How to Improve Your sUAS (Drone) LiPO Battery Life

BY Alan Perlman
1 April 2016

Note: The following is a guest post from Liz Pekler, a photographer and travel enthusiast.

drone lipo battery life

Image Source: Pixabay

According to an article published, the drone or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) allows one to take shots from unique, radical perspectives previously only possible when shot from an airplane or helicopter. This is why the drone is also considered the photographer’s eye in the sky.

With the amount of fun and discovery behind the UAV experience, however, it’s easy to overlook caring for its battery properly and checking if there is still enough juice in it to ensure that the drone returns to you safe and sound.

With your UAV running out of power in mid-air comes the risk of it landing in the most inconvenient of places (including bodies of water) and getting damaged permanently. The following are some tips on how to extend the battery life of your UAV, preventing it from running dry midway through your shoot.

Charge your battery properly.

If your UAV comes with its own charging station or charger, check if it’s efficient enough for your particular needs. Depending on the model, a 2-amp charger can take at least an hour and a half to charge your UAV’s battery. If you need an even shorter charging period, opt for a charger with a higher amp.

Make sure you are using a charger that is compatible with your UAV and has the right voltage. Most drone batteries can take only up to 4.2 volts per cell, so if you charge it past that, you risk overheating, or even igniting, your battery. Likewise, you would not want to wait too long before charging your battery because if it is consistently discharged at below 3 volts per cell, your battery may be unable to absorb future charges.

Allow your battery to return to its ideal temperature before use.

Your UAV’s battery can tolerate extreme temperatures only up to a certain extent. Using your UAV during inclement weather increases the risk of exposing its battery to moisture that can damage its battery, the engine, or both. If the UAV crashes into snow or if water accidentally gets inside it, remove the battery as soon as you can and wipe it off. Make sure that the UAV is turned off before doing this.

Once exposed to weather that is too hot or too cold, let your UAV battery cool down or warm back up to room temperature first before attempting to charge it. This is to avoid battery damage when the temperature fluctuates upon connecting to the charger. Waiting for at least double the UAV minutes flown before charging is usually ample enough time for temperature normalization.

Remove protective elements.

While protective gear such as propeller guards help in situations when your UAV is at risk of damage, the extra weight requires more power from the battery, causing it to drain faster. When you’re trying to save on power and extend flight time, your drone can do without the protection, especially if you’re flying in open spaces or are already comfortable behind the controls.

Upgrade to a higher mAh battery.

Typically, a UAV should be able to fly up to 15 minutes. If that isn’t enough for you, then it may be time for an upgrade. Many replacement batteries in the market can give better and longer-lasting performance. Just be sure to get batteries that are compatible with your UAV specifications and have the maximum mAh your model can handle.

Better battery life generally also means heavier batteries, however, so before deciding to upgrade, take the weight concerns noted in Tip # 3 into consideration, as it might actually result in a worse flight time even though it is releasing more energy.

Set your UAV to conservative flight mode.

If you’re not interested in putting your drone through aggressive twists and turns, another thing you can do to maximize your UAV’s battery life is to reduce its transmitter sensitivity by setting it to conservative flight mode. This reduces your UAV’s power consumption along with the sensitivity of your transmitter so that the power of your battery lasts longer.

Launch from the actual point where you want to shoot your pictures.

With the many flight settings that you can use with your UAV, playing around with them can be tempting. However, doing this plus launching your drone from a distant starting point can drain its battery faster. To conserve battery power, launch it from the actual point where you want to take your photo or video. If this is not possible due to the perspective or angle you want your shot taken, then try launching it from the nearest possible location to maximize flight time.

Be mindful of your flying style.

Aside from the location where you launch, the way you fly your UAV can also affect its battery life. To be safe, it is recommended that you control it gently, slowly, and in wind conditions that are fairly calm. Flying into strong wind will not only send your drone crashing into buildings or people but also forces your UAV’s motors to produce more thrust just to maintain a hover, and thrust requires power. Meanwhile, flying your UAV on high speed and making unnecessary turns is the surest way to drain your battery even before you can take your first shot.

Store your battery properly.

Just like with the batteries of other gadgets, proper storage is important. If you’re not going to fly your UAV for some time, make sure its battery isn’t fully charged. Instead, charge it only 60% of the way and remove it prior to storage to avoid leakage. Make sure that the place you are storing it in has just the right temperature (below 100 degrees F) and is completely dry to prevent moisture from seeping in. Then when you’re ready to fly your drone again, top off the battery to maximum capacity right before use.

Capturing images using a UAV should be an enjoyable experience that takes your creativity to new heights and offers interesting perspectives for sporting events, weddings, real estate, and nature. With the flexibility of UAV photography and videography, the possibilities are endless but very dynamic. Make sure you’re always on top of the action by keeping your battery well-juiced and up to speed.

Alan Perlman

Founder & CEO

Alan is an FAA-certified drone pilot and founded UAV Coach in 2014 to help connect drone enthusiasts, to provide world-class sUAS industry training courses, and to help push the drone community forward with a focus on safety and commercial opportunities.

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