Do drone range extenders work?
The Mavic Mini is the best ravel drone currently on the market. There is one possible problem that you will read about in the reviews and forums, and that is range.
For models sold in Europe there is a lower power transmission mode, which means a lower range.
Buy a US model and you get higher power transmission and a maximum comms range up to 4000m. The Japanese spec has a max range of 2000m. The CE variant sold in Europe has a maximum controller range of just 500m.
500m is actually a really long way if you’re using a drone for travel photography and film making. At 500m it is extremely unlikely that you can see your drone with the naked eye. Even against clear blue sky you will lose sight of the Mavic Mini at 300m unless you are really tracking it carefully and don’t look away.
Even if you’ve watched it all the way out and can still see it, look away for a second and then look back. You will have a very hard time trying to pick it up again.
More importantly, at 500m the drone can’t see you. For travel drone flying you’re most often filming or taking pictures of the area immediately around where you are standing. If you want to be in the shot yourself, then you’re going to be flying at no more than 100m away.
Still, some people want more, and the obvious answer to getting longer range is to use a range extender. Question is, do they work?
I took the Mavic Mini out on a dry and clear day with little wind, to do an unscientific test.
You don’t have to be very scientific really. Fly out until you start getting “signal lost” warnings, and check the flight distance shown on the controller. Repeat, having fitted the range extenders.
My testing area is quite open and free of obstructions. There are some trees, but they are lower than my launch point on a hillside. There are no obvious transmitters or pylons in sight. It’s mostly open countryside, with some ares of housing just beyond the final limits of my flight.
Flying the Mavic Mini without range extenders
It went out to 600m without any troubles and then lost signal. I pushed forward, and got another lost signal message straight away. Return to home. At the end of the flight, I was some way short of the houses and a little pond.
Mavic Mini with range extender
It went out to the 600m point I previously reached and kept going. Not wanting to fly over houses I adjusted course slightly.
At an indicated 700m, I began getting signal error warnings. You can see this was much closer to that little pond. Because of the elevation it doesn’t look like a big difference in position with respect to the ground features, but it was an additional 100m.
Do drone range extenders work?
According to my test, yes, but only a little. I gained an extra 100m distance.
Do you need drone range extenders?
Maybe. Flying in ideal conditions like this, I beat the published maximum range even without extenders. Conditions aren’t always ideal, and terrain and even distant power lines can have an impact on signal transmission.
At 600m, without the range extender, I already felt very nervous.
I was only willing to do it because I know the terrain underneath my flight path and that it is empty. Anywhere other than wide open ground like this, you’d be a fool to fly beyond 500m and you will certainly have lost sight of your drone.
If the Mavic Mini had continued flying without signal error, I would have turned back before flying over the built up area at the far end.
The extra 100m I gained, in this environment was unnecessary.
Another important point to consider is that when the Mavic Mini is 500m away from you, not only is it an invisible speck to you but you are an invisible speck to the drone.
500m is a lot further than you think, considered from the perspective of a camera. At 600m I turned around to fly back. I’ve marked my position on this photo (ignore the quality, it’s just a screen grab). You can see from the video of the return flight just how far 600m really is for a drone flight.
Drone range extenders: Worth it or not?
Do drone range extenders work? Yes.
They cost very little. They do work. I got about 15% more range. They may work better in less ideal flying conditions.
In some cases you may want them. In most cases you will not be flying more than 500m away from you, and if you are you will in most cases be violating rules regarding line of sight and overflying built up areas. Unless you are gung-ho, inconsiderate, and foolish, you will be feeling nervous about having the drone so far away from you.
Does the Mavic Mini European edition have a range problem? No. 500m is more than enough.
Should you try to buy the Mavic Mini from the US to get better range? No. You’ll be wasting your time and money to get range that you will not use, and then if you fly your drone in the EU you will immediately be breaking the law.
Mavic Mini range extenders
These are the ones I used. They fit fine. They work. They’re stable. If you’re sure you need range extenders, try these.