How to Extend Drone Battery Life
Drones are great toys. RC quadcopters allow you to take pictures from a view beyond your reach or compete with other players.
Once you pulled your drone out, you might want to use it not just for a few minutes but for hours. You might not want to stop, if not for your drone battery that quickly depletes or until your quadcopter crashes.
If you’re like most flyers, you probably hate the short flight times associated with RC quadcopters. Despite what most advertisements say, the actual battery life is usually just half of what is advertised. After all, the average model only gets about 7 minutes of flight time.
If you're using drones for surveillance purposes, obviously you need something that can stay in the air for a while. A drone race usually takes just up to 5 minutes. If you are practicing for one, then you will need a drone that can fly for a longer time.
Unless you're willing to spend much money (at least $800 or more), don't expect to break the 20-minute mark.
With that said, there are ways to extend the battery life of your RC quadcopter. In this article, we're going to show you some practical ways at keeping your quadcopter in the air longer (These tips work for just about any model, that is, except for gas-powered models).
Five Factors That Affect Battery Life
Although typical drones usually last for 7 minutes on air, several factors may prolong or shorten the life of your drone battery. There are factors that you can control, and there are others that you have to avoid to lengthen the battery life.
As you can imagine, flying your drone in windy conditions will drain the battery life more quickly. That’s because the drone uses more power to stay in the air. Flying in less windy conditions will eliminate this problem.
Are you an aggressive flyer? If so, then you’re going to experience lower flight times than someone who flies more conservatively. By “aggressive”, I mean suddenly changing directions, doing flips, or flying very fast.
Did you know that recording aerial footage drains your drone's battery more quickly? Look at the Syma X8C as an example. When recording it can fly for about 7 minutes, but without recording it operates for 10 minutes.
A great way to extend your flight time is to decrease the weight of your quadcopter. You can do this by removing the drone prop guards and camera. If you're building a drone, go with the lightest frame possible. It will help you fly longer.
Water's another element that you would not want on your drone. You might not fly your drone in the rain, but humid weather is also a big no-no. The precipitation in the atmosphere that you might not feel can damage the motors and the battery.
The Syma X5C is one of the top-selling RC drones on Amazon. It has a flight time of about seven minutes. If you compare it to similarly priced drones, you’ll find the flight times to be about the same.
The tips in this article aren’t going to help you achieve a 30-minute flight time with something like the X5C, but it will teach you how to stay in the air longer, regardless of how long it may air be. Let’s get started.
Tip #1: Remove Excess Weight
One way to stay in the air longer is to remove excess weight from your quadcopter.
The two primary sources of weight are the prop guards and the camera.
Prop guards are best for new flyers. They prevent drone propellers from being broken and prevent drones from crashing. If you have been flying your drone for quite a while now, you can surely still do well even without the prop guards.
Cameras, on the other hand, do not just cause excess weight. They largely contribute to how long does a drone battery last. When used, the camera consumes battery way faster.
If you intend to go for a leisure fly, prop guards and cameras are pretty negligible. Removing them can significantly increase in flight time.
This won't work for all models, however. For example, the Syma X8C comes with a detachable camera while the Hubsan X4 H107D does not.
However, both come with prop guards that can be removed. Once you remove excess weight from your quadcopter, you’ll notice an instant increase in flight time.
Tip #1: Avoid The Wind
In general, strong winds tend to decrease overall flight time. To maintain hover despite strong winds, you are forcing the motors to produce more thrust. This thrust requires energy.
Before flying great heights, you might want to make sure that the wind’s pretty steady and you have enough battery.
However, the ability to withstand the wind depends on your drone's weight. Something like the DJI Phantom can handle wind a lot better than something like the Hubsan X4 H107L.
However, if you have followed the first step, then you must be more cautious about the wind. Remember that your drone lost a significant amount of weight so it can now strain even with a little wind. It will be much harder for you to control your drone, therefore, consuming more battery.
Remember, the lighter the drone, the less wind it can face. Here's a video of a Syma X5C getting caught in the wind and crashing:
*Side tip: If you have removed the pro guards from your drone, then you better fly even more carefully. Your drone's already lighter, and you don't have any protector.
