Drones would not be able to function without their source of power. This source can vary depending on the type of drone. In this article, we will be discussing drone batteries in particular.
So, how long does a drone battery last?
Typical drone flight times last anywhere from 5 minutes for toy drones to over 30 minutes for high-quality drones. The life expectancy of most drone batteries is between 100-200 charge cycles before it becomes a possible risk for the user and the drone. These numbers will depend on the way in which the battery is used, stored and recharged.
Below we’ll go into both the flight times and average battery lifespans of each, we’ll briefly go into the different kinds of drone batteries, we’ll talk about why drones have such short flight times, how to increase these flight times and more.
This article will include both the life expectancy (how many times a drone’s battery can be used and recharged before it needs replacement) and the flight times of different kinds of drones.
- Consumer And Commercial Drone Flight Times
- Consumer And Commercial Drone Battery Life Expectancy?
- What Types Of Drone Batteries Are There?
- Why Do Drones Have Such Short Flight Times?
- How Can You Increase Your Drone’s Flight Time?
- Do Drone Batteries Go Bad? (Average Life Expectancy)
- How Can You Increase Your Drone Battery’s Life Expectancy?
- What Are Some Examples Of Drone Batteries?
- Which Drones Have The Longest Flight Times?
- How Long Does It Take To Charge A Drone Battery?
Consumer And Commercial Drone Flight Times
Consumer drone (hobby/recreational drone) and commercial drone (professional drone) flight times can vary greatly depending on factors such as weight or the drone’s payload capabilities (more on this later).
Here is the average flight times for both consumer and commercial drones:
High-quality consumer and commercial drones have average flight times of between 20-30 minutes. Medium quality drones have average flight times of between 10-15 minutes. Low-quality drones have flight times of between 3-7 minutes. Some professional drones are built to reach flight times of 30 minutes up to an hour.
If you would like to get a general idea on the price range of a cheap and an expensive drone, check out our post where we dive into just that. Additionally, we talk about how good cheap and expensive drones are, how long they can fly, the main differences and more.
Consumer And Commercial Drone Battery Life Expectancy?
Most consumer and commercial drones are battery powered. This enables them to be more portable and gives them the ability to be improved in terms of performance.
Drone pilots can purchase lighter batteries if they want better control over their drones, however the trade off is a reduction in battery capacity. There are specific batteries with more cells for different results in power and capacity (more on this later).
Here is the average battery life expectancy for both consumer and commercial drones:
Consumer and commercial drones have an average battery life expectancy of between 100-200 charge cycles. Most manufacturers state that their drone’s batteries can last 2-3 years. This will only apply to you if you drain and recharge your drone’s battery around 3 times every week and you know how to properly take care of a drone battery.
If you’d like to learn all about consumer drones, we have a full post on this topic!
Take note that drone batteries that are referred to as smart drone batteries are rechargeable and are equipped with a built-in battery management systems.
What Types Of Drone Batteries Are There?
It’s important to get a general understanding of the different types of drone batteries out there as the type of battery used in a drone is one of the main factors that will affect your drone’s overall flight time.
Here are some of the different types of drone batteries:
- Nickel Cadmium
- Lithium High Voltage
Below is a very quick rundown of the different types of drone batteries including the different chemistry types.
Lithium-Polymer (LiPo) drone batteries
LiPo drone batteries are one of the most popular types of batteries used in most drones today.
These batteries have very linear discharge rates allowing for the on-board computers to determine the flight time of the drone much easier.
They have a high energy density with a small size and weight which means they have a large capacity and are small and lightweight.
These batteries can also hold a charge for much longer (slower discharge rates) when they’re not in use which allows them to be left without being used for longer periods of time.
Take note that LiPo drone batteries cannot handle cold weather very well.
These batteries come sold in packs with different numbers of cells which range from 1S to 6S. Each digit represents the number of cells.
The more cells, the higher the amount of voltage allowing for the motors to spin at higher speed/RPM.
Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) drone batteries
NiCd drone batteries are the old types of batteries used before LiPo batteries in drones.
These NiCd batteries are not able to release as much energy as fast as the LiPo batteries, they are unable to store large amounts of energy (low capacity), and they also have shorter life expectancies.
They are also heavier than LiPo batteries which further contributes to a faster loss of energy.
Lithium High Voltage (LiHv) drone batteries
LiHv drone batteries have slightly higher fully charged capacities of 4.35V per cell compared to LiPo batteries that only have a fully charged voltage of 4.2V.
These batteries provide more initial power but can drop quickly in voltage when discharged. LiPo batteries have a more linear discharge which is much more beneficial.
They are most commonly used in nano drones for the added performance because of their high voltage.
Below is a type of drone battery that is not based on the chemistry of the drone:
Brand-specific drone batteries
It’s important to note that not all drones can be fitted with any old aftermarket drone battery. Some drone manufacturers such as DJI often produce their own batteries for their drones.
These drones, when fitted with aftermarket batteries, can show warnings and may not fly altogether.
However, this is not the case for all drones, even with some DJI drones. The connector that connects the drone’s battery to the drone itself may also be specific to certain brands and this may stop you from being able to install an aftermarket drone battery to the drone.
If you’d like to discover what some of the best drone companies are in the world and some fun facts about them, we have a full post on this topic below:
Why Do Drones Have Such Short Flight Times?
Drones have such short flight times for a variety of reasons including external factors such as weather. If you find yourself wondering why this may be the case, we’ve got you covered.
Here are the reasons drones have short flight times:
- Drone battery limitations
- Weight of the drone
- Weather conditions
- Power consumption of the drone
Drone battery limitations
Batteries can come in many different shapes and sizes and are all made to fit specific types of drones.
If you’d like to learn more on the different types of drones including the types according to design, payload, range, power source and use cases including some examples of both consumer, commercial and military drones, then check out our full post below:
Understanding the battery limitations is essential when trying to learn why drones have short flight times.
Drone batteries are primarily limited to their capacity. Different types of drone batteries do not all hold the same maximum capacity of energy.
This makes it difficult for drones to fly for long periods of time as they simply don’t have enough power to do so.
The weight of the drone battery is another big factor that ties directly to flight time. If the battery is heavier, it will need to consume more power just to keep both itself and the drone in the air.
They are also limited in terms of life expectancy. This reduces flight times as once these batteries reach a certain point, they won’t be able to store as much energy as they once did which leads to short flight times.
Things can become more dangerous when the batteries no longer hold sufficient charge, this is why it is very important to replace the drone’s battery at around 100 charge cycles or when the maximum capacity the battery can hold is only at 80% from it’s original capacity (more on this below).
The deep discharge abilities of the drone battery is another important factor that impacts how long a drone can fly. The deeper these batteries can discharge, the longer the drone will be able to fly.
These limitations are the reason so many high-tech professional drones use alternative fuel sources to power their unmanned aerial vehicles such as solar power or gasoline.
The final factor to look at is the discharge rate of the drone battery, represented by a number followed by a ‘C’ labelled on the front side of the battery itself.
The discharge rate impacts how much energy is consumed at different throttle inputs. A high C rating will lead to less throttle input in order for the drone to hover and vice versa.
Take note that a higher C rating means that the battery will be heavier than a lower one.
Weight of the drone
As you may already know, weight is one of, if not the primary factor that influences flight time for any kind of drone. This is why so many drone manufacturers and hobbyists work to create the most efficient lightweight designs.
Additional payloads (add-ons) such as heavy cameras, gimbals and prop guards for example can greatly increase the overall weight of a drone.
If you’d like to find out what a drone gimbal is, what kinds of drone gimbals are available, whether drones need gimbals, how a drone gimbal works, how to choose the right gimbal, how much they cost and much more, check out our post on this topic below:
Additional things such as the material the drone is made out of and components that lie within contribute to weighing down a drone.
