone signal, the tracking will not work. Normally, you will not be flying a drone in bad weather so the satellite signals should be working.
As a backup, if there are no satellite signals, the tracker tries to locate the drone using nearby cell phone towers by another method called “triangulation” that works with angles and distance.
This is less accurate and has a margin of error of up to 100 feet. Be careful if you are relying on a tracker device when you are in an area without a good cell phone signal because the tracker may not work properly.
How Do I Find My Lost Drone With a Tracking Device?
It is easy to find the location of a lost drone if the tracker is functioning properly.
Simply go online, sign into your tracker device account, and look for the latest and the last repeating GPS location coordinates reported by the device.
Then, you can use the mapping function in the software with a smartphone to find the missing drone. Or you can use those numbers for the latitude and the longitude to enter them into a GPS locater and find the location on a Google map where the drone is sending the signal from and then use that map to find the drone.
Do not be surprised if the location is a long distance from where you were flying the drone when it became lost. A drone flying at high speed of 20 mph can go over three miles on a ten-minute battery charge.
Also, if there is a strong wind, the wind may carry the drone even further away.
Once you find the location on the map, go there to search for the drone. There is a margin of error with GPS coordinates of up to about 6 feet.
Be sure to look up in the trees and search on rooftops of any structures.
What Price Range Is Available?
Trackers are available in the price range of $50 to $300.
There is also a monthly fee for the services that work with GPS, which can range from $5 to $30 per month.
Be sure to take the monthly fee into consideration because some tracking units sell for a low price and then have a high monthly fee for the service.
The 3 best GPS Drone trackers
Never lose your Drone again ! Use a GPS Tracker to track and find your Drone
1. Trackimo 3G GPS Tracker – Top Drone Tracker 2019
The Trackimo GPS Drone tracker is a very great product with a lot of good reviews. This is actually the best one on the market currently. The Tracker is small and very lightweight specially designed for drones with a Drone attachment kit. It only takes about three minutes to install. You just need to attach the tracker to your drone with the kit to see its location information online or via an app.
Trackimo works like any other GPS tracker that is to say the tracker uses GPS signal and GSM to provide real-time tracking of your drone via a Web platform and an IOS or Android App.
The tracker comes with several useful features :
- Fence alert – get alerts once device leaving geo-fence you set.
- Speed alert – get alerts once device exceeds preset speed.
- Move alert – get alerts once device starts moving.
- Water resistant case: product comes with silicon cover.
- SOS alert once SOS button pressed + 2 more preset alerts buttons.
- Live tracking of device path with 1 minute updates.
- Real-time tracking.
- Low annual service cost
Trackimo is currently offering Trackimo to drone operators for just $199.98. The price includes the device, the attachment kit and 1 year worldwide GPS service. After the one year service period the monthly fee will be only $5.
*The monthly service pays for the worldwide SIM card using the GSM network to report the real time positioning of the device (just like AT&T etc. has monthly fee).
Buy here at trackimo.com
2. Marco Polo Advanced Drone Recovery Systems
The Marco Polo advanced drone is a popular tracker for drones. In fact, It’s not only a tracker but a tracking system with a transceiver to track the exact location of your drone! Marco Polo system doesn’t required cellular service, GPS satellite or internet..
The features :
- No GPS, mobile or internet required.
- No monthly fees.
- Comes with a transceiver.
- Marco Polo works up to 2 miles (3.2 km) in line-of-sight situations.
- Up to 15 days battery life per charge.
- System will support a mix and match of 3 tags for drone, pet or other applications.
You can choose between two systems options the Ultralight System costs $219.95 for 1 drone and the Advanced System costs $234.95 for 1 drone.
I agree to say it’s not the simplest tracking system but it’s very accurate. Besides, carry with you the transceiver with you can be annoying.
Buy here at eurekaproducts.com
3. TK102 GPS Tracker
The TK102 GPS Tracker is one of the simplest tracking device for drone available on the market. The device uses a GSM sim card and simply transmits tracking data via cellular networks.
You have to call the Tracker from your phone and you will get back a SMS with the GPS coordinates. Then, you could see the precise position with Google Maps on your phone.
The tracker is heavy and this is the principal cons so I suggest you buying separately a GPS Tracker Holder Bracket Mount
The TK102 GPS tracker is the cheapest option for drone currently since the GPS costs $31,99.
Buy here on Amazon.com
I haven’t mentioned the pioneer in drone tracking technology the Flytrex Live 3G GPS Drone Tracker in this post because the company no longer offer their products for consumers. Those have been phased out a few years ago.
Losing a drone is very frustrating. Having a tracker is essential and you will avoid losing your drone. Investing in a GPS tracker device is the best solution to do before using your drone !