Tip #3: Fly Conservatively
How you fly your drone affects how long your drone battery will last. If you're operating on an aggressive flight mode (e.g., your transmitter is very sensitive) then your flight time is going to decrease by a noticeable amount.
Most drones will give you the option of flying on an aggressive or conservative flight mode.
Typically, you can switch back and forth between these modes via the buttons on your transmitter.
As a beginner, I highly recommend staying on a conservative flight mode. Avoid doing flips, sudden direction changes and flying very fast. Not only will this conserve your battery, but it will also make you less likely to crash.
Only after you’ve become more experienced should you consider flying in an aggressive flight mode.
Tip #4: Don't Drain the Battery
A big mistake that beginner flyers make is completely draining their battery during flight.
Naturally, people like to squeeze every last drop of energy out of the cells. However, this is a mistake.
Squeezing all the juice from lithium-polymer (LiPo) batteries will cause severe damage. When this happens, the chemistry inside the cell tends to break down.
However, some batteries have a controller chip that prevents you from doing this. Regardless, it would help if you stopped flying your drone when the battery life dips to 20% or so.
How will you know when you’ve reached 20% capacity? Most drones include a feature that monitors your battery life and reminds you to land soon.
If there's none, then estimate: if your drone flies typically for 10 minutes on a single charge, then you should stop flying and recharge once you've reached 8 minutes.
If you have a cheap drone or using a third-party battery in it, then the more that you have to be more watchful about not draining your battery.
It may seem to cut your drone flight time instead of prolonging it. This "secret" tip will indirectly increase drone battery life by preserving your cells over the long run.
Tip #5: Build Your Own Drone
The best spot to keep your battery is in a dry, warm place. Otherwise, your battery is as good as dead.
If your battery gets frozen for whatever reason, you have no option but to stop using it and dispose of it properly so as not to damage your drone as well.
Tip #6: Buy Extra Batteries
As a beginner, building your drone can be intimidating. However, in actuality, it's not that difficult.
With the right guidance, you can easily take the DIY approach. By taking the DIY route, you can customize your drone to achieve a longer flight time. You can choose a lighter frame and may opt to have a detachable camera, among other things.
I recommend joining an online forum where you can talk with other RC drone builders. They’ll be able to give you tips like where to buy parts to build your drone, how to put them together, etc. RCGroups.com is a good option, as is DIYDrones.com.
Moreover, to show you the potential of building your drone here's someone who built a drone that stayed in the air for 97 minutes!
Tip #7: Buy Extra Batteries
Another great way to increase your flight time is to buy extra batteries. While this won't necessarily improve the lifespan of any single battery, it will allow you to stay in the air longer.
Once you finish with one battery, replace it with another and continue your flight.
Note: this only works in specific models. If you don't have a drone yet, then you have to find a drone that allows you to change batteries. It will be a great plus if its spare batteries are readily available in the market.
For example, in the Syma X5C, you’ll be able to swap out the battery for a new one. However, you can’t do this in the Cheerson CX-10 since the battery isn’t accessible.
Tip #8: Get a Bigger Battery
This only applies when you're taking the DIY approach. When building your drone, one thing to consider is to get a bigger battery.
Why? Because bigger batteries = more energy. Sometimes, though, a bigger battery can hurt your flight time (since they weigh more).You’ll need to experiment with different sized batteries to get a feel for which one will maximize your flight time. I also recommend checking out this guide for the best Li-Po batteries on the market.
Choosing Your Drone Battery
Since previous two tips were about buying and getting a spare battery, you should know that there are quite a lot to choose from. So at this point, we'll help you select a battery. Here are the factors that you should consider:
The first thing you have to check is what kind of batteries is suitable for your drone.
Some drones require batteries from a specific manufacturer. This strategy is pretty much advantageous for the manufacturer but makes it a little bit more difficult for the drone pilot. If this applies to your drone, then you don’t have much choice.
If not, then you have more options to consider. With a little persistence, you can find some good spare batteries at an affordable price.
Next thing you should consider in a battery is their composition.
You would want a lithium polymer (LiPo) battery. It is a rechargeable battery from lithium-ion technology that uses polymer electrolyte instead of liquid electrolyte. LiPo batteries are best for drones because they can store more power and can deliver faster.
These make them better choice especially compared to NiCad and NiMH batteries. NiCad and NiMH batteries were the familiar choices before. (For some gadgets, they are still being used.)
