The batteries used in drones are mostly made of Lithium Polymer (LiPo).
These are lightweight batteries that have a better energy density than any other alternatives presently. They have a high discharge rate and low self-discharge rates. And these qualities are among the reasons why they are favored as drone batteries by manufacturers.
Although they are relatively long-lasting, with proper care and precaution you can extend your LiPo drone battery life span and flight time.
What Affects Drone Battery Life?
There are a few factors that affect a drone’s battery life:
Size does matter in this case. The larger your battery, the more powerful it is. This is because larger batteries have wider surfaces over which current can travel. Bigger batteries tend to have much lower discharge rates, however.
LiPos won the drone sweepstakes because their lightweight nature makes them easy to lift. But this small size comes with a cost, which is that they have less power than larger batteries.
Energy density refers to the amount of energy a battery can hold. Some batteries can hold more energy than others, and their capacities are described by their mAh.
Batteries with more mAh have a larger capacity, and therefore a longer lifespan. For example, some consumer drones use batteries with mAh of 3.7 volt mAh, and these last for about 8 minutes. Other consumer drones use batteries have a capacity of 5300 volt mAh, and these last for 25 minutes.
The underlying chemistry also matters in determining how long a battery will last. Lithium ion compounds have less power than their larger cobalt and nickel based batteries and will thus last for a shorter period of time.
However, lithium ion batteries have higher power discharge rates than other batteries and this makes them better suited for charging up the average consumer drone.
Chargers and Charging Stations
There have been reports from drone experts that claim that a charger built permanently into a UAV boasts less energy than an external one. Many people actually believe that charging batteries externally can enable them last thrice as long as they normally would.
Drones expend more battery power when they fly in inclement weather. Strong winds especially take a toll on a drone battery. If battery power is an issue for you, the optimum time to take your drone out is when the skies are calm and blue.
The way you pack your batteries also plays a part in determining how well they will function. You should store your batteries at approximately 40% charge. This is the level at which you receive batteries from the manufacturers.
The reason for that is because they get depleted faster if they are stored while fully charged. Remember to store your batteries in a cool, fireproof place, at room temperature.
The Relationship Between a Drone’s Weight and It’s Battery Life
The more a drone has to lift, the more power it requires. As such, it stands to reason that the weight of your drone affects its battery life. Having to support heavy propellers, hefty cameras, and other possible payloads will cost your battery than flying your drone solo would cost otherwise.
Savvy drone pilots pay attention to what accessories go on their drones for whatever reason. At the very least, don’t overburden your drone with a payload beyond its suggested weight capabilities.
How Can You Boost Your Flight Time?
Keys to enjoying longer flight times start with choosing the right battery and looking after it properly. No matter the drone you use, here are a few steps you can take to increase your flight time:
The bigger the size of your batteries, the more powerful they are. So, choose a larger battery for your drone — assuming it fits, of course. Larger batteries have a larger surface area to conduct electricity. Look out for batteries that are still lightweight despite their size and which also boast of high discharge rates.
Buy batteries with higher mAh. The more mAh a battery can boast of, the more energy capacity it has; and the more capacity it has, the longer it will last while in use. Larger drones that run on 5300 mAh batteries can usually fly for up to 25 minutes.
Remove the Camera
Some drones come with detachable cameras. Remove your drone’s camera when you only want to fly and have no need for pictures or a First-Person View feed. This extends your flight time in two ways:
First of all, it helps lighten the load your drone has to carry. The more your drone has to carry, the more power it needs and the shorter your battery will last. Every ounce counts.
Secondly, a drone’s camera links directly to its battery. The more you use it, the more your drone battery gets drained.
Avoid the camera if you have no need for it during a particular flight.
Choose a Higher Quality Battery
You may run across a battery that is comparable in size to your drone’s original battery but with better specs. Choose that in order to power your drone for longer.
Charge Your Battery at the Right Time
You don’t want to have your battery discharging power for too long before you use it. Thus, you want to charge your battery just prior to when you planto use it. Charging it too long before you fly will reduce its lifespan.
Take Note of the Weather Conditions
The worse the weather is, the harder flying will be for your drone. You want to take note of the weather conditions, especially wind speed. Nothing costs you battery power more than flying your drone in heavy wind.
The size of the propeller directly affects your battery’s life span.
Generally, the more your payload, the larger your propeller should be. So if you find you need to attach a camera, you should use a large propeller to fly your drone. If you won’t be taking any pictures, however, you should can make do with a smaller set of propellers and enjoy longer flight time. After comparing the length of battery life each time you switch propellers, you will get an inkling of which propellers to go for depending on how long you wish to fly.
Older components drain battery power. For example, the older your drone motor is, the more power required to fly. So, change your components when necessary.
Watch the Payload You Add to Your Drone
The heavier your drone is, the more power it requires for lifting and flying. If you want to enjoy better flight times, therefore, watch the payload you pass on to your drone.
When Should You Charge Your Drone?
Knowing the right time to charge your drone battery can go a long way towards extending its life. Most people usually charge their batteries without a plan or when they come across a charging outlet.
Don’t be that way.
All you are going to achieve is harm your battery.
What you want to do is to charge your batteries when they have consumed a specific amount of power.
It’s all about timing. Don’t allow your battery to drain fully.
Once you realize your battery stands at 40%, and if you’re done using it for the day, charge it. Also make it a point to charge as close to flight time as possible — rechargeable drone batteries will lose small amounts of power even when they lie idle.
Resist the urge to overcharge your batteries. Doing so will always end badly. Not only is it damaging to your batteries, it also poses a risk to you. When they’re fully charged, unplug them.
So always check and be aware of your drone battery power levels while it is on charge. Ideally, you always want to charge until at least 80% — that’s the sweet spot.
Will Battery Life Keep Improving?
The energy density of drone batteries keeps improving as technology improves. Some of the drones with the best battery life exceed half an hour in the sky without charge. But a lot of room remains for improvement. Long lasting batteries are by far the biggest issue drone pilots grapple with when flying their devices.
But the future looks bright.
Batteries are becoming more efficient and drones are now able to do many complex moves in the air without much cost in terms of power. Drones are becoming more capable of carrying heavier payloads, and all that is thanks to improving battery capacities.
Hopefully that trend continues and pilots can look forward to more time spent flying their drones rather than charging their drone batteries.