Long-Range Drones: How Far Can You Fly?
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Did you know long-range drones have a longer distance transmission range and can even fly beyond their pilot’s visual line of sight?
Well, it’s true. This type of drone has been used in monitoring and surveillance, rescue missions, and terrain mapping, as it is extremely useful for operations where it is difficult or risky for people to get to. We find new and often unexpected uses for long-range drones as we think about all the ways that we can use them in different situations and circumstances.
Most consumer long-range drones are a preferred choice for adventure seekers, videographers, etc., who want to take their experience of flying a drone to the next level.
Although these drones are easy to operate, just like their basic counterparts, they are more expensive, and so you may want to train on the basic, beginner drones first and then advance to long-range drones. One reason why long-range drones tend to be more expensive is that most of them are equipped with advanced safety features along with state-of-the-art cameras to capture top quality video footage and pictures.
Once you familiarize yourself with the mechanisms and controls of long-range drones, you could upgrade some of their features even further for even better performance.
For example: if you want to clock in a longer flight time, you could add batteries; for better control range, you could upgrade the antennas. When it comes to possibilities, the sky’s quite literally the limit for long-range drones.
Features Of Long-Range Drones
Even smaller recreational drones these days come with safety features like the return to home function, which helps drones return to their operator if there is a loss of connection. However, if you want to fly your drone out of your visual line of sight for a longer period of time, it would be wiser to have some aviation knowledge for safety reasons.
Consumer drones can fly from a few hundred yards to a few miles. As a beginner, learning and training to operate these drones that fly a shorter distance can be fun and interesting. However, as time goes by, you may want to explore more and fly farther, and that is when you will need to want to start looking at long-range drones.
So, what makes a drone fly a longer distance? There are many factors like size, weight, and battery power, among other things, for a drone to be able to fly long-range. Some commercial drones, like the ones used for delivery services, even cover a few miles. Long-range drones are pricier, and therefore it is better to buy one when you have advanced as a remote pilot.
Here are some of the basic features of a drone that enable it to go long-range.
- Transmission systems: A remote pilot controls their drone from a distance via the drone’s transmission system. Long-range drones use radio waves on frequencies from 2.4 GHz to 5.8GHz to maintain wireless communication while airborne.
- Antenna: As a part of the transmission system, the drone has an antenna, and so does its remote controller. Long-range drones must have high gain and unidirectional antennas.
For example: a 2dB stock antenna on 2.4 GHz can give a drone a range of 6km, and the range can go further up in altitude by upgrading the antenna. So, when choosing a long-range drone, keep an eye on its transmission systems and antenna for better range.
- The power of the transmitter: Both the drone and the controller have a transmitter, and the power in the transmitters also is a factor in long-range flights. The range of the drone increases with the power of the transmitter but not in equal proportion. For example: when the power is doubled, the range only increases by about 40%, not 100%.
- Flight time: Another specification that affects a drone’s range is the time that it can stay airborne. You can get a rough estimate of how far your drone can fly by multiplying the drone’s flight time and flight speed.
The number can look impressive, but you must consider distance for return as well. That way, you can have an approximate idea of the distance your drone can cover based on its performance specifications. Also, you can increase the drone’s flight time by upgrading its battery power. And of course, flight time can also be affected by weather conditions.
- Unobstructed space: Open space with few obstacles between the drone and control is ideal for flying long-range drones (consider an obstacle avoidance drone if you are flying in areas with buildings, trees, or other physical impediments). Obstacles are not only about physical structures like trees and houses or weather conditions like strong winds and high heat, but obstructions may also come in the form of radio frequency interference on the same range that your drone and its controller are transmitting on.
Many drones have RFID (radio frequency identity) chips, which you can set up with the controller and your drone for an uninterrupted long-range flight.
6 Best Long-Range Drones
Any drone that flies beyond its pilot’s visual line of sight requires long-range communication ability, and so for this list, we are considering drones featuring longer transmission range distances.
Many consumer drones fit into the long-range drone category. Still, for the list below, we have tried to include drones from a variety of manufacturers instead of different models from only one manufacturer.