However, it was found that these batteries self-discharge. NiCad lose around 1% of their charge each day. Meanwhile, NiMH loses 5-20% on the first day and 1-4% each day after that.
LiPo batteries do not self-discharge that much. You can leave them fully charged on a shelf, pick it up in a month or 2 and it's still suitable for flying.
The Syma X5C battery, for one, is a LiPo battery.
After the composition, you would want to check the capacity of the battery that you are buying. They are usually indicated in mAh, which stands for milliAmpere hour or milliAmp hour.
It is the measure of how much energy the battery can hold: the higher the capacity, the longer drone battery life.
We know that you don’t want to charge your drone batteries very frequently. Charging time means interrupted flying time which is why you would prefer to have the longest lasting drone battery that you can find.
However, you will still always come to the point when you need to charge. When you do, you want to do so as quickly as possible. As such, it will be helpful to know the average charging time of the battery you are buying.
Aside from that, you might also want to consider changing your charger. If your current charger is only 2 Amp, a 6 Amp replacement could help you cut down the charging time twice or even thrice.
Before buying anything, it pays to be a little wiser. Yes, you can find considerably affordable batteries in the market, especially those that you can get from other manufacturers.
However, there are also those spare batteries that could cost you almost 20% of the total cost of your drone. If you come to that point, then you better think twice.
Tip #9: Check Your batteries Health
Checking the drone battery's health is simpler nowadays. The new drones now have smart batteries and even controllers that can monitor the battery's capacity.
For example, in one of the DJI drones, pressing the power button on the smart battery will show you the charge level through the LED lights.
Holding down the said button will then indicate the health of the battery through its blinking pattern. It lets you know when it’s already time for a drone battery upgrade.
To take this tip a little bit further, you might also want to know the ways to keep your batteries healthy.
How to Care for Your Battery
For your new drone battery
If you've just recently decided to have a drone battery upgrade, it is not advisable to fast charge it for the first few cycles. The same advice applies for its first few discharge cycles.
This is similar to "breaking in" procedures for cars. The idea is to gently fly the drone and discharge a little energy then charge lightly. This will help settle the internal makeup of the cell and sets the pack for prolonged life.
After first few cycles, you may expect a slight increase in performance. This indicates that the pack is ready for regular use.
When and How to Charge Your Battery
When it comes to increasing flight time, timing is critical. As a general rule of thumb, you should charge right before a flight.
If you charge it, for example, the night before, then some of that energy is going to drain before the flight. When you charge the battery right before the flight, you give yourself the maximum amount of flight time possible.
It is also important to only use a charger mainly designed for LiPo batteries. These chargers now have a balancing feature for safety and battery life.
Similarly, it's essential that you don’t overcharge your battery. This is one of the fastest ways to kill a battery. Keep in mind that charging a LiPo battery for too long can be dangerous. This is because Li-Po batteries are incredibly volatile.
To summarize, try to charge your drone's batteries right before you fly, use only chargers that are for LiPo batteries and make sure not to overcharge them. These things should help improve your drone battery life by a noticeable amount.
Balancing LiPo Packs
Keeping the cells in a pack balanced is essential. The imbalance may occur when the pack has been discharged too much.
It is also possible that a pack may develop an individual lousy cell. To detect any imbalance, balance charging needs to be done. This will also prevent overcharging the other batteries in the pack.
It was already mentioned in the previous section to keep the battery in a dry, warm place. Nonetheless, it is also critical to monitor its temperature before and during charging.
After a flight, you may notice that your batteries are warm. It would be best to allow them to cool down for a little while before recharging.
While charging, it is understandable that the battery may get slightly warm. However, if you noticed that your batteries or your charger are extremely hot, then you should stop charging right away! Excessive heat indicates that there is something wrong.
Five Drones with Longest Battery Life
At this point, it will be entirely futile to provide a list of most extended lasting drone batteries since it mostly depends on how the drones are used. Instead, we have listed here some popular drones with long battery life based on their most extended flight times (Yes, they were able to hit and even exceeded the 20-minute mark!)
Blade Chroma Quadcopter
The Chroma Quadcopter is one of the favorite choices especially regarding most extended lasting drone battery.
