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How High can a Drone Fly?

With drone popularity soaring to new heights, the question of how high a drone actually can fly is popping up everywhere. 

Flying along high above the trees is a lot of fun, and makes for some great pictures. Flying high also lets you fly a lot further and get a better signal from your drone. 

There are some different legal and physical limitations to high a drone can fly, so if you’re planning on flying your drone as high as possible, make sure to stick around to avoid legal trouble or even losing your drone!

How High Can a Drone Legally Fly?

If a drone flies too high, it can get into the path of aircraft and cause a lot of damage or even death to the passengers.

To prevent this from happening, the FAA made it illegal to fly any higher than 400 feet above the ground, because the lowest most manned aircraft will ever go is 500 feet. 

There are some exceptions, such as being able to fly 400 feet above and around any structure, but we’ll save these exceptions for a different article. 

How to Keep from Flying above 400 Feet

It’s really easy to accidentally fly higher than 400 feet because drones can gain height quickly. 

It’s also really easy to prevent them from flying higher than 400 feet. On camera drones, you can set a height limit so it will stop itself from going higher. 

For custom FPV drone pilots, setting a height limit is hard to do, but setting an alarm once you pass a certain height is a lot easier. I set my height alarm at 350 feet, so I know to start slowing down before I go past 400 feet.

What Keeps a Drone From Flying Super High?

The main limitation that keeps drones from flying as high as they want is the atmospheric pressure.

The higher in the sky the drone is, the thinner the air becomes and the propellers eventually can’t generate enough force to keep the drone in the sky.

Another limitation is the battery life of a drone. Flying thousands of feet high takes a lot of battery, and usually takes about a half-hour as well.

How High Can a Drone Possibly Fly?

Drones are extremely capable machines, and 400 feet high is nothing for them.

How High Can a Custom Drone Fly?

It’s easier to go higher in a custom drone because they can be built specifically to go as high as possible with high RPM motors, and big propellers.

The highest recorded flight is 10 thousand meters high, or 33 thousand feet high and this is generally seen as the maximum height possible for a custom drone.

That’s higher than most commercial planes!

How High Can a DJI Drone Fly?

DJI drones are designed to have the longest flight times possible and carry a camera really well so they can’t fly quite as high as custom-built drones.

For DJI’s high-end drones like the Phantom 4 Pro and the Mavic 3, they can still reach a maximum height of 19,600 feet. That’s still super high!

What Does a Drone See from High in the Sky?

As you go higher and higher in a drone, you can see a lot more.

Here’s a photo that was taken at 400 feet high. You can see a lot of the coastline, out into the ocean, and into the pasture on the left side.

When you compare that to the picture below that was taken at 200 feet, you can only see half of the coastline, and none of the pasture is visible.

Above 10,000 feet, clouds usually start to form and a drone will only be able to see the landscape and cloud cover.

Can you See or Hear a Drone at 400 Feet High?

At 400 feet high, you’ll still be able to see any drone flying over. 400 feet high isn’t high enough so that a drone would appear too small for the human eye to see.

If it was really quiet though, a drone flying at 400 feet would be hard to spot.

From personal experience, if there’s any wind at all I can’t hear my DJI Mini 2 at 400 feet high. If it’s completely still though, I can hear it.

The DJI Mini 2 is so quiet because it’s super light. All of the other drones I’ve flown at 400 feet high have had a distinctive drone noise, unless it’s so windy that the wind noise drowns out everything else.

Final Thoughts

The most important thing to remember if you’re flying a drone high is not to go over 400 feet!

Drones could fly to space if it wasn’t for thin air and battery life, which are the main two things that limit their flight height.

I’ve personally never needed to fly above 400 feet. It would be fun the first couple of times, but it would quickly lose its intrigue.

Comment down below and let us know how high you’ve flown your drone!

Happy flying!