DJI Mavic Air 2
The Mavic Air 2 is DJI’s longest range drone featuring the next generation OcuSync 2.0 transmission system that supports dual frequency bands at 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz up to 6.2 miles (10 km) transmission.
With a maximum flight distance of approximately 11.5 miles (18.5 km), a maximum flight speed of 42 mph (68 km/h), and maximum flight time of 34 minutes, this is easily the best long-range consumer drone.
In addition, it has another amazing feature called the FocusTrack mode, which can enhance the overall flying experience. FocusTrack mode includes three intelligent tracking modes, ActiveTrack 3.0, Point of Interest (POI) 3.0, and Spotlight 2.0. This feature helps take great aerial pictures and is fantastic in identifying and avoiding obstacles.
Autel Evo II
Autel Evo II is another formidable long-range drone featuring a maximum flight time of 40 minutes at a speed of 45 mph (72.4 km/h). Its transmission power at around 2.4 GHz gives a maximum transmission range of 5.5 miles (8.8 km) between the drone and its pilot.
It also comes with a 360° obstacle avoidance feature equipped with 19 groups of sensors, including 12 visual sensors, the main camera, ultrasound, and other sensors, making every flight a safe one.
Phantom 4 Pro V2.0
Another long-range drone from DJI is the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0, which boasts a maximum flight time of up to 30 minutes and a maximum flight speed of about 45 mph (72 km/h). It also features the OcuSync 2.0, providing a maximum transmission distance of 5 miles (8 km).
It has a powerful flight performance featuring different flight modes. It also comes with other features like 5-direction obstacle sensors and a return to home (RTH) function to make the long-range flying experience a less risky one.
It has yet another advanced aerial feature called Flight Autonomy, a flight automation platform that gives pilots a real time view of its environment.
Yuneec Typhoon H3
The hexacopter Typhoon H3 is the latest drone model from Yuneec with advanced obstacle avoidance features like ultrasonic sensors and a return to home function (RTH) for a safe flight. The drone comes with a PX4-based flight Controller system, which optimizes the performance level while consuming less energy.
Another safety feature is its safe and reliable design featuring 6 rotors, which helps the drone stay stable while airborne despite changes in weather conditions. It can fly for up to 28 minutes in optimum flight conditions at a speed of 20 mph (32 km/h).
The standard drone kit also has two batteries, which can help prolong the flight time close to 90 minutes. The transmission distance reaches up to 1 mile (1.6 km) on a 2.4 GHz frequency.
Parrot ANAFI USA
Parrot’s latest release ANAFI USA takes less than a minute from unfolding the drone, turning it on, establishing a secure radio link, and taking off. It can fly for up to 32 minutes and boasts a maximum transmission range of 2.5 miles (4 km) with the Parrot Skycontroller.
It also comes with some new flight features like the FreeFlight 6 piloting software, allowing multiple easy-to-use flight options. Also, the drone allows setting up flight routes by coordinates for autonomous flights.
The Skydio 2 does everything any consumer drone can do but a little better. The drone’s AI allows the drone to fly automatically while dodging any obstacles along its way and filming the best quality videos. It can clock a 23-minute maximum flight time flying at a speed of 36 mph (58 km/h) in autonomous mode.
It can operate on the 2.4-5.8 GHz frequency bands, allowing it a transmission range of up to 2.2 miles (3.5 km). Its AI safety features make this the safest and easiest to operate long-range drone available on the market today.
Final Thoughts On Long-Range Drones
In the list above, we have selected drones from a range of manufacturers, and the main criterion is the long-range modality. Hence, we have discussed features focusing on transmission distance range, flight time and speed, and additionally, flight safety.
If you’re looking to purchase a long-range drone it can be an expensive investment. Therefore, we suggest before you buy one, practice on a cheaper beginner model that can give you the experience to work your way up to more expensive and longer range models. When you’re ready for that big investment, go over the specifications for every drone model you look at to make sure that it can fly as far as you expect to need it to and that it has the features and functionality (for instance, HD cameras, thermal sensors, etc.) to get the job done.