We do not recommend taking apart and modifying a drone without extensive research on the particular model you are trying to modify.
The weather outside is not something that should be overlooked when you plan on using your drone. Most drones are popularised not only for their speed and flight times, but also for their stability.
The stability of a drone is especially important for any kind of drone that is meant to be capable of taking steady footage while in flight.
Heavy winds can negatively impact your drones stability and can increase the chance of you crashing your drone.
It should be obvious that you should not operate your drone in heavy rain or snow as well. These conditions not only increase the chance of a crash but can also damage the hardware inside your drone.
Furthermore, the cold temperatures from the snow can severely damage these components.
Flying your drone on a very hot day can be a very bad idea if flown for extensive periods.
The heat, depending on how hot it is, can heat up important components such as the battery which can cause serious problems and will reduce the battery’s life expectancy.
Humidity is the final factor as it can produce moisture that gets inside the drone’s core and can damage the drone’s components.
Power consumption of the drone
It’s important to learn how much power your drone actually needs as a whole, including the power needed for every added payload.
You can measure this by using a battery with a specific maximum capacity and then timing how long it takes to drain that battery, or recording how much power was consumed after a certain period of time.
The weight of the drone and the additional payloads such as cameras, gimbals and lights all play a leading role in determining how much power a drone consumes.
How Can You Increase Your Drone’s Flight Time?
We’ve talked about the factors that affect the flight time of a drone, now let’s get into what you can do to increase that flight time.
Keep extra batteries on hand
Having and using multiple drone batteries is something most commercial drone pilots do. This is done in order to use the drone for the most amount of time possible in a single day.
We mention commercial drone pilots specifically as they rely solely on their drones and how long they can use them for to make a living.
However, this can apply to both hobbyists and professionals depending on what they need.
In a survey done by Drone U, they found that most commercial drone pilots own five drone batteries for their drone/drones.
Having extra drone batteries can be very beneficial, however, it also means that you will need to take care of that many more batteries.
Replace your drone’s battery to one with higher capacity
This part is tailored to those who plan on buying a new battery for their drone that may not be built specifically for the model of that drone.
Replacing your old drone battery with the intention to buy a more powerful one with a higher discharge rate and more capacity can be a tricky endeavour.
The propellers, motors and electronic speed controllers (ESC) are all parts of your drone that need to be compatible with the battery you choose.
Finding the correct propellers for your drone is crucial in order to ensure that your drone functions at it’s full capacity as it will need to be compatible with the power provided by the battery.
We highly recommend you check out our full detailed post on drone propellers including the different types, how they work, their different sizes and pitch, their materials, how to choose them and much more.
The motors and ESCs are also crucial parts that all work together with the battery to enable the propellers to spin.
If you’d like to learn more on the different parts of a drone, what they do, what they’re made of and some examples of popular drones and what these drones are made of, we have a full post on this topic.
Learn how to take care of your drone batteries
We’ll only briefly mention these tips as we go into more detail in the section that expands on how you can increase your drone battery’s life expectancy below.
Doing things such as unplugging your drone batteries before they’ve reached 100% capacity and charging them straight after you’ve used them while they’re still hot are just a few things that we’ll mention in the section below.
Try not to make sharp turns with your drone
Unless you have a racing or a freestyle drone, you should try not to make sharp turns that put a lot of strain on the propellers and motors.
Doing so can drastically reduce the flight time of your drone as these turns will require a lot of power consumption.
This is why many racing drone have flight times that cannot always exceed five minutes and camera drone can have flight times that exceed 20 minutes.
You obviously won’t be able to stop turning your drone but this is still something to keep in mind if you need to do this a lot.
Choose the right payloads
Furthermore, if you already have unnecessary equipment attached to your drone, then you may want to think about reducing the payload by removing them when you don’t want to use them.
