Drone Batteries: Which One Do I Need?

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The buzzword today is “drone”. Of all the gadgets that shined out like a superhero in shining armor in this pandemic, it has to be the drone. The drone has made its name for its utility in this era of physical distancing: from delivering supplies at humanely supersonic speed possible (read Amazon Prime Air) to delivering medicine during the contactless lockdowns.

This remotely controlled gadget has proved itself handy for ordinary folks as well, mostly for photography and videography. So, if you are planning on traveling to exotic places, you might want to pack this little gizmo as well.

Mini drones, selfie drones, and professional drones are quite popular among the consumer drones available in the market. You can buy a selfie-drone for as little as $50, which comes with standard features and average camera quality. However, a drone’s price can go up to thousands based on drone types; this can range from a fixed-wing, single rotor, and multirotor; features and quality of the camera; size, weight, and make; battery life, etc.

The Basics of Drone Batteries

The type of drone battery you use is a significant aspect of the entire experience, whether you want a drone for fun activities or for real work. Most consumer drones come with Li-Po (Lithium Polymer) cells. Li-Po is a rechargeable battery that uses a polymer electrolyte instead of a liquid one making it lighter than other conventional Li-ion cells.

Weight is an important factor for the drone battery as it provides better energy to weight ratio for the flight. Li-Po batteries are the safest choice for consumer drones as they provide higher specific energy and give longer run times. The battery’s capacity is measured in mAh (milliamp hours), referring to the per hour current drawing capacity before it completely runs out.

The voltage range of a single Li-Po battery starts at 3.7V and goes up to 4.2V, while its cut off voltage is 3.0V. Thus, the capacity of the drone battery also depends on how many cells are used.

The reason voltage is vital for the drone battery is that it hugely impacts the Kv ratings (the motor’s constant velocity). The Kv is measured by the number of revolutions per minute (rpm) that a motor turns when 1V (one volt) is applied.

What does this mean?
It means that a battery’s voltage provides crucial information on the drone’s motor speed; higher voltage batteries give higher Kv ratings.

Drones and Battery Life

The capacity of the drone battery determines the battery life of a drone. And as discussed above, the drone battery capacity is measured in mAh. In the table below, there is a rough estimate of a drone’s flight time based on the drone battery’s power.

Battery Capacity (mAh)Flight Time (minutes)
< 2005
200 – 7005 – 8
700 – 15008 – 10
1500 – 300010 – 15
3000 – 400015 – 20
4000 – 700020 – 25
7000 – 1000025 – 32
10000 – 2000032 – 48
> 2000048 – 60

As you can see, the higher the capacity, the longer the drone can remain airborne. However, you do not have to rely only on the drone battery and its ability alone. You may be able to add or reduce the length of your drone’s flight time by considering other factors like weather conditions, size, and weight of the drone.

  • Weight: Weight is an essential factor, especially for any flying activity. The projected flight time of the drone could be based on the drone alone. However, adding a camera or other protective gear to your drone can make your craft heavier and thus reduce its time in air.
  • Size: Just like the weight, a drone’s size can manipulate the flight time. A larger size means more surface area for wind resistance, which means the battery needs to work harder to fight the wind. One thing you can do to mitigate this issue is to experiment with smaller propellers, as opposed to the ones that come with the drone.
  • Weather conditions: If it’s windy, your drone will lose power quicker as it has to fight against the wind current. Therefore, choosing to fly on a less windy day could be beneficial for you as well as your drone.

Replacement or Extra Drone Batteries

Getting your hands on your prized drone is not the end of your drone adventure; instead, it is the beginning. Your drone package comes with an assortment of materials that you will enjoy putting together (with an occasional peek at the manual) and finally taking it out for a run or rather a flight.

Fortunately, you can move on from the set pieces and customize as you become more experienced with your drone trials and errors. You can upgrade certain features to your liking, and when it comes to drone batteries, you can do better there too.

