How to Get a Drone Out of a Tree (& How Not To!)

Last updated January 21st, 2020
A large tree

It can befall even the best of pilots.

One day you are piloting the drone you just bought, maybe in a public park or in your backyard. The wind picks up, or you accidentally press the wrong button, and crash, your drone runs smack into a tree and gets stuck.

Your expensive drone is now stuck high enough in a tree to have you worried.

You can’t easily reach it, so what are you going to do?

Fear not.

There are a few things you can try to remedy the situation and get your tree down. There are also some things you should not try to remedy the situation — we’ll cover those too.

We explore all these below.

How to Get a Drone Out of a Tree

Climb the Tree

It’s a tree, not a glass-walled skyscraper; climbing is an option to consider.

Incoming call: Health and Safety Department.

Ahem.

It suffices to say: be careful if you try this.

It’s easier to climb when the tree happens to be short and riddled with sturdy branches.

If the tree happens to belong to you because it grows in your backyard, you can just tack a few short boards into its bark to create a makeshift ladder. This makes things easier, especially if you are not used to climbing trees.

But that is not an option if the tree is planted in a public space like a park. You’ll have to go up the old fashioned way in that case: branch by branch, until you can lay hands on your UAV.

To avoid making the journey down the tree harder than it should be, take a backpack on your way up. You can keep your drone inside to leave both hands free for the climb down.

This should not be attempted if you’re not strong physically, if you have longstanding injuries, if you are pregnant, and you should also check that you’re not breaking any laws when you do so.

Hurl Something at It to Knock It Off

Climbing is not always an option. Some may say it’s rarely an option. Some trees are dangerous to climb. They may be too tall or have no firm branches, or both.

And some people simply do not like climbing trees.

In cases like these, drone pilots can look to the next best option which is to try and knock the drone down from the tree.

If you decide to go down this route, remember to avoid using hard objects. You don’t want to damage your drone before getting it down from the tree.

That means rocks are out. So are sticks, hard balls, metal, and sports equipment.

What you want to go for is a soft, smooth, projectile that is just firm enough to nudge the drone out of the branches.

Baseball gloves and beach balls are good choices for the task. You could also make your own projectile for the task, by bundling up a bunch of fabrics or cloths like socks to make something that is soft yet firm.

You could also use nerf guns and inflatable toys if you happen to have them lying around.

When your projectile is ready, be sure to stay out of the drone’s path. Drones have enough weight and enough pointy parts to cause injury when dropped from the top of the tree.

If you are in a crowded area, make sure everyone gets fair warning about the falling drone so they stay out of the way.

Shaking the Tree

Sometimes, the tree your drone is stuck in is tiny enough for you to shake to dislodge your drone. And this might be a safer option, too.

The process is a simple one. Grab hold of the tree and shake it vigorously, front and back. If all goes well, the vigorous front and back movement should loosen the drone enough for it to fall from the tree due to its own weight.

You want to make sure your drone does not crash smack into the ground, though. Place some pillows or some other soft material around the base of the tree to act as padding.

As the person shaking the tree, you also want to position yourself in an area that is opposite to where the drone is located on the tree. That reduces the risk of the device falling on your head and causing injury.

Ensure you’re not shaking any birds or other animals from out of their natural habitat.

Use a Long Pole

When climbing and shaking are not an option, you can turn to a long pole to do the trick.

Using a long pole allows you to dislodge the drone without having to go through the trouble of using a ladder or climbing. To avoid damaging the device, however — make sure you poke gently.

And the pole doesn’t have to be made of a particular substance to make this work. Poles of the following types have been shown to work perfectly in retrieving drones from trees:

  • Broomsticks
  • Professional poles
  • Fiberglass poles
  • Indian bamboo
  • Pool cues
  • Plastic tubes
  • Wooden poles

Fiberglass poles, for example, will help you safely dislodge your drone by hooking into the propeller guards.

You could ask your local carpenter or woodworker for a long wooden pole to nudge the drone out of the branches.

Professional poles can be gotten from local hardware stores and can go as high as 24 feet when erect, making them just perfect for retrieving drones stuck within that range.

For added range, you could use a ladder, and this is ideal for drones that are stuck really high up.

If you are worried about the pole scratching the outer shell of your device, consider tying a cloth around the top before using it to dislodge the drone.

Use a Fishing Line

Using a fishing line is similar to using a pole; only another object is involved in this case.

