Your quadcopter maybe fast, fancy looking and durable. It may have comprehensive set of features and a camera capable of producing godlike images and videos. However, it is all pretty much useless if it does not have the flight time and battery life to go with it. Finding ways for extending quadcopter flight time and battery life is something most drone owners look for within the first few weeks of flying around. This post will cover some practical things you can do to improve your flight times. Read on!
Trim the fat
What is the first thing that you would do to improve your own endurance? Quadcopters are no different. If you want to improve your flight times, drop the weight it has to carry around. It is quite obvious that your quad will drain more energy when loaded.
The heaviest thing you may want to look to shed is the foam, if your quadcopter is equipped with it. Removing the foam can not only drop your craft’s weight (in some cases, up to half the total weight!) but also reduce wind resistance, giving you speed as a bonus.
This might be a bummer, but removing the camera attached to your craft can boost battery life not only because it reduces the overall weight, but also because cameras drain some battery energy in itself, to function.
Additionally, if you are confident and up for some DIY mods, you could also open up your quadcopter and replace the longer wires that connect your motors, ESC etc. with shorter ones. This might not sound significant, but it is. Remember that every drop makes an ocean.
Extending quadcopter flight time by maintaining battery condition
Making sure your batteries are well maintained is not only important for longevity, but also crucial for charge retention. Purchase good quality batteries. Better quality almost certainly equals better condition, longer life and flight times.
Purchase a digital voltmeter and a watt meter, if you don’t own them. These tools are invaluable assets for any RC hobby enthusiast. This is an important step, because it will help you check your batteries.
Try not to discharge more than 80% of your batteries. Do not ever discharge your batteries until it gives up as it will drastically reduce your battery life overtime. Never overcharge your batteries as well.
Measure your battery charge and time your flight times during the first few times. This will give you a rough idea of how long you can fly before it is time to come down.
As for voltage, never discharge your batteries below 3.40 V PER CELL. Keep your cells measured at all times.
Fly in manual mode
Flying manual will require decent skills, of course. If your quadcopter comes with different flight modes for stabilization and self-levelling, try not to use it too much and stick to manual mode.
In order for the ESCs and motors to process self-levelling and stabilizing, it requires that it uses more energy at all times. Hence, it might not be the most efficient usage of your batteries. Another reason you must learn how to fully control your craft!
If you have been flying for a while, you will know that the manner in which you fly can make a difference in your total flight times. Performing flips for example, drains more energy than simply hovering around.
It is hard to explain in theory but once you get a feel for it, predicting and prolonging flight times by managing the manner in which you fly comes naturally. Why sacrifice that additional control? Go master your craft! (Pun intended).
Pick a better spot and avoid bad weather
Ideally, pick a spot where it is less windy to fly your quadcopter. It goes without saying that fighting winds require more energy, hampering total flight time.
This is true not only while making turns, doing flips and performing acrobatic moves but also while simply hovering. It can make it significantly harder for your quadcopter to stabilize and level if it is windy.
Raining or snowing outside? Expect worse flight times than usual (If your quad is water resistant and doesn’t die off, of course). If it is winter, limit flying to when the weather looks stable to get maximum flight times.
Upgrade or replace battery
If you notice that your flight times have dropped from your initial purchase, it is time to get a replacement. This might be a sign of weakened battery.
If you are unsure, test the battery. It is always good practice to test batteries as soon as you purchase them. This way, you can monitor them from the beginning.
Upgrading your battery is another way for extending quadcopter flight time. This typically involves getting batteries with a higher capacity (mAh rating). C rating is also another factor that you must consider and research about.
However, it is important to note that higher capacity batteries tend to be larger and heavier. This obviously means more weight for your quadcopter to carry. The key is to find the right balance between battery weight and capacity.
Try not to make any drastic upgrades, if you are a beginner. Experiment with smaller upgrades that would only increase the weight slightly. After you play around with different modifications, this process will be intuitive and making the right balance will come automatically.
Switch propellers and motors
For extending quadcopter flight time, it is crucial that it is efficient with its motors and propellers
Generally when choosing motors, make sure that the combined thrust of motors double the quadcopter’s total weight. Hence, it is important to consider the weight of the motors along with its other specifications (KV, RPM, thrust etc.). Remember to do your research!
Changing the propeller on your craft can also make your quadcopter efficient. Sometimes, a larger propeller will enable your quadcopter to gain altitude quicker and easier, giving it more efficiency.
Other times, a smaller prop will be easier on your motors, giving it more flight time. Generally though, larger props with larger pitch sizes on bigger motors with lower KV are much more efficient than smaller props on a higher KV motors.
Every setup is unique and you will have to experiment and play around before you find what works in your situation. As with anything else, practice makes perfect!
Add additional batteries
Apart from replacing or upgrading existing batteries, it is also possible to add additional batteries to your craft. Remember that this will definitely increase the weight of the quad and it is very important to find the balance between weight and total capacity.
Always remember to connect the batteries in parallel and not in series. If you do connect them in series, it is VERY, VERY important to remember to keep the voltages of the batteries same. Failing to remember this can be fatal!
Experiment with adding batteries with different weights and capacities till you find the perfect balance that will result in extending quadcopter flight time.
Switch to a carbon fibre frame and/or propeller
As you already may know, the body of your quad contributes significantly to its overall weight. If you are up for it, you might want to rework your quad’s body entirely and switch it to carbon.
Carbon is very light, durable and stiff enough to withstand most impacts like crashes. It is also arguably the best material that can absorb and dampen vibrations from imbalanced motors and props.
You can opt to purchase some readymade quadcopter frames available in the market or cut carbon fibre yourself to make the body. Be warned though – cutting carbon fibre is difficult and may be hazardous to your health if done improperly.
If you are wary about changing the entire frame of your quad, you can experiment with carbon fibre propellers. These propellers are generally brittle so be wary of crashing into someone or something with these on.
Balance and clean your props and motors
Many propellers and motors that you get in the market are never 100% efficient and balanced. Imbalanced propellers and motors, apart from causing that annoying vibration effect on your quad, can waste energy.
With a few very easy to do steps, you can balance them yourself. It is important to make sure that while balancing your props, you need to take the blades as well as the hub into consideration.
Cleaning your motors and props regularly is also an important maintenance measure. With time, they gather dust and stops functioning optimally. The dust inside motors can deter it from rotating and stubborn dust on your propeller can make it heavier and go out of balance.
That’s about it for now folks! If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to drop a comment below. There are probably plenty more creative and interesting ways for extending quadcopter flight time that we have missed. If you know, please share with us!