How To Get Your Drone Out Of A Tree

Drone in tree Title


Welcome to our blog. Lightwave Aerial provides professional drone services in aerial photo/video, mapping, and inspection. We’ve learned a lot building this business and we’re still learning.

My goal is to present drone technology in a way that’s easy to understand. Also, to give you the real-world practical business perspective we’re learning as we build our company.

Table of Contents

The first time I used automated flight control I mistakenly instructed the drone to land immediately. This drone landed in a tree. I ultimately retrieved the drone, but I damaged it in the process. He’s a list of the best and worst ideas for getting your drone out of a tree.

Getting your drone stuck in a tree is aggravating. But there are several safe and reliable ways to get your drone out of a tree

  1. Use a telescopic pole (this is what I did).
  2. Use an extension ladder. But be safe.
  3. Use a fishing line to shake the branch.
  4. Hire a tree climber for $75/hr.
  5. Rent a bucket truck for $65/hr.
  6. Ask for help on social media.

The number one priority is to keep the public safe and keep yourself safe when retrieving your dream. The second priority is to not damage your drone.

First Steps

Power Down The Drone

The first thing you do is to turn off your drone. Most drones have a remote kill switch you can use in case of emergency. Allowing your drone to continue running will likely damage the propellers and may damage the motors. In addition, when you access the drone you definitely do not want those propellers rotating.

Set Up A Perimeter

If you have pylons, use them to set a perimeter around the tree. While you’re trying to retrieve the drone, you don’t want people walking in the area just in case the drone falls out of the tree.

Notify Bystanders

Notify bystanders of the situation so that they can move away from the area. This is particularly important for children. You’ll probably have some looky-loos, but that’s OK just ask politely that they maintain their distance.

Notify Police If Necessary

If your drone is in a tree that’s close to traffic where it might create a potential hazard to drivers. Then we recommend you notify the police. The drone may fall out of the tree, hit a car, and cause an accident. You want to make sure that you took all the necessary precautions.

Use Telescopic Pole To Get The Drone (My Solution)

When my drone got stuck in a tree outside my house I considered several options and settled on a telescopic pole. After a quick trip to Home Depot, I was able to find a 24-foot extendable pole. I used the pool to gently poke and dislodge the drone.

The mistake I made was not having a way to catch the drone when it fell. Fortunately, it fell into the grass. Even so, the gimbal was damaged and had to be repaired. Don’t make my mistake, I recommend having a second person that can catch the drone when it falls.

Telescopic pole image

Hire Help To Get The Drone

Bucket truck

Bucket trucks are able to easily and safely access heights, making them the perfect tool for drone recovery. You only need to extend the arm of the bucket truck so that it reaches the drone’s location, then carefully use the extended platform to grab the drone.

image bucket truck

Truck rentals cost between $50-$75 per hour, and you should expect to spend about two hours including travel time. Also, you do not need a special license to drive or operate a bucket truck.

Bucket trucks are pretty safe however, it is important that you take the proper safety precautions when using one.

  • Park on flat ground. If you park on an incline then the truck may tip when the boom is extended.
  • Wear a body harness with a shock-absorbing lanyard securely connected to an anchor point on the boom or bucket.
  • Never move the truck while the bucket is extended.
  • Always set the brake and position the wheel chocks before operating the boom of your bucket truck

Tree Climber (Arborist)

It may be worth seeking out an experienced and insured arborist to get your drone. An arborist is a trained professional tree climber. An arborist charges between $65-$75 per hour and it may take a while to find one and have them come. This is a very safe alternative. DO NOT attempt to climb the tree yourself.

image tree climber

Fire Department

Calling the fire department should only be done as a last resort since this takes valuable resources from real emergencies.

When calling the fire department DO NOT ask them to retrieve your drone for you. Instead, tell them that the drone represents a potential safety hazard to pedestrians or to traffic. This may help protect you from potential legal problems for calling in a frivolous request to the fire department.