As we’ve mentioned, things like heavy cameras and gimbals can add sometimes unnecessary weight.
You’ll need to plan what your intentions are for your flight so that you are prepared when you decide to go fly your drone.
Fly in the right weather conditions
We won’t repeat ourselves but the weather you decide to operate your drone in is crucial in determining how long you’ll be able to fly your drone for.
You’ll mostly need to use your best judgement before you take your drone outside to fly.
If it’s unpleasant for you, it is most likely unpleasant for your drone and it’s components too!
Here is an additional question you may want to know:
Can you use a bigger battery in your drone?
This will all depend on whether the drone itself can accept aftermarket drone batteries, whether the amount of power the battery has is compatible with what the drone needs, and whether the new battery can even fit into the drone’s battery casing.
In theory, it should be apparent that the more milliampere hour (mAh), the more flight time the drone has. However, this comes at a cost.
We’ve already mentioned the types of drones that use brand specific smart drone batteries.
These drones have processes in their software that could potentially lock the drone entirely or prevent the drone from taking off if an aftermarket drone battery is placed in it.
The power the drone needs is another very important factor to pay attention to. If your drone requires a 4S battery for example and you buy a 6S battery that is too powerful for the drone, you will most likely burn out the drone.
Finally, take note that the higher rated the drone battery is, the larger it becomes. This is because more power leads to increases in size and in weight.
You will need to be sure that the battery will be able to fit in your drone, and that it won’t weigh it down too much.
Do Drone Batteries Go Bad? (Average Life Expectancy)
Before we tell you what the average life expectancy is with most drones, it’s important to understand what we are talking about when we refer to the life expectancy of a drone battery.
The life expectancy of a drone refers to the number of times you can drain and completely recharge a drone battery (charge cycles) before the battery becomes no longer safe or effective to use as it no longer functions properly.
Now let’s get into the average life expectancy for most consumer and commercial drone batteries.
The average life expectancy for most consumer and commercial drone pilots is around 100 cycles. The factors that determine this number include things such as how and when you charge a drone battery, how often you use the drone, how you store the drone battery and more.
LiPo drone batteries are said to be capable of lasting between 100-250 charge cycles.
We recommend replacing your drone battery around 100 cycles as nobody is perfect and everyone has busy lives where they can’t always take proper care of their batteries.
You’ll be able to tell when the battery is nearing the end of it’s life span when you notice large voltage drops when the drone is in flight which slows down the RPM of the motors.
You could also aim to replace your drone’s battery when it can only hold 80% of it’s total capacity. After this point, it could become potentially dangerous to continue using this battery as when there is not enough power the drone’s systems and propellers can fail, leading to a crash.
How Can You Increase Your Drone Battery’s Life Expectancy?
Increasing the longevity of your drone’s battery is going to require small sacrifices and routine maintenance. However, if done properly and consistently, it actually isn’t that hard.
Most of the things you can do are small things that won’t require much more effort.
Here’s how you can increase your drone battery’s life expectancy:
- Deep-cycle the drone battery every so often
- Learn how to properly recharge your drone batteries
- Learn how to properly store your drone batteries
It’s very important to note that you can receive a bad battery straight out of the box. This is very frustrating as this battery will be pretty much useless and may not even last a single cycle.
Deep-cycle the drone battery every so often
If you don’t know what deep-cycling a battery is, we’ve got you covered.
Deep-cycling a drone battery is the process of discharging your drone’s battery until it is nearly completely drained and then fully re-charging it every so often. You should never completely drain a drone’s battery as it could seriously damage the drone’s battery.
For a general idea of how much you could do this, we suggest you should do it every 4 to 5 flights but that depends entirely on you and just how often you fly your drone.
You could also make it a routine to only do this on Sunday (for example) of every week if you prefer.
The more you deep-cycle the battery, the longer the batteries life expectancy will be.
You can do this by flying your drone until you completely drain it’s battery, in other words, until the drone is forced to land.
