Drones: A Prepper’s Guide


Inspiration for new preps can come from unexpected places sometimes.  This happened to me when I was last visiting my parents and had the opportunity to take my Dear Old Dad’s quadrocopter drone for a test flight.

The drone, a Phantom 2 by DJI was a blast to fly around.  It also sported an HD camera that took high quality footage of us and the surrounding area.  It was surprisingly easy to control, even for a novice (me).  Watching the drone soar got me thinking, are there any applications to prepping that a drone could be used for?

How Would A Prepper Use A Drone?

I gave it some thought and came up with a few specific situations where having a drone on your side would be handy.  Most of these center around bug in scenarios as no one is going to want to haul around a power source or copter when bugging out.  In particular, using your drone to patrol or inspect your perimeter or the surrounding area would be a huge advantage to have.

Note: This is not intended to be an exhaustive overview of drone technology or all of the models that are available.  But, if you are planning on bugging in, it may be worth giving a drone some thought.

Me taking Dear Old Dad's drone for a spin.
Me taking Dear Old Dad’s drone for a spin.

Defending Your Perimeter

Your first line of defense in protecting your premises will be to build a perimeter security system that will alert you to the presence of trespassers and help you to prepare for any conflict – providing you with the upper hand defending your home.

In addition to this, having a drone on hand to inspect damage or investigate a disturbance would be a major advantage. While the use of drone technology for surveillance dates back to WWI, only recently has it become accessible for private use. With fitted cameras, sensors, and state-of-the-art flight capabilities, drones are showing that their usefulness extends well beyond simply serving as a hobby for aerial enthusiasts and photographers.

What Is a Drone?

Any unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) is considered a drone. The majority of commercial drones are multirotors, with the most popular being quadrocopters (4 rotors). Most modern drones can be fitted with a camera to provide the operator with a bird’s eye view of the flight path, and some modern commercial drones come equipped with cameras already.

Drones are not merely military devices that function as insanely fun toys for the masses. They also have practical commercial applications including monitoring livestock, pipeline security, road patrol, search and rescue, wildfire mapping, videography and anti-piracy. As drones have the ability to pursue a manually-operated or automated flight pattern, they make ideal tools for homeowners to safely surveil their property without putting themselves in harm’s way.

Additionally, drones can be fitted with a variety of supplementary features including speakers, tasers, mace, and infrared or night vision cameras. For some models, flight paths can be monitored through smartphone and tablet apps.

Benefits of Perimeter Security

Effective perimeter security allows you to monitor what’s happening around your property from the comfort of your home or shelter and provides you with advance warning of any trespassers, giving you the upper hand.

Depending on the cause and length of your bug in situation, your property may become a target for other survivors, desperate to take your supplies by any means possible. When determining your security needs, consider your location in respect to its proximity to civilization and roadways, as the more accessible you are to others, the more of a target you become.

Other factors to consider when planning your perimeter security include the following:

  • Is there limited visibility caused by terrain or structures
  • Do you have an expansive property that can be easily approached from many directions
  • Are you located near a major roadway where travelers might have to abandon vehicles and continue on foot
  • If you are bugging-in in a suburban setting, are your neighbors close by
  • If you are bugging-in in an urban setting, how is your visibility of the area surrounding your building
Would be pretty sweet for perimeter defense…

Why Use a Drone For Perimeter Security?

In terms of perimeter security, drones provide several advantages over mounted cameras or simply patrolling the property yourself, including mobile video surveillance, remote control and stealth.

Mobile Video Surveillance

Unlike a mounted camera, which is fixed on a designated area, drones are mobile and provide an unlimited field of view. The real-time video surveillance capabilities of a drone provide the ability to immediately assess whether a disturbance is a threat or welcome members of your team.

Remote Control

The ability to operate and control the drone from a distance not only keeps the operator out of harm’s way, but also facilitates the surveillance of large areas in a short amount of time and of areas that would be treacherous to travel by foot.