Drone batteries can be a significant concern as it is a major decisive factor for all things drone, but the good news is you do not have to stay faithful to the battery pack it comes with. Depending on your requirements and the drone specs, you can replace the battery or increase the battery capacity by adding more cells.

However, before buying that extra cell, you must ensure the new battery is compatible with your drone, and most importantly, you cannot ignore the voltage. Also, do calculate the cells’ weight if you are planning on adding extra cells to your battery. If not, instead of adding, you might end up reducing not only your flight time but your bank balance as well.

Finally, if replacing the drone battery or adding cells does not sound appealing enough, you could buy extra batteries and keep them as a backup. These extra batteries may not lengthen the time on-air, but you can have a few additional rounds of back to back flights. Since it takes time to charge the battery, having the extra pack can extend your aggregate flight time.

Categorizing Drones and Drone Batteries

We must now learn to identify the different types of consumer drones available to understand drone batteries better. The drone battery depends on the drone’s size; the bigger the drone, the bigger its batteries.

You have to keep in mind the drone’s battery capacity based on how you wish to use your drone, how long you want to fly it for and how high you want it to travel. So, choosing a drone is also like choosing a drone battery; after all, the drone battery gives your drone its life.

Nano/ Mini Quadcopters

As the name suggests, these drones are tiny in size and can easily fit inside the palm of an adult. Small and light, this drone can be ideal if you want to begin exploring all things drone and learn the basics of maneuvering a drone.

Since it is a basic drone, it won’t cost you a lot compared to other advanced drones in the market. The Holy Stone HS170 Predator Mini RC Helicopter Drone is an example of a mini quadcopter. It comes with a 3.7V 350mAh Li-ion battery, which allows for a short 6-8 minutes flight. After the flight, you can charge it for 45-60 minutes (under current input 0.5A-1A) before practicing flying it again.

Selfie Drones

Who says drones are only for the geeks? Selfie drones have cameras, and depending on how much you are ready to invest in this gadget, you may find one with fantastic picture quality. The creative artist in you can have a great time capturing expansive pictures and videos.

For example, the DJI Mini 2 is light and small (around 5.5 inches when folded) to carry around and capture 12MP pictures and 4K/30 fps videos. It has a powerful 3.7V 5200 mAh Li-Po battery, which provides for a little more than a half-hour flight for you to capture selfies like never before, and take pictures and videos from up above. 

Surveillance Drones

Though you and I may not choose to buy these drones, these are extremely handy drones, especially for rescue operations or surveying and inspecting. These drones are equipped with features necessary for search-and-rescue and other crucial services.

The Parrot ANAFI USA is a surveillance drone. It is equipped with two 21-megapixel cameras allowing a 32x zoom, along with 4K HDR video and thermal imaging capabilities, the first of its kind in the industry. It packs a high-density Li-Po battery (4.4V cells) with 3400 mAh capacity, allowing for a 32 minute flight. The drone comes with 3-battery packs, increasing the drone battery life to an hour and a half flight time.

Last But Not Least

As with all electronic gadgets, follow safety protocols, especially for charging your drone battery. As most drones come with Li-Po batteries, it adds the risk of fire due to its sensitive chemistry, especially if the battery is punctured. Therefore, you must take necessary precautions while charging, discharging, and storing these batteries.

While charging: do not leave the battery charging unattended. Also, assess the drone battery using the appropriate charging stations (that may have come with the set).

While discharging: you can discharge the drone battery by flying your drone until the battery is depleted.

While storing: you must ensure that the batteries are stored in a place away from direct sunlight. Make sure the temperature does not rise above 82° F (or 28° C), where your drone battery is stored.

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Jeremiah Burnett

What started as a gift for my two sons turned into a major hobby for me! After playing with my sons' quadcopter one winter afternoon, I quickly became obsessed with all things drone. I enjoy precision flying, creating stunning and smooth aerial videos, and taking beautiful photos of my hometown.

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