Make sure you bring the drone very close to the ground and in front of you so that you don’t damage the drone. Then you can bring it indoors and wait until it turns itself off.
Take note that you don’t want to completely drain the battery for long periods of time as it could catch fire. A good rule of thumb is to not discharge past 1.5V to be sure this does not affect you.
Learn how to properly recharge your drone batteries
Learning how to properly recharge your drone battery is another important skill that will actually increase it’s life expectancy.
Here are some tips you’ll want to think about the next time you charge your drone battery:
- Never excessively charge a drone battery after it has been fully re-charged
- Never charge a drone battery when it’s too warm (right after use)
- Don’t unplug a drone battery before it’s fully finished charging
- Always make sure that aftermarket drone battery chargers are compatible with your drone’s battery
- Don’t ever try and artificially cool down your drone battery so that you can put it to charge faster
Heat is the primary issue with LiPo drone batteries. They always tend to overheat easily. This is the main reason the first two tips we mentioned can do so much harm.
Also, take note that using aftermarket drone battery chargers could potentially damage your drone as they could overcharge your batteries if they’re not rated for your specific battery model.
Artificially cooling your drone battery means doing things such as putting your batteries in the refrigerator or using a fan for example to cool them down faster in order to put them to charge faster.
You should always wait around a half hour and make sure that they have cooled down sufficiently before doing so.
Take note that some drone batteries have blinking light in the top side indicating if they’re too hot to use. We wouldn’t recommend solely relying on this. Use your best judgement.
Learn how to properly store your drone batteries
The way in which you store your drone’s batteries is the final most important thing you need to learn to do right.
These batteries are very capable of catching fire. This is especially bad when you store them as they are not only more likely to do so, but you’ll also most likely store them in a place that you don’t see every day.
Here are some tips you’ll want to think about the next time you store away your drone batteries:
- Always store your drone batteries between 40-50% of their maximum capacity and only for relatively short periods of time
- Always store and charge your drone batteries in fire proof LiPo bags or boxes
- Only store them in cool and dry places
- Make sure they are stored in places that will not physically damage them
Storing your drone batteries at 40-50% of their maximum capacity is called the batteries storage voltage. This voltage is usually between 3.7 and 3.95 volts per cell for LiPo, LiHv and Graphene batteries.
Take note that drone batteries are most likely to catch fire when they’re charging, discharging and if the battery is physically damaged.
What Are Some Examples Of Drone Batteries?
Here are some examples of consumer and commercial drone batteries:
|Model Name||Configuration (Cell-parallel)||Capacity||Nominal Voltage||Weight|
|Gaoneng HV 80C||1S1P||520 mAh||3.8V||13g|
|Sigma XT60 45C||2S1P||2200 mAh||7.4V||131g|
|DJI Air 2 Intelligent Flight Battery||3S1P||3500 mAh||11.55V||198g|
|Tattu 45C||4S1P||3700 mAh||14.8V||360g|
Which Drones Have The Longest Flight Times?
Here are a few example of consumer and commercial drones with very long flight times:
|Drone Model||Flight Time|
|Autel Robotics Evo 2||40 minutes|
|DJI Mavic Air 2||34 minutes|
|DJI Mavic 2||31 minutes|
How Long Does It Take To Charge A Drone Battery?
For a general idea of the amount of time it takes to charge a drone battery, we would say it lasts on average between forty minutes to an hour.
This will depend on the total capacity of the drone’s battery of course.
If you have experience with this sort of thing you could buy an aftermarket drone battery charger that charges at slightly higher output (measured in amps) in order to reduce this time but this can be very dangerous if not properly done.
Drone batteries have come a long way since their older counterparts. The flight times we can achieve today are actually quite impressive.
Drone batteries should not be mistreated as they can cause serious damage.
If you follow the tips we’ve discussed in this article, you will be ensuring that your drone batteries will last as long as possible so that you make the most out of them.