For this method, you will need a sturdy fishing line and a firm, yet soft object like a baseball of wad of socks rolled into one bundle.

For the first step, tie the fishing line to the object you’ve chosen. Tie them together well enough that they don’t come loose.

Next, determine the straightest line to the point on the tree where the drone is stuck.

Hurl the soft object OVER the drone. Don’t hurl it at the drone to avoid damaging it by mistake.

Finally, once the fishing line is over and above the branches holding the branches, begin shaking. Shake bit by bit until the drone dislodges and falls to the ground.

To avoid damaging the drone, place a soft pillow or mattress at the base of the tree right where you estimate the drone will fall once loose.

In cases where your fishing line hooks onto the wrong branches, just cut it and try again.

Use a Ladder

You could resort to using a good old fashioned ladder in order to get your drone out of the tree. If you don’t have one in your house, finding one should not be too difficult if you ask around your neighborhood or at the local woodworker’s or local garage.

You could also buy one if all else fails.

If you choose to purchase a ladder for the task, go for the aluminum double ladders (sometimes called stretch ladders). These ladders are flexible enough to accommodate trees of various lengths. Based on how high up your drone is stuck, you can either extend or retract the ladder as needed.

On the surface, using a ladder to retrieve your drone is a simple process: place your ladder against the tree, climb up and retrieve the drone, then climb down.

But things hardly play out so nicely in real life.

Depending on where your drone is stuck on the tree, you may have to place your ladder against the tree trunk or stick it into branches you judge are sturdy.

Each of these options comes with their downsides. For example, it could be difficult to stretch out from the tree trunk to reach your drone and grab it when you are standing on a ladder. On the other hand, those “sturdy” branches can snap under your weight and that of the ladder.

Using a Hydraulic Lift

These machines are coming in big markets and warehouses. Hydraulic lifts or scissor lifts are usually used in lifting large objects to the top of the shelves. They are called scissor lifts because of the X-patter which the hydraulics form when raising the platform.

Using a hydraulic lift is an expensive option compared to all the other options that have been put forward so far. You can rent a hydraulic lift for about $150 a day.

This of course is only profitable if you have a very expensive drone like the Mavic 2 Pro, the Autel EVO, or similar.

In cases where the hydraulic lift is too short for you to reach your drone, you can use a stick from the highest position to poke the drone out of place and out of the tree.

Make Use of an Aerial Work Platform

You may have run across telephone repairmen using such platforms to do their jobs. Aerial work platforms look like huge buckets attached to a crane.

One huge advantage of these platforms is that they can be positioned anywhere to reach anywhere. They will easily raise you to the height you need to be at in less than two or three minutes.

With an aerial work platform, you could simply lift yourself up and pluck your drone out of the tree like a ripe fruit.

But this method is costly. Some aerial work platform will put you $200 out of pocket to rent.

What Not to Do When Your Drone Is Stuck In a Tree

When your drone gets stuck in a tree, it is natural to feel a bit of panic. However, you should keep your wits about you enough to not do the following two things:

Don’t Call the Fire Department

Firefighters have the necessary equipment and are trained to get people and animals out of high, hard-to-reach places — like trees, for example.

Calling them in, pretty much settles the case and gets you your drone in one piece.

That said, firefighters have a lot more things that can be classified as “better to do” than to get your drone out of a tree. As much as we love our drones, anybody would feel bad for pulling them away from their jobs.

The last thing you want is to get them worried, only for them to see you worried about a device stuck in a tree — wasting their time.

Doing so could lead to paying a fine.

Don’t Use Water or Hard Objects

Using both of these will be bad news.

Water from a hose might seem like a good idea to get your drone down without scratching the outer shell of the device, but it could damage the internal circuitry of your device.

Hard objects on the other hand could damage your drone while it’s still in the tree.

You want to avoid these two under all circumstances if you intend retrieving your drone from the tree in good working condition.

Even waterproof drones probably aren’t too well protected against a jet stream being blasted at it.

Don’t Use Tree Trimming Drones

You know those drones that can be used to trim trees? No? Oh, well, they exist.

It is never a good idea to use one drone to get another drone down from a tree. In the best case scenario, you will destroy one drone, while in a worst, more common scenario, you will destroy both drones at once — or get them both stuck.

You already have a problem with one drone, no need sending another up there to create more headache and problems for yourself.

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