There are quite a few options out there for GPS tracking your drone. The costs ranging from a few $20 bills to a couple hundred. Not including subscription services or data plans for devices requiring cellular service.
One of the lower cost options available is the TK102 model of GPS tracker. It’s made by a few different companies in the price range of $25-30US. It requires a sim card and cellular service and operates off of SMS or text messaging. Once you’ve charged the battery and added cellular service you can track your drone by calling it’s “cell phone number”, at which point it sends a text message back to you with latitude/longitude and a link to google maps showing you it’s location. Some users report battery life is anywhere from a day to a few days, so you must remember to keep it charged!
Another common tracker is the RF V16 model. It’s priced around $60US and works similarly to the TK102. This model can be tracked via SMS, internet, or Android/Apple app’s. Compared to the TK102, the RF V16 is like an extremely barebones cell phone. It has the capability of two way communication. You can push a button for SOS help, or to make a call. And there are three ways it can answer an incoming call. You can push a button to receive a call, set it to answer automatically or use it to silently monitor once you’ve called. Those additional features are unnecessary for drone tracking but interesting if you plan on using it for other purposes.
Another solution for GPS tracking is to use the Tagg GPS tracking pet collar. A Tagg will run you about $100 for the device itself, then tack on another $70 for a 12 month subscription. Interesting feature of the Tagg is that you can see a live GPS tracking map of where it is from your computer or mobile device. You’ll even receive constant location updates while it’s on the move. And it’ll provide you with driving directions to its location so you can track it down quickly and easily. Then there are a few pet specific features such as a temperature and activity monitor that wouldn’t be necessary for drone use.
Now what is the best overall tracker for drone use?! The Flytrex Live 3G is a purpose built device that hands down leads the category of trackers for drones! The Flytrex Live 3G requires the use of a sim card and cellular service, but for power it can be hard wired into your drone. You can download the Flytrex app and see live telemetry data like speed and altitude as well as a live GPS tracking map. The app also has a “Last Seen” feature that will you show you the last known location on demand. This video on Youtube shows where a user collided with a power line, lost control of the drone and was able to track it down with the Flytrex app! Other cool features of the Flytrex Live 3G is it tracks each flight as a “mission” and logs them on your profile on the Flytrex website. Kind of like a social networking site for drone pilots! Why would you need to log “missions” or see other drone pilots flights? For Flytrex “Challenges” of course! On their website you can enter “Challenges” like Top Speed or Distance for bragging rights via badges you earn or for actual prizes like T-shirts or even new drone kits and parts! Now for the cost… The device itself normally costs $189 but sometimes you can see special price runs for $10 or more dollars off. This price is well worth it once you recover your drone once after a fly away, just like the Youtube video above. Or even for the challenges and to give an additional reason to fly!
And for the trackers that require sim cards and cellular service… It’s best to find out what cell network provides the best coverage in your area, then to go with a prepaid or pay as you go data plan. Some popular networks are T-Mobile and H2O Wireless. A sim card (usually the micro or nano style) will run you about $10-15US. Then add $10-15 for a prepaid cellular service plan that commonly lasts for 90 days.