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The New Cat Up a Tree? Your Friendly Neighborhood Drone

Written by Anne Dreshfield

It began with wide eyes and excited shouts: this holiday season alone, more than 1.2 million kids and adults alike found drones wrapped up under their trees.

But as many found as they took out their drones for their first flight on Christmas day and beyond, drones can often have a mind of their own. An errant breeze or a slip of a thumb can send the drone spiraling out of the backyard, over fences, into trees, and out into the neighborhood.

In a recent survey of Nextdoor members across the country, we found that over half (57%) of neighbors surveyed reported that they have lost a drone since the holidays.

“My daughter got a drone from Santa, and its first launch took off and never returned,” Jim S. of Orinda, California, said to his neighbors on his community’s Nextdoor website. “If you find a white and orange drone in your backyard or trees, please let me know.”

Over half of neighbors surveyed reported that they have lost a drone since the holidays.
Over Christmas week, we saw an incredible 8,709 posts on Nextdoor about drones, both lost and found in neighborhoods across the country. It’s not surprising, then, that 42% of neighbors surveyed reported that they have found a drone since the holidays, with one-third of neighbors (33%) reporting that they found a lost drone within two days.

And the drones aren’t wandering far. Nearly 40% of neighbors (38%) reported that they found a drone just a few streets away.

In Austin, Texas, Jolie D. found a drone helicopter crashed in her backyard on New Year’s day, its lights still blinking. She had no idea who the owner might be, so she turned to Nextdoor to find some clues.

“It definitely facilitates that connection, either at all, or much quicker than any other way,” Jolie says. Thanks to Nextdoor, Jolie was able to work together with neighbors on her block to connect the dots and reunite the drone with its family, who lived down the street, that same day.

In Indianapolis, Indiana, Nextdoor member Jeff S. had a similar experience. “My Christmas gift was lost within about five minutes on Christmas Day,” he laughs.

“I posted the notice to my neighborhood about four o’clock that day,” Jeff says. “And just before I went to bed that evening, a neighbor contacted me and said he’d found my drone his driveway when he got home. It was only about two blocks away from my house.”

So it’s official: while you might think to look for cats in trees in your neighborhood, in this day and age it’s best to keep an eye out for your friendly neighborhood drone. And if you do happen to find one, make sure you’re ready to let the neighborhood know.


With reporting by the New York Times, ABC Indianapolis, and ABC Austin.

Image courtesy of Bryan Schutmaat for the The New York Times.

Survey conducted by Nextdoor, the private social network for neighborhoods, between January 3-4, 2017. A select number of Nextdoor members from across the United States who had posted about a drone from December 25, 2016-January 1, 2017 were surveyed.

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