Tips to extend the life of your quadcopter’s battery
Without a push, no drone can take to the air. All drones need effective batteries to surge ahead.
Making sure that your quadcopter’s battery has a longer life takes some savvy. It helps to know what types of rechargeable batteries there are, and how to choose the right one for your drone. Find out how to lengthen a battery’s life, so that your quadcopter can stay in the air for longer.
Why it is important to choose the right quadcopter battery
A battery may seem like a trivial tool, but it is important to choose the right one. A good battery determines how well a drone flies.
A drone depends on its battery to move. A dynamic battery will allow it to fly well. The higher the mAh, or capacity of a battery, the more strength a quadcopter has. A trade off is that it will take a longer time to charge.
2. Flight time
Flight time is another reason you will need a powerful battery. The right battery keeps a drone in the air for longer. A drone’s flight time, of course, depends on other factors as well.
How fast you fly your quadcopter will decide how long it stays in the air. Doing fancy aerial stunts will cause it to use up more power. Wind conditions, too, decide how long it can fly. Stronger winds will make it harder for a drone to stay on course.
Size matters as well. Smaller drones, which use considerably less powerful batteries, will usually land faster.
Then, there is payload. The more a drone carries, the more strength the quadcopter exerts. This leads to higher power consumption.
A reliable battery, with proper care, will enhance the durability of your drone. Most drones use rechargeable batteries. With proper maintenance and charging, a reliable battery will allow your device to do fancy aerial stunts for longer.
Different quadcopter batteries
Most devices rely on Lithium batteries for power. There are various lithium chemistries. They are all a form of lithium-ion, which travel from a negative electrode into a positive, semi-permeable membrane to give the drone energy. The electrodes travel the other way when you recharge your drone. This is a short guide to the different types of lithium batteries available. It explains which will suit your drone best.
1. Types of quadcopter batteries
A battery’s usability depends on its chemistry (the chemicals used to make it).
a. LiCoO2 Lithium Cobalt Oxide
LiCoO2 Lithium Cobalt Oxide batteries have a large store of energy. However, they discharge power at a very low rate. They are also highly flammable.
LiCoCo2 is the most common lithium-ion. They come in a cylindrical metal can. You are probably familiar with the Energizer, Duracell, Eveready and Panasonic battery brands, which are readily available. They are not usually used in drones because they are heavier than other lithium batteries.
b. LiFePO4 Lithium Iron Phoshate
Lithium iron Phosate batteries store less energy, but are safer. They discharge power at a reasonably high rate, and have a longer lifespan. They have a faster charging time.
c. Lithium Polymer
Lithium Polymer, or LiPo batteries are flat batteries which have a normal lithium chemistry, but use polymer separators. These separators lessen their capacity, but increase their discharge rates. They have an average of 300 discharge cycles.
Note that these batteries do not last. Their energy will decrease even if they just rest. Their energy density allows them to last for a short 5 to 30 minutes between charges.
2. Which type of LiPo battery should your drone use?
Lithium Polymer batteries are often used in drones, as they are lighter. Note that they have less energy density than other types of lithium batteries. Prepare to charge them often.
Lithium iron Phonate batteries, being lighter, are commonly used to power RC transmitters. These batteries charge faster as well. Further, transmitters do not need to lift off the ground.
Choosing the right battery for your drone
How well a battery powers your drone will depend, in large part, to which battery you choose. Consider these factors before buying one.
1. Energy Density
To begin, consider a battery’s capacity, or energy store. Milli Ampere Hour, or mAh, is the unit of measurement used to show a battery’s power over time. It is a measure of how much energy a battery can store.
The higher the battery’s mAh, the larger its energy store. A 2000 mAh battery will have twice as much power as one with only 1000 mAh.
This refers to the amount of power a battery can deliver. This is its Continuous Rating, or C-Rating. In general, a battery with a low discharge rate will last longer. A 30C battery that runs at only 15C will last longer than a 30C battery which runs at 30 C.
Take a battery’s voltage into account. Most LiPo batteries have about 3.7 V per cell. A fully charged battery should have 4.2 V. Never let it fall below 3 volts.
The way to make sure of this is to use an Electronic Speed Control, or ESC. Use one that is programmable since it corresponds with the life of the battery. It should cut off the battery’s power automatically at 3V. If you do not have a programmable ESC , set it at 3.V, or slightly higher.
4. Weight and size
A battery should fit into your plane’s battery compartment and balance it. Though a powerful, energy dense battery may tempt you, it will also weigh your drone down. It may destroy your drone’s ESC as well.
5. Creating charts
One way to track a battery’s life is to use charts. Create a chart that records your battery’s Flight Time versus its C-rating, Note how long your drone stays in the air and its continuous discharge rate. You will have a rough gauge of which battery to use.
If you use your drone to transport objects, create a chart that tracks its battery capacity versus its payload. Note how much battery your drone uses with each amount it carries. Over time, you will discover the battery which has the most power relative to your drone’s payload.
What affects a battery’s life?
How long a battery lasts will depend on a few factors.
The size of the battery counts. Large batteries are more powerful, because they have larger surfaces to send current over. Their discharge power, however, is considerably less.
LiPos are best for drones, because they are light. However, they are also smaller, which gives them less power.
