If you fly quadcopters, it’s only a matter of time – usually a very short duration – until you get it stuck up in a tree. Given murphy’s law and your luck, it will naturally be quite high up. My first tree landing was about 40 feet up, which is quite a bit taller than my house! Here are some hints for the uninitiated on how to get your toy back…
Note – do not attempt rescues which are beyond your physical and mechanical ability!
First, consider how badly it seems stuck and the type of limb or branch it is lodged in. If the tree or the branch is thin and spindly, then you have a good shot at getting it out using the “shaking” method. That is, if you are shaking the entire tree or a branch leading to where the quad sits, it might fall out on it’s own accord. Here are some of the crazy ways to do the Shake…
1. The Ladder Shake – if the tree is somewhat flexible – say up to about a foot or so in trunk diameter, you may be able to set a ladder up against it (hopefully into an area where branches meet the trunk for stability) and then climb up the ladder. Just the act of climbing up the ladder and then perhaps shifting your weight forward and backwards while holding on with both hands and feet, may shake the entire tree enough to free your machine.
2. The Big Stick Shake – if your quadcopter is not extremely high, you may be able to find a long branch or other lightweight straight object (see below for examples) and shake the branch from the ground, a stepladder or from a regular ladder securely laid up against the trunk.
3. The “lasso the branch” Shake – For lower branches, you might tie a string (light clothesline, etc.) to a small piece of wood and toss it up so that it drapes over the branch. It will often catch itself up there tightly – or, you can throw it over so that the end with the weight comes back down and then hold both ends and pull for the shake effect!
If The Shake doesn’t do the job, you are going to have to poke at your quad with a stick or a pole to free it. This will require, in many cases, an extremely long and lightweight pole. See the tools below for some hints.
Tools of the trade
As with any such endeavor, there are a number of tools which can be used to improve your chances. Here are some ideas.
The Pole(s) – I have used various arrangements including these:
A. The fiberglass poles which are used to mark driveways for snow plowing – I had a bunch in the garage and by overlapping them or doubling them up and also overlapping (and taping) them together I was able to get a 25+ foot reach.
B. The Big Bamboo – my new favorite after I recently rescued my Hubsan X4 from 35+ feet high. Bamboo is very lightweight and strong. You can also tape a few pieces together if needed.
C. The Professional Pole – Home centers and hardware stores sell telescoping poles up to 24 feet long – add a small step ladder and a tall person, and you are up over 30″. Do a google search for telescoping pole” – here is one top-end, heavy duty example. Other models run $35-$90:
D. The Slingshot or Toy Bow and Arrow – Sometimes the branch is just too high to reach with conventional means. Some R/C hobbyists have reported using fancy slingshots with fishing line tied to the projectile to reach quite high. It goes without saying that ANY use of projectile fired from a slingshot or bow should only be done when no one is present nearby AND you are well protected in case the weight comes back toward you! A helmet and safety googles would help protect your most valuable assets. If you use a toy (small) bow and arrow, the arrow should have no point!
Disclaimer – the above does not represent professional advice and there is inherent danger in ladders, tall poles (electric lines, etc.) and projectiles! If you are not comfortable with these dangerous objects, ask a friend (the local woodsman and hunter?) for help!
When to give up – If your quadcopter or drone is well over 50ft (13+ meters) in the air, the chances of recovery are much less. In those cases, you have to hope for a good windstorm or hire professional help. No, unfortunately you can’t call the Fire Dept. to get your Drone out of the tree, but you may be able to hire a contractor with a bucket truck. This could be a value if you have an expensive drone.