It is a Ready-to-Fly (RTF) Quadcopter that allows 4K aerial photography for up to 30 minutes in the air. Its transmitter, moreover, allows a 2,500m control range. It uses 11.1V, 6300mAh battery to power all these functions and maintains a long flight time.
These key features make this drone perfect for the travelers who want to capture their view from up above. It is also compact, comfortable and easy to use, perfect to get those Instagram views.
Best of all, you don't need to spend your entire savings to have one!
DJI Mavic Pro
DJI has established its name among drones, so it's not surprising to have one or two DJI models on this list.
Mavic Pro is considered one of the smallest camera quadcopters you would find. It is so compact that you can fold it down to nearly the size of a water bottle.
It is also easy to handle. However, this is not mainly designed for beginners.
DJI Mavic Pro has the maximum flight time of 27 minutes and a transmission range of up to 7,000 meters. Meanwhile, it’s drone’s speed is 40mph, which is why it is not advisable in a beginner’s hand.
Nonetheless, given its short and long drone battery life, it is a superb choice for travelers. It allows you to enjoy and record 1080p videos through a handheld RC that may house either an Android or mobile device.
You can also enjoy a first-person view (FPV) experience although you might need to invest in DJI Goggles. Speaking on investment, buying a DJI Mavic Pro per se will already require a significant amount of investment.
DJI Phantom 3 Standard
Another great model from DJI is the Phantom 3 Standard. It is significantly cheaper than the Mavic Pro. With this model, DJI was able to balance features and cost.
It is an RTF quadcopter and the model perfect for beginners.
This quadcopter has a maximum flight time of 25 minutes. However, it uses a propriety battery, meaning you can't buy and use from any third-party. If you want spare batteries, DJI's are exceptional, but they will cost you a significant amount.
Anyway, its 2.7K camera can record in full HD 1080p videos up to 30fps within the 1,500m transmission range. These features make it an excellent choice for aerial photography.
Yuneec Q500+ Typhoon Quadcopter
The Yuneec Q500+ is one of the natural choices when aerial photography functions and flight time are to be considered. It can also be handled well by beginners and experienced flyers alike.
It is a sophisticated RTF quadcopter. It carries a 16 megapixel, 1080p, 60fps camera. Despite such load, it is still powerful enough to fly for at most 25 minutes.
However, it only flies at 18mph. That means that this quadcopter is not intended for racing but a steady, excellent aerial camera drone.
Lastly, with regards to cost, Q500+ Typhoon is considerably in the mid-range.
Parrot Bebop 2
If your primary consideration, next to long flight time, is affordability, then Bebop 2 may be the quadcopter for you.
It offers the maximum of 25 minutes flight time, with a 14-megapixel camera that records 1080p HD videos. Remarkably, its camera has a fisheye lens that provides a wide-angle view.
A 2700mAh battery powers all these.
However, it does not have expandable memory so you can only record up to 8GB of videos in it.
Another concern that you might find is on the WiFi connection. It is said to be spotty, especially in longer transmission distances. So, it’s better for you to avoid such instance to prevent your quadcopter from crashing.
Given its price, you may compare it to DJI Phantom 3 Standard. One significant advantage of the Bebop 2 over the other is that you can buy third-party batteries. These spare batteries will surely cost you less than DJI batteries.
At this point, we hope that this article was able to provide you with helpful tips for the battery life of your drone.
You should be able to mind the factors that affect your flight time before launching your quadcopter to the air. Remember not to force your quadcopter against the wind, its weight, flight capability or even its battery life.
Also, remember that you should care for your batteries well. Please don't allow them to get too hot or too cold. Use only the appropriate chargers and do not overcharge. Don't forget to charge them just before you use your quadcopter.
If you need a battery upgrade, then we have also provided pointers for that.
With regards to quadcopters with most extended battery life, the Blade Chroma Quadcopter offers excellent features at an affordable price. If you are looking for affordable ones, the DJI Phantom 3 Standard and the Parrot Bebop 2 are good options.
- How to Improve Your sUAS (Drone) LiPO Battery Life (UAVCoach.com)
- The Ultimate LiPo Drone Battery Care Guide (Dronethusiast.com)
- How Long Can A Drone Fly (3DInsider.com)
- Drone Battery Life: How to Make the Most Out of It? (mydronelab.com)