The batteries powering up your drone are just like the gas in your car, and when it runs out, you’ll have a hard time going anywhere.
Choosing the right batteries to suit your quadcopter and understanding how to get the most use out of them is all part of being a successful drone pilot, and with the right choice, you’ll get the optimum time in the sky.
How do you know which batteries are right for your drone and is there really a difference?
Depending on the model and power capabilities, a drone will take different sizes of battery, but they will usually be electric or rechargeable ones. These batteries have a specified running time, and as the operator of the drone, you’re responsible for monitoring this to ensure you will land safely back on the ground before the power runs out.
This guide can show you the ins and outs of drone batteries, how to know which one to pick, and what factors affect their running time.
The goal is to get the most use possible out of the batteries and stay in the air as long as you can, so with a little background knowledge, you’ll be able to achieve just that.
Are All Drones Powered By Batteries?
For the most part, all recreational and hobby drones are powered by batteries.
As a craft, they need something portable that allows them to fly without attachments, and also a lightweight option that won’t weigh the entire device down.
Most drones are powered by electric batteries so there’s no need to buy a new set every time they run out.
A drone might come with its own charger and battery pack, or you’ll have to purchase it separately, and you can recharge them when they run out.
There are different options for the type of battery, but this will usually be determined by the manufacturer when they make the drone.
Some larger drones are powered by gas, but these are generally reserved for commercial use.
Filmmakers and industrial work that requires heavy lifting might use a gas powered drone because they’re capable of carrying big loads and don’t require recharging, but for hobbyists and recreational pilots, the battery is the best option.
What Kind Of Batteries Do Drones Use?
There are three common types of batteries used in drones: LiPo, NiMH, and NiCd.
When you purchase a drone, it will usually come with batteries already installed.
You may be able to upgrade them to another type or larger capacity, but this isn’t always possible as it can add too much weight or simply not fit on the device.
The battery you choose will have a huge impact on its life, charging time, energy transfer rate, and lifespan, so it’s important to choose one with enough power. These are your main options for consideration:
LiPo Or Lithium Polymer
These batteries are found in general electronics like laptops and smartphones.
They’re usually capable of holding more power, are lightweight, and can transfer energy faster.
However, they require extra care to prevent damage and also have a shorter lifespan.
NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) And NiCd (Nickel-Cadmium)
These alternatives to LiPo batteries.
They’re usually cheaper and reliable, but are prone to losing charge capacity and need to be used frequently otherwise they lose their power.
These used to be standard in RC toys and are still found in cheaper drones, but people mostly prefer LiPo.
How Long Should Batteries Last In A Drone?
A drone will usually come equipped with a battery pack and the manufacturer can give some indication of how long a single charge will be.
Depending on the quality of the drone and the battery within it, you can expect one battery to last between 7-10 minutes in an average drone. Higher end models might offer up to 20 minutes of charge time, but these can cost upwards of $700.
It’s important to keep in mind that in addition to the battery charge time, the battery itself will also have an expiration date.
A LiPo battery can last 300-400 cycles before it needs to be replaced, whereas a NiMH or NiCd battery can be recharged between 600-1000 times, depending on its voltage.
You’ll need to constantly monitor the health of the battery to see when it’s time to replace it so that you’re getting the most out of a single charge.
How The Weight Affects A Drone’s Battery Life
As the battery size of a drone goes up in size, so does its weight.
Drones are designed to be as lightweight as possible to allow them to achieve flight, but that doesn’t always mean you can install a bigger battery and you’ll get a better flying drone.
The most common size of battery used for racing copters and those built for speed are 4S LiPo because they have the perfect balance of power and weight.
However, you do have to consider the size of your drone and what it’s capable of carrying. Using a higher capacity battery that it’s not built for will ultimately result in poor flying performance and potential damage to the motor.
What Factors That Can Impact The Battery Life Of Your Drone?
To get the most out of your drone’s battery, you should know about the factors that affect it.
There are some things to keep in mind as you’re flying that will give you the maximum time in the air possible from a single charge, and hopefully prolong the life of the drone itself.
- Wind: Attempting to fly in windy conditions requires extra power and will significantly reduce your time in the air.
- Camera: If you don’t need the camera, turn it off or remove it if possible. It drains the battery quickly and can add weight to the drone.
- Draining the battery: Using the battery until it runs out of power completely before recharging it might have consequences on how long it lasts next time.
- Excess weight: Drones are made specifically to match their batteries so adding weight by upgrading the battery size or adding other extras might drain it quicker.
- Too much power: Avoid high-speed settings or powering up too much on the throttle if you want to save battery life. This will only cause you to burn through the limited energy that you have in a much shorter time.
The drone’s battery is responsible for giving it life, so understanding the basics of how to make them last longer and which ones to shop for is essential.
These are some commonly asked questions about drones and their batteries that will help you choose the right one.
What Is The Mah Of A Battery?
The mAh or milliampere hour is the capacity of the battery itself and indicates how much power it can hold.
The higher the mAh, the longer the drone’s battery life will be, but other factors can impact this time as well.
How Much Does It Cost To Replace The Drone’s Battery?
There will come a time when the battery of your drone expires completely, and you will need to weigh up the cost of a replacement battery to buying a new drone.
As a general rule, batteries can cost around 20 percent of the total cost of the copter so it will depend on what’s within your budget.
Can I Upgrade My NiMH Battery to a LiPo? Generally speaking, you should only replace the battery in a drone with the same type of battery that it’s designed for.
If the batteries are both NiMH or LiPo then it will be okay to replace it with a higher capacity one, but they are not interchangeable.