When I’m flying my drone high in the sky and having a great time, the last thing I want to do is run out of battery and have to land.
In fact, everybody drone owner wants their drone battery to last longer!
Understanding what actually impacts how long a drone battery lasts will help you get longer flight times, and be a better drone pilot.
Here’s everything you need to know about how long a drone battery lasts, and how to get longer flight times from your drone battery.
Four Main Factors that Impact How Long a Drone Battery Lasts
A drone is a very complicated machine, so there are many different things that impact how long the battery can last.
Thankfully, most of these things fall into the four different categories that I explain below, and it’s pretty easy to understand!
Weight of the Drone
The weight of a drone has a direct impact on its flight time.
For the drone to fly, the motors have to lift up just as much as the drone’s weight is pulling down.
Let’s say a one-pound drone’s battery lasts 10 minutes. If we strap another pound onto the drone so it now weighs 2 pounds, the drone has to do twice as much work to hover, and the battery will last about 5 minutes, or half as long.
Capacity of the Battery
The capacity of the battery is another thing that has a direct impact on how long a drone battery will last.
If two identical drones could weigh the same, but one could have twice as much battery capacity, the battery would last twice as long.
Sadly, the more capacity a battery has, the more it weighs. The more the drone weighs, the less flight time it has, so there’s usually a sweet spot of battery capacity that allows for the most flight time with the least amount of weight.
For example (image below), a one-pound drone with a 10Wh battery can fly for 10 minutes. If the battery capacity was tripled to 30Wh without changing the weight of the drone, it could fly for 30 minutes.
However, if tripling the battery capacity to 30Wh doubles the weight, the added cuts the flight time in half, down to 15 minutes.
In the example, even though the battery has three times as much energy, the flight time only increases by 1.5 because of the added weight.
Efficiency of the Drone
The efficiency of a drone is the trickiest factor in how long a drone battery is going to last.
There are so many factors that go into how efficient a drone is (wire resistance, motor efficiency, optimal rpm, prop size and pitch, frame aerodynamics, speed, etc) that it’s really hard to get a very efficient drone without lots of engineering and testing.
The easiest way to think about the efficiency of drones is to compare them to cars. A Toyota Prius is going to be more efficient (58mpg) than a lifted truck (15mpg).
The Prius is aerodynamic, doesn’t have a lot of extra weight, and isn’t very powerful. On five gallons of gas, it could last four times longer than the truck. The same basic concepts apply to drones.
The two main environmental impacts on how long a drone battery lasts are the wind and low temperatures.
Drones don’t have the same friction against the ground that cars have, so instead, they have to actively fight a wind from any direction and use more battery power.
Low temperatures don’t make drones use more power, but instead, make the batteries perform worse. A drone battery isn’t going to last as long in cold temperatures and will struggle to generate power.
How to get Longer Flight Times from your Drone Battery
Now that we know the four factors that impact how long a drone battery will last, we can use that information to get longer flight times!
I personally use and experiment with all these methods to make my drone flights last longer, and can say that they definitely work well.
Take Off Unnecessary Weight
Any weight that you can take off your drone is going to make it fly longer.
Landing gear tends to be big and bulky, so if you feel comfortable landing your drone without it, definitely take the landing gear off!
A lot of drones come with propeller guards, and even though they don’t add much weight, they impact the efficiency badly and will help increase your flight time if you take them off.
Fly in a Slower Mode
The faster you fly your drone, the faster your battery is going to die.
Most camera drones have a cinematic, normal, and sport mode. Flying in sport mode uses a lot more power, and you might even see twice as much flight time just by switching to normal mode and going a bit slower.
Pick the Right Flying Conditions
This might sound silly, but if you want your drone battery to last longer, wait for the wind to die down a little.
Not only will your drone be easier to fly, but you’ll get better footage and a lot longer flight!
Upgrade your Drone Battery
A really easy way to get longer flight times is to get a bigger battery with more capacity. There are some third-party upgrades for DJI batteries that will give you longer flight times, but it’s recommended to stick to the DJI batteries to keep your drone from getting damaged.
Switching to a lithium-ion battery instead of the normal LiPo batteries used in drones will also give you more capacity at the same weight, at a tradeoff of less horsepower.
Switch your Drone Propellers
Not all propellers are created equal. The propellers are the “gears” of a drone, and different propellers are made for speed, slow-flying, or efficiency.
Just switching to a different propeller on the DJI Mavic Air can give the drone a 14% longer flight time!
Bring Extra Batteries
Yes, it’s cliche, but one of the easiest ways to get more flying time out of your drone is to buy an extra battery and charge it ahead of time.
Drone Batteries Degrading
Drone batteries get worse over time, like it or not. All LiPo batteries degrade over time, and after 150-300 flights a drone battery will have a noticeable decrease in flight time.
If you’ve noticed your batteries aren’t lasting as long, maybe it’s time for a new set.
How Long Should I Expect my Drone Battery to Last?
In perfect conditions, most DJI drones will last about 20-25 minutes.
The budget Spark model has a flight time of 15 minutes, while newer models like the DJI Mavic 3 have a flight time of over half an hour!
For a normal FPV drone, about 5-10 minutes of flight time can be expected.
It can be tempting to fly your drone battery down to 0% to get the most flight time, but this actually makes your batteries degrade a lot faster. It’s recommended to land at about 20% for the best battery health.
My personal record for my longest flight time is 25 minutes with my DJI Mini 2.
I’ve built custom drones (image below) and have tried to make them have super long flight times, but it’s hard to match DJI’s amazing drones.
Comment below with any questions, and let us know how long you’ve got your battery to last! Happy flying!