2. Energy density
This refers to how much energy the battery can store. Some batteries can store a large amount of energy, indicated by their mAh, though they are smaller.
As explained earlier, the chemistry of a battery affects how long it lasts. All have lithium-ion compounds. Those which use cobalt and pure lithium-ion have more power. That said, they discharge this power at lower rates.
4. Chargers and charging stations
Some drone experts feel that an in-built battery charger ( a charger built into a drone) has less power than an external charger. A few of them have suggested that charging batteries externally allows them to last three times longer.
5. Weather conditions
If you fly your drone in windy conditions, it will use up more power. The best time to fly your drone is when it is balmy, but not gusty.
How well you store your drone’s battery will decide how long it lasts. Store it at 3.8V, or 40%. You always receive batteries charged at this level, because they burn out faster if fully charged. Leave them in a cool, fireproof location, at room temperature.
Drone’s Weight And Battery Life
Does weight affect a drone’s battery life? The answer is most certainly! Having to carry weighty propellers, bulky cameras and a sometimes hefty payload will drain it.
There is a clear relationship between a drone’s weight and battery life. To increase the latter, quadcopter users should make sure not to use heavy propellers. They should also ensure that their drones’ payload is not more than they can take.
Tips for prolonging the life of your quadcopter’s battery
Any battery will give out quickly if you do not look after it. Regardless of which battery you use, you can take steps to prolong its life.
The first of these suggestions is to get a bigger battery. Bigger batteries will have more surface area to transfer current. They are a boon for quadcopters, as they have higher discharge rates. Bigger batteries are also lighter.
Buy a battery with more mAh. The larger its capacity, the longer its life. Note that small quadcopters usually use a 3.7 volt mAh battery that lasts for 8 minutes, while larger ones often rely on 5300 mAh batteries that lasts for about 25 minutes.
3. Removing the camera
Some drones have detachable cameras. Remove your drone’s camera if you do not need to take pictures. A drone’s camera links directly with its battery, so it tends to use more energy when recording.
4. Choose your camera carefully
Opt for a higher quality quadcopter battery. You may find a battery that is comparable in size with your drone’s original battery, but has a higher mAh. This is helpful, as it will increase its flight time.
5. Charging the battery at the right time
Remember to charge your drone’s battery just before using it. Charging it too long beforehand will shorten its lifespan.
6. Understand the elements
Flying your quadcopter against the wind will stress its propellers. This, in turn, leads to higher battery consumption. Do not fly your drone in strong winds.
7. Remove prop guards/propeller size
Propeller size affects how long batteries will last. If you are attaching a camera, a large propeller is helpful. If you are not using your quadcopter to take pictures, use a smaller propeller. Note how long your battery lasts each time you change the propellers. This will give you an idea of which propellers you should use.
Upgrade your drone’s components when necessary. Older motors, in general, use up more battery power.
9. Do not add to your drone’s payload
The more weight your drone carries, the more battery power it uses. Try not to let your drone carry too much, if you want its battery to last longer.
10. The 40-80 rule
You may harm your battery if you allow it to drain fully. Recharge it when it is at 40% capacity, and stop charging it when it is 80% full. Note that an average lithium battery has a lifespan of about 300 charging cycles.
The best batteries for drones
If you are thinking of buying an extra quadcopter battery, you will find these suggestions useful. Here are a few common battery brands.
1. Gens Ace batteries
Manufacturer Gens Ace produces some of the best LiPo batteries in terms of performance and quality. All of them have passed the UN 38.3 test, the highest standard battery test available for polymer batteries. The TATTU range of Gens Ace batteries is light and durable. They are a sensible choice if you use your drone to carry expensive equipment.
Turnigy, or Hobbyking, is a leading producer of remote control products. It creates lasting polymer batteries at low prices. However, they do not have as long a discharge cycle as Gens Ace batteries. Reviewers of their !300 11.1V LiPo battery have reflected that they give off lots of current without overheating.
Elite Power Products is another notable producer of LiPo batteries. These batteries, usable with many drones, are good value. Comparable with other brands, many drone professionals endorse them.
Many reviewers commend the company for testing their batteries thoroughly. They mention that their GForce batteries have a reasonably high discharge rate.
4. Win Max
Win-Max is a Chinese manufacturer of LiPo batteries. They produce batteries which are comparable with other well-known brands, including Nano or Turnigy. Customers reported that they have little resistance in their cells, and a high run-time.
5. Thunder Power
This LPo battery manufacturer impresses its users with its meticulousness. According to a reviewer, the company stores many battery packs in bins. It put each pack through rigorous tests before matching them with other compatible battery cells. They take steps to ensure that their batteries are resistant to shock and strain. Everything is compressed to make sure that their batteries do not fail because of vibration. He was impressed with the company’s attention to detail.
Family-owned company Hyperion EA is cornering the market as a producer of LiPo batteries. It has come up with LiPo battery packs which astound many users.
Those who have reviewed the EX 45C battery series say that their batteries have a high discharge cycle, and give an extremely consistent, powerful performance. The company uses quality materials to make their batteries.
Knowing which batteries are available on the market, and choosing the right one for your drone, is the first step to prolonging its life. Take steps to make sure that you can use it for as long as possible.