Like most flyers, you’re probably frustrated by the short flight times of RC drones. Don’t worry – we’re frustrated too. The average flight time for a beginner quadcopter is only about seven minutes. Even expensive models can’t seem to break the 25-minute mark. Despite these limitations, there are a few things that you can do to extend drone battery life in your own quadcopter. In the following sections, we’re going to show you 10 tips, tricks, and strategies that can help keep you in the air longer.
What Factors Affect Drone Battery Life?
The average flight time for a beginner quadcopter today is about seven minutes. Models like the Syma X5C and the UDI U818A are perfect examples. Obviously, there are a variety of factors that can negatively impact a drone’s flight time. These include things like wind, weight, flight style, and whether or not you’re recording. For example, when flying in heavier breezes, you’ll find that your average flight time will decrease significantly compared to flying in calmer conditions. Likewise, if you’re flying with added weight (like a camera or prop guards), or flying aggressively, then this too can decrease your drone battery life.
Tip #10: Get a Bigger Battery
Lithium Polymer (Li-Po) Batteries have become the universal power source for RC drones today. Why are they preferred over traditional batteries? Because they’re lightweight and have high discharge rates (can store/release a lot of energy).
As you can imagine, they range dramatically in size: the world’s smallest quadcopter, the Cheerson CX-10, is powered by a relatively small 100mAh battery. Likewise, the much-larger Syma X8C is powered by a massive 2,000mAh battery. Generally speaking, bigger batteries do correlate with higher drone battery life.
Tip #9: Remove the Camera (if Applicable)
Did you know that some drone cameras are detachable? If you want extra drone battery life, I’d highly recommend removing them. Although they may not look heavy, cameras can definitely put strain on a drone’s battery. It’s also important to note that the camera links directly to the drone’s battery. So, when you’re recording, you’re basically using up energy way faster than normal. Unfortunately, this tip only applies to quadcopters that have detachable cameras (it wouldn’t work on something like the Hubsan X4 H107C).
Tip #8: Know When to Charge Your Battery
Timing is very important for increasing drone battery life. For getting the best flight time possible, charge your drone’s battery right before you’re about to use it. “Freshly” charged batteries usually perform better than ones charged several days beforehand. Similarly, if you’re not going to fly your quadcopter anytime soon, don’t fully charge the battery. Instead, charge it only 60% of the way and store it in a safe place. Then, when you’re ready to fly, finish charging it to maximum capacity.
Tip #7: Don’t Fight the Elements
First and foremost, flying a drone in strong wind is dangerous. One mishap could send your quadcopter spiraling down into a home, or worse, a person. But even when dangers like these aren’t present, flying in strong wind is still really bad for your drone battery life. When you fly your quadcopter in strong wind, you’re basically forcing the motors to produce more thrust just to maintain a hover. And guess what? Thrust requires energy! If you can help it, try to fly on days when wind conditions are reasonably low, or even better, just fly indoors.
Tip #6: Choose a Conservative Flight Mode
Nearly all RC drones come with various “Flight Modes” that you can adjust based on how aggressively you want to fly. To fly more aggressively, simply increase transmitter sensitivity, and to fly more conservatively, just decrease transmitter sensitivity. As you can imagine, flight modes with a higher sensitivity will consume energy faster than flight modes with a lower sensitivity. The good news is that changing flight modes is as easy as pushing a button on your transmitter (controller). This is an often overlooked tip for increasing drone battery life that you can begin using as early as today!
Tip #5: Don’t Overcharge Your Battery
Li-Po batteries are incredibly volatile. If you leave them charging for too long, it’s possible they can explode and cause a fire. Not only is overcharging potentially dangerous, but it’s also really bad for your drone battery life. Take note that in 2010, two crewman were killed onboard a UPS flight carrying a shipment of lithium batteries. The batteries spontaneously ignited, proving that, if you don’t properly handle lithium batteries, they can be extremely dangerous.
Tip #4: Take the DIY Approach
Don’t worry – it’s not as difficult as you might think. There’s a wealth of information available online that can walk you step-by-step through everything.
If you’re going to take the DIY approach, I’d recommend reading my article on how to build a drone. It should, at a minimum, teach the fundamentals and help you get started. Also be sure to check out the following resources:
- RCGroups.com: Established in 1995, RC Groups will help you connect with like-minded quadcopter enthusiasts. Not only can you learn about drones and how they work, but you can also have all of your DIY-related questions answered by experienced flyers.
- DIYDrones.com: This online community is dedicated to teaching newbies everything they need to know about building a quadcopter for the first time. From what I’ve seen, everyone on the site is friendly, open, and helpful. Sign up and ask away!
- MultiRotorForums.com: Another great resource for learning how to build your own quadcopter from scratch. On any given day, you’ll find thousands of hobbyists sharing their tips, advice, and building strategies absolutely free. There’s also an “Events” section where you can get the latest on local and regional drone events happening near you!
Tip #3: Cheat: Buy Extra Batteries!
By far one of the most common ways that flyers are fighting back against short flight times is by purchasing extra batteries. This tip doesn’t necessarily increase drone battery life, but it does allow you to stay in the air longer. This tip only works on drones that have easily accessible batteries (X8C, X5SW, etc.). It wouldn’t, for example, work on the UDI U839. Generally, spare batteries are quite cheap (around $5 each), and can be purchased on sites like:
Tip #2: Remove Prop Guards
The “Prop Guard” is the thing that wraps around your propellers to protect them. Unfortunately, they’re a double-edged sword: while prop guards offer great fortification, they can also weigh down your quadcopter and decrease drone battery life. Still, I wouldn’t recommend removing them until you’re comfortable behind the controls. Potentially damaging your propellers just isn’t worth the extra minute or two of flight time.
Tip #1: Don’t Allow Your Battery to Completely Drain Itself
Our last drone battery life extension tip is this: don’t allow your battery to completely drain itself during flight. Each time that you do this, you slowly wear down the lifespan of the battery. It’s recommend that you fly your quadcopter with no less than 20% battery capacity. Once it dips to 20%, stop flying, give the battery a few minutes to cool down, and then charge it back up to maximum capacity. Disciplined battery practices like this can definitely go a long way towards helping you achieve longer flight times.
Remember that these drone battery life extension tips can only do so much. It would be unrealistic to think that you can double your drone’s flight time from seven minutes to 14 minutes simply by applying what you learned above. With that said, these tips do work, and should help you squeeze every second you can out of your drone’s flight time, whatever that may be. Good luck, and if you have any tips, tricks, or strategies for extending your drone’s battery life, feel free to share them in the comment box below.