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Do Trees Block Drone Signals? (Explained for Beginners)

6 mins
Drone Blog
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Flying drones is an exciting and immersive experience, especially when maneuvering through trees and capturing amazing views. However, if you are a beginner, you might be hesitant about flying your drone near trees, more so if you ever noticed some loss of drone signal when flying your drone through or around them. This brings us to our question: Do trees block drone signals?

Trees can interfere with the signal between the drone and remote controller and even block it. However, you can avoid this issue by correctly calibrating your drone compass or flying your drone higher. This will ensure that the transmission of signals between your drone and its remote controller is not blocked.

How trees block drone signals #

It’s actually the high water content of trees that causes a reflection and absorption of radio signals. This is seen in the trunks, leaves, and branches, although you will notice signal interference more during the spring and summer seasons when the foliage is at its height.

During fall and winter when trees shed their leaves, the water content and thus the radio signal interference is minimized.

Trees can cause signal disruption in a number of other ways as well. See the discussion below to learn how trees and other types of obstacles can interfere with your drone’s radio signal.

What causes interference with drone signals? #

Several factors cause the signal of your drone to degrade. Here is a discussion of some of them.

Diffraction #

This is an occurrence that takes place when the electromagnetic waves of your drone signal encounter an obstacle. The obstacle can cause a split of the waves, causing them to continuously spread in different directions. The obstacle can be trees, buildings, or a wall.

When this happens, the diffracted signals begin to bend around the obstacle. In most cases, rounded objects cause more signal loss than sharp ones.

Reflection #

This occurs when a signal bounces back towards its source after encountering an obstacle. Most drone signals are subjected to reflection to some degree, and this will cause them to be lost temporarily. 

An excellent example of signal reflection is when your aircraft receives signals that do not come directly from a remote controller but instead from a signal that is bouncing off a tree. Some of the signal will reflect towards the remote controller, and as a result, there will be an interference between the drone’s and controller’s communication. At worst, this can cause the aircraft to crash land or at best cause a temporary loss of signal.

Scattering #

In this scenario, a wireless signal is diffused or spread apart after encountering the surface of an uneven object. The primary signal dissipates into double reflection signals once it strikes the rough surface. 

Scattering causes a substantial degradation or even complete loss of signal. Some elements that are likely to cause your drone’s signal to disperse include smoke, dust, tiny water drops, or plant leaves.

Distance #

The signals of your drone have to navigate through the atmosphere. Therefore, the farther they travel, the more they will lose their strength. This is why it is critical to ensure that your drone doesn’t fly past the recommended range of operation.

Interference #

Your drone’s signal is likely to be affected by anything that has a communication frequency of 2.4 GHz. However, the strength of the aircraft’s signal can also be affected by other factors, including the smart controller’s transmission distance.

Absorption loss #

This is a reduction of your drone’s signal strength once it passes through an object that has no radio signal transparency. Absorption might cause you to lose control of your drone so long as the object remains in between your drone and controller.

Multipath interference #

This is another factor that dramatically affects drone signals. In this case, the radio signals that are reflected split and get to the receiver through several different paths. In some cases, there might be an interference between the path and the main signal, thus causing a downgrade of the drone’s signal.

How to prevent drone signal blocking? #

You can easily minimize magnetic interference by calibrating your drone’s compass. However, make sure you are at a distance from any magnetic field for best results. 

Also, avoid calibrating your aircraft near a dense forest or a building. It’s best to do the compass calibration in a place that’s isolated or empty. 

Here are some other ways you can prevent drone signal blocking.

Don’t take off or land on magnetic surfaces  #

Drone signal interference can cause issues when your drone is landing or taking off. For this reason, you should fly your drone in areas with low magnetic interference. Some of the surfaces your drone should not land or take off from include wet wood, concrete, or places with metal pipes buried underground. 

Additionally, make sure to fly your drone at least a distance of 90 yards (80 meters) from power lines with high voltage. 

If you are having a hard time finding a perfect spot, consider using a drone pad to quickly launch your aircraft while it remains portable and compact.

Check your MOCA to set the correct RTH altitude #

MOCA stands for Minimum Obstacle Clearance Altitude. It is used to identify the tallest buildings in your area. Your observation should go beyond construction equipment. 

Once you establish your MOCA, you should set your Return to Home Altitude above the MOCA. This will prevent crashing your drone when it’s flying back.

Avoid flying your drone in GPS mode between tall buildings #

Tall buildings are great contributors to drone signal interference.  Flying your drone in GPS mode between tall buildings is likely to cause signal loss. The signal will reflect on the tall buildings, resulting in a degraded signal. In this case, the drone has a high chance of flying into a building.

Set the drone to hover in case of signal loss #

When flying your drone around trees, you should anticipate possible signal loss. So in case it happens, you should adjust the settings of your drone to land at a particular spot, hover it in an area, or automatically return home using the RTH feature. 

However, even though flying the drone home using the RTH is usually the best idea, it depends on the GPS reception quality. A good GPS signal might be challenging in areas with many trees or tall structures because your drone might lose orientation and fly in the wrong direction. 

Setting your drone to hover will prevent such an incident from happening since it will pause and hover in place, and you can move yourself to restore the signal. This will give you a chance to reconnect with your drone and prevent a flyaway or crash.

Conclusion #

Trees block drone signals due to water content. When combined with the presence of trunks, leaves, and branches, this issue causes a reflection of and absorption of radio signals. Winter is the only season that trees pose little risk of signal disturbance because there is no foliage to block your drone’s signal. 


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