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External Interference – what is it and how can it affect my fishing drone?

One of the biggest causes of fishing drone crashes is that of external interference. In this article we take a closer look at what this is, how it can effect drones and also how you can reduce the chances of this from happening to your drone.

It’s often hard to identify how and when this will actually affect a drone as it can be quite sporadic, but it is real and it can have a real affect on how your drone flies.

external interference effecting drone

What is external interference ?

External interference is any type of external influence (normally not visible) that either causes your drone to behave in an erratic way, OR causes it not respond to your joystick controls, OR at worst causes you to lose complete control of the drone.

This is where the term “fly away” comes from. It means a drone that you have lost control of that flies off in a different direction without your command.

Often in cases where a novice pilot loses control of their drone they will put this down to a “faulty product”, but in our experience in many situations this is not the case and can either be attributed to external interference of something the pilot has done or not done (ie. no calibrations done before flying for example).

What causes external interference?

There are a number of possible causes of external interference, but in most cases it can be classed in two different categories:

External Radio Interference

This is when the radio signal between the remote control and the drone are interfered with by something outside of your control.

Possible causes of this include:

  • Strong WIFI signals nearby (ie. Hotels, Motels, and Commercial WIFI)
  • Commercial and Industrial radio signals operating nearby (ie. Machinery and construction equipment)
  • Nearby radio towers to your flight area
  • Microwave ovens operating close by
  • Nearby air traffic (helicopters and planes)
  • Military equipment operating in the area
  • First responders vehicles and equipment including Police, Ambulance, and Fire equipment

Fishing drones operate on the 2.4 gHz, and 5.8 gHz frequencies, and unfortunately so does WIFI, Bluetooth and all sorts of other devices also. These days these frequencies are becoming more and more “busy” with all sorts of traffic and the more this happens the more that your fishing drone has the possibility of being affected by radio interference.

External Magnetic Interference

This type of interference (also called Electromagnetic Interference) actually messes with the sensors of your drone, in particular the compass & gps sensor. Unfortunately if affected, this can mean that the drone no longer knows where “home is” or which direction it is facing. If this is combined with the loss of GPS signal at the same time, it means that the drone does not know its exact position either.

The Possible causes of magnetic interference can come from:

  • Atmospheric interference (this is naturally occurring and changes day to day in any particular area). Solar Storms are a major case of this type of interference (i.e originating from the sun). You can monitor this interference source by downloading a good specialist drone weather APP to your phone, like “UAV Forecast” which is a free download and provides a “Kp” indicator which shows the level of Atmospheric interference on the day and spot you are flying in.
  • Flying your drone close to large areas of metal (ie. cars, metal roofs, machinery, steel bridges)
  • US government adjusting or temporally taking offline the GPS satellite constellation signal.
  • Flying close to sources of high electrical current & voltage, or magnetism (ie. High Tension electrical powerlines).

Here is what happens if your drone is affected by Magnetic Interference – this is a DJI Phantom Drone

Here is a good article that looks at Magnetic interference.

Which drones can be affected by external interference?

Unfortunately ALL drones can be effected by external interference, there are no drones that are immune to this, whether you are flying a DJI Mavic, or a Swellpro, a Shark X drone, or any others. However there are some things that you can do to reduce the chances of this happening…

What can I do to reduce the chances of this effecting my drone?

  1. Always do your calibrations before each flight. Unless the manufacturer of your drone specifically indicates not to do calibrations, then PLEASE always do your calibrations before each flight.
  2. Do not calibrate your drone near large metal objects like cars or iron roofs, your car keys, or near wifi or bluetooth signals (put your phone onto flight mode, unless you are needing it for a flight).
  3. Keep an eye out for anything that can potentially effect your drone in the flight area, like radio towers, first responder equipment, large industrial equipment, etc – and don’t fly close to them.
  4. If possible don’t fly to close to built up areas that is, high residential or commercial areas.
  5. Always take heed from any messages that appear on your remote control screen or phone APP screen (which ever is applicable).
  6. Make sure your Drone and Remote control battery are fully charged before you fly.
  7. Do not attempt to lift the drone off the ground until you have at least a fix of 15 satellites, and a strong connection between the remote control and the drone.

Do the drone manufacturers help to reduce the effects of external interference in their drones ?

Yes the drone manufacturers do attempt to reduce the harmful effects of external interference. There are a number of different things that they implement. This includes putting multiple compass sensors in the one drone (for redundancy), using more expensive compass/gps sensors or better quality radio receivers and transmitters, to name some of the things that manufacturers can do.

Also most of the drone manufacturers also have a warning message that comes up on the remote control screen if there is an urgent need for compass or gps calibration – with something like “Compass Error”. Please note however that even if these messages don’t come up, you may still need to calibrate your drone before each flight.

What to do if your drone is affected by external interference?

The first thing is to make sure you are pre-prepared if this ever happens. You must know and understand what is happening and then have steps prepared to attempt regain control of the drone. This preparedness is important as you won’t have much time as the drone is in the air and likely behaving erratically.

  1. If you have just switched to Auto return home, or are flying a pre-programmed route (like auto fish) and your drone starts to behave strangely, then switch this off at once. You want to turn off the auto-pilot in effect.
  2. Chances you have been flying in GPS Mode for stability reasons anyhow, however if you lose control of your drone then if you drone allows, quickly switch into “Attitude” or “Manual” mode, this will then switch off some the sensors (i.e gps/compass), and if these are the sensors that are being effected at the time (ie, magnetic interference), this should hopefully allow the drone to go into hover mode.
  3. If either of these still don’t work, then the next important thing is to attempt gain some control and crash-land in safe area, importantly away from people, pets, vehicles or property.
  4. Then shut down the motors instantly upon landing – so you don’t do any damage to the motors or burn them out.

The thing is, you need to be able react quickly and thats why it’s important to rehearse the above in case you are ever faced with this situation, remembering that the likelihood is small that your drone might be effected by external interference, however like any good Boy or Girl Scout it’s always better to be prepared!

If you want to dive in deeper generally into External Interference in general, HERE is a useful article that looks further at this.

Thankyou for reading our article on external Interference. This is a really important topic and often not covered well in regards to fishing drones, so we hope that this gives you a better understanding and can assist you.

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