Use A Ladder To Get The Drone

This is pretty straightforward but since the ladder will be fairly long, then there is a safety risk. Here are some safety recommendations when using a ladder

  • Secure the ladder firmly before attempting to climb it, ensuring you always maintain three points of contact with it while climbing.
  • If the drone is particularly high up, consider tying yourself off when nearing the top of the ladder for extra security.
  • Wear slip-resistant shoes with heavy soles to prevent foot fatigue
  • Clean the soles of shoes to maximize traction
  • Climb slowly and deliberately. Avoid sudden movements
  • Keep the center of your belt buckle (stomach) between the ladder side rails when climbing and while working. Never lean or reach away from the ladder
  • Apply the 1:4 rule: When using leaning ladders like an extension ladder, the position of the ladder should be angled at a ratio of 1:4. The base of the ladder should be 1 meter away from the structure for every 4 meters of height.
ladder in tree image

Use A Fishing Line To Get The Drone

Attach a small weight at one end of the fishing line, then toss it over a branch. Once you have both ends of the fishing line you can shake the bridge and hopefully dislodge the drone. Again, make sure you’re ready to catch the drone when it falls.

Leverage Social Media To Get Drone

Leveraging social media can be an effective way to get your drone back if it’s stuck in a tree. Reach out on popular platforms like Twitter or Facebook with a post that includes a picture of the drone and the location. Consider using hashtags such as #drones or #droneflying, in order to maximize the potential of your post being seen.

Be sure to include information about the tree where it got stuck and any other details you think would be helpful. You may even want to offer a small reward for anyone who can help retrieve your drone.

image social media

Contact Local Drone Companies

You can be fairly sure that you’re not the first drone pilot to get his rig stuck in a tree. Your local drone companies can probably give advice or even refer you to someone who can help.

Use Nerf Gun To Get Drone

This is kind of a crazy idea, but not too crazy. Chances are you can’t use a Nerf gun from the ground with enough accuracy to hit the drone. But if you use a ladder to get close, then the nerf gun might be useful. Just remember to have someone on the ground to catch the drone.

Bad Ideas To Get Your Drone

There’s a lot of questionable advice on the web. It’s good to know what not to do so that you don’t make things worse.

Do Not Spray Water To Get Yout Drone

Water damage is a serious threat to drones, even small amounts of moisture can cause irreversible damage. Onboard electrical components are highly sensitive and can easily be short-circuited by water.  For details on how water can damage your drone see our article “Can You Fly DJI Air 2S In The Rain?“.

image electronic short circuit from water damage

Do Not Use A 2nd Drone To Get Your Drone

In theory, you would use a second drone to bump the drone stuck in the tree, and hopefully dislodge it. In reality, you will end up with two drones stuck in the tree.

Do Not Throw Object To Get Your Drone

Unless you’re a professional baseball player or quarterdeck, odds are you’re not good enough to hit the drum. More likely to break a window or hit someone. I’ll tell you the same thing I tell my kids “no throwing stuff”.

Do Not Climb The Tree

Climbing tall trees creates a serious safety risk. The height can cause dizziness and vertigo in some people. Branches at higher elevations may not offer enough support to hold an adult’s weight. Also, limbs can become brittle when dried out by the sun, increasing the chance of them cracking or snapping off. It’s more than likely that both you and the drone will end up stuck in the tree.

Fly Your Way Out

Even if you could dislodge the drone, you’ll just get stuck in a different part of the tree and you’ll damage the propellers and possibly drive motors. The safest thing to do is power down your drone until you retrieve it.

Getting stuck in a tree can be a pain, but there are safe and effective ways to retrieve your drone. Just be safe and keep the people around you safe. For more details on starting your business see our article “First 9 Steps To Start A Drone Business

Lightwave Aerial is a professional drone service company based in Northern Virginia. Our pilots are all FAA Part-107 certified. We offer a full range of aerial photo/video production services, aerial mapping, and aerial inspection.

At Lightwave Aerial, we are dedicated to providing professional drone services that help our clients achieve their goals. Contact us today to find out more about how we can help you with your next construction project!  


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Picture of Felton Flood, PhD

Felton Flood, PhD

Dr. Flood has 25+ years experience in telecommunications and is a veteran of several startups in Silicon Valley and Northern Virginia. In 2021 he co-founded Lightwave Aerial, applying machine learning and cloud technologies to innovate UAV services.