If you’re like most flyers, you probably hate the short flight times associated with RC quadcopters. 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.
Unless you’re willing to spend a lot of money (at least $800 or more), don’t expect to break the 20-minute mark.
With that said, there are ways to extend battery life in your RC drone. In this article, we’re going to show you some effective ways at keeping you in the air longer (These tips work for just about any model, that is, except for gas-powered models).
Four Factors That Affect Drone 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 actually 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 flies 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’s prop guards and/or camera. If you’re building a drone, go with the lightest frame possible. It will help you fly longer.
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 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 main sources of weight are the prop guards and the camera. Removing these can sometimes result in an increase flight time of several minutes.
This won’t work for all models, though. 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 and instant increase in flight time.
Tip #2: Avoid The Wind
In general, strong winds tend to decrease overall flight time. But it really depends on your drone’s weight. Something like the DJI Phantom can handle wind a lot better than something like the Hubsan X4 H107L.
If you’ve got a lighter drone, avoid flying in windy conditions. Here's a video of a Syma X5C getting caught in the wind and crashing:
Not only will it reduce your flight time, but you might also lose control of your drone and crash it.
So it goes without saying that you shouldn’t fly your Cheerson CX-10 at the beach. That tiny little drone simply won’t have enough thrust to fight the wind and will quickly drain your flight time.
Tip #3: Fly Conservatively
If you’re flying 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. 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 their battery. But this is a mistake. You should actually stop flying your drone when the battery life dips to 20% or so.
How will you know when you’ve reached 20% battery capacity? Just estimate: if your drone normally flies for 10 minutes on a single charge, then you should stop flying and recharge once you’ve reached 8 minutes.
This “secret” tip will indirectly increase drone battery life by preserving your battery over the long run.
Tip #5: Build Your Own Drone
As a beginner, building your own drone can be intimidating. But 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.
I recommend joining an online forum where you can talk with other RC drone builders.
And just to show you the potential of building your own drone, here’s someone who built a drone that stayed in the air for 97 minutes!
Tip #6: Buy Extra Batteries
Another great way to increase your flight time is to buy extra batteries. While this won’t necessarily increase 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 certain models.
For example, in the Syma X5C, you’ll be able to swap out the battery for a new one.
Tip #7: Get a Bigger Battery
This really 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 actually 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.
When and How to Charge Your Battery
When it comes to increasing flight time, timing is very important. As a general rule of thumb, you should charge your battery right before a flight.
If you charge it say, 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.
Similarly, it’s important that you don’t overcharge your battery. This is one of the fastest ways to kill a battery. Keep in mind that charging a Li-Po battery for too long can actually be dangerous. This is because Li-Po batteries are incredibly volatile.
To summarize, try to charge your drone’s battery right before you fly, and make sure to not overcharge it. These two things should help increase drone battery life by a noticeable amount.
Can these tips turn a 5-minute flight time into a 25-minute flight time? Of course not. However, they will increase your flight time by a considerable amount, whatever it may be.
The two things you can do right now is remove your prop guards/camera and don’t fly aggressively.
That alone should increase your flight time by a huge amount. Finally, what do YOU do to extend drone battery life? Leave your answers in the comments section below! Good luck and fly safe.
- How to Improve Your sUAS (Drone) LiPO Battery Life (UAVCoach.com)
- The Ultimate LiPo Drone Battery Care Guide (Dronethusiast.com)