Drones are generally very quiet and have long range view capabilities. Additionally, drones cannot be avoided or tampered with as can a mounted camera.

One drawback to drones is that, yes, they can be shot down by an intruder. But most people would much rather lose their drone than their own life.

What Type Of Drone Would A Prepper Buy?

You can find drones that sell for as little as $50, but if you want a durable, top-rated model, you’ll need to spend at least $1,000 or more. Drones can be purchased ready to fly or in kits that you assemble. If you plan on adding several of your own features, a do-it-yourself drone is probably the best option; in fact, several brands offer a modular design that adapts well to add-ons.

When purchasing your drone, consider the following:

  • Maneuverability
  • Durability
  • Ability to live stream (first person view) vs. recording you can watch later – this decision comes down to personal preference and circumstances

Look for drones with the following features:

  • Gimbal to stabilize video
  • HD cameras
  • Long stream broadcast distance (more than 100 yards)

Here is a video taken by drone to give you an idea of the scope and range of what an operator can see when in flight: 

What Features Should I Look For In a Perimeter Defense Drone?

There are a variety of different features that can be added to drones, the best ones for you depend entirely on your situation and particular circumstances. For instance, drones come with varying levels of user control, with the most extreme being completely autonomous drones that patrol without any human interference.

Depending on your needs, an autonomous device may be ideal or you may want some level of manual operation to check on specific disturbances.

When choosing a drone for perimeter defense, here are some useful features you should consider:

  • Detection software, which can be installed to recognize perimeter breaches and immediately send the drone to the vicinity of the breach. Additionally, this software can be synched with an invisible infrared geo-fence, motion detectors, or seismic sensors, that can all be positioned in key locations around your property.
  • Flight time charge, this is a crucial factor as you want to ensure the desired flight path can be accomplished with a single charge.
  • Safety features, including proximity sensors that will detect and avoid objects in the flight path, emergency landing gear in the event of mechanical failure, and a ‘return-to-base’ function in the event the battery is low or the connection with the controller is lost.
  • Video, this can be displayed on the controller, streamed to a smartphone or tablet, or connected via video goggles for a first-hand, virtual reality experience. If you won’t be actively monitoring the flight path, you can also have the data sent to a DVR for viewing at another time.
If you see one of these above you it is probably too late...
If you see one of these above you it is probably too late…

OK, So Which One Should I Choose?

The ‘best’ drone for you depends entirely on your particular needs; what is an optimal choice for one person may not necessarily serve the needs of someone else. The following are our top drones picks along with the relative benefits of each, review each keeping in mind your particular circumstances to determine which would be the best fit:

DJI Phantom 2 Vision+

• Ready to fly and easy to operate out of box
• Flight time of 15-20 minutes
• Three-axis camera stabilization
• Shoots full HD video
• Controller is smartphone compatible for viewing video and adjusting camera settings
Parrot Bebop

• Flight time is approximately 10 minutes
• Can be controlled with an iphone or android device; alternatively, a SkyController can be purchased for $400 providing joystick controls, extended range, and HDMI output
• 14 megapixel camera with 180 field of view fisheye lens that automatically stabilizes the image, removes the fisheye effect, and sends image straight to a smartphone
• Records up to 8GB of 1080p video directly on the device
3D Robotics X8+

• Offers 15 minutes of flight time
• 8 motors with 11” propellers
• Can lift 2 lbs. and has a sturdy design
• Modular platform allows for customizing; does not come with camera or gimbal, but these can be added
• “Follow me” gps tracking feature links to your smartphone
Hubsan Spyhawk FPV

• Spy plane design
• Front-facing camera • Built in LCD display on the controller
• Three-axis flight stabilization
Drone in Action - Chaotic Unmanned Personal Intercept Drone (CUPID)
• Not yet available on market
• Sends live video feed to a smartphone
• Can locate an intruder and incapacitate them with 80,000 volts of electricity (see video!)
ArizonaFPV The Copper Copter
• Offers 10 minutes of flight time between charges
• Programmable
Camera included
Only available from the manufacturer

What Else Should I Consider Before Investing in a Drone?

Remember that in a bug-in situation, power will be a scarce resource. As drones are battery powered, battery life should be a top consideration as well as having an alternative power source at your bug-in location. For instance, in the case of power grid failure, drone surveillance would be rendered useless without some other means of providing power.

power grid failure
What To Expect During A Power Grid Failure

Another consideration to keep in mind is government regulations regarding drone usage. As drones are an emerging technology, the FAA is drafting regulations concerning their usage. The most recent information states that a UAV (drone) must:

  1. Weigh less than 55 lbs.
  2. Always remain within the visual line sight of the operator
  3. Have a maximum speed of 100 mph (87 knots)
  4. Not be operated within 5 miles of any airport

In some situations, you may also need a license to operate one. While these regulations will be of little concern in a SHTF situation, be aware of them now to ensure you stay in compliance while practicing with your UAV.


Drones can be an excellent choice for perimeter security but involve a significant financial investment and require a decent amount of electrical and aerodynamical knowledge to maintain. Drones are also highly dependent on having a readily available electrical power source, an option that may not always present itself in every bug-in scenario. If you are considering using a drone for perimeter security, it is also important to keep an eye on the development of FAA regulations, which are only in the early stages.

The technology to remotely surveil your property and protect your family and supplies from intruders is here now, and it will only continue to improve. If you have a large property and are planning to bug in, a drone may be a smart investment. Always remember, when it comes to survival, chance favors the well-prepared.

Your Thoughts?

Have you ever owned or operated a drone? Would you consider using a drone for perimeter defense? Share your thoughts with us in the Comments Section below, thanks!


Chris Ruiz

My name is Chris and I created this site to help ordinary people prepare for the uncertainties of the modern day world. I believe that a well-prepared society is the best safeguard against any natural or manmade disaster.

5 comments on “Drones: A Prepper’s Guide

  1. I read a lot of prepper fiction to generate scenarios for my preps. In one book (sorry, forgot the name) they use drones for route reconnaissance during their bug out. They sent up the drone at intersections, to check for ambushes behind hills, and to check the outskirts of cities they were approaching. Think of it as a robotic bounding overwatch! They eventually ran afoul of some bad guys and used the drone for raid planning on the bad guy’s hideout. For the reasons in this article (great neighborhood watch assistance), and that book, a drone has made my “would be cool to have” prep wish list.

    1. Thanks for the ideas Scott. As the technology develops over the next few years, it will be easier and easier to do things like that!

  2. Consider an electric powered R/C airplane as well. Many have the power and capacity to carry about a real time camera. What they can’t do is hover – yet they can fly quite a distance on one charged up battery pack and achieve some altitudes that makes them nearly impossible to detect.
    They are very quiet too. R/C helicopters are cool too, but from what I have observed, some of the R/C electric powered aircraft are like high flying hawks in the air.
    One a another note = I am looking forward to the day when enterprising engineers and creative garage mechanics – copy drone technology on a larger scale and make them have the ability to carry one person up to 200 lbs , running on small powerful gas engines. Some of the current hover crafts are ungainly huge monsters and are noisier than hell. What with ultra light weight materials that are also strong, and all of the various types of gasoline engines that power everything from snow throwers to personal watercraft’s – computer technology, it is puzzling that no one as of yet has come up with a personal drone craft. If guys can put together the most outrageous rat rods from nothing but junk piles, then coming up with a personal drone you can fly in the air up to 2,500 feet should have happened by now. just a thought.

    1. Also – screw FAA laws and rules. A personal drone would be a pirate craft running illegally – just like an unlicensed and uninsured vehicle. Trust me on this – that day is fast coming too. Clever fabricators will build illegal flying crafts and operate them during SHTF and TEOTWAWKI times. Might as well start thinking along those lines now and get ahead of the curve and have one or two ready to go.

      1. I think that day is coming very soon. There are all sorts of places you can order parts from or get DIY manuals.

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