By Lauren Nagel
Last updated: 21-04-2023
So you want to make your drone fly longer. Fortunately, there are many ways to do so.
This article has useful tips for drone users of all kinds - whether you’ve bought a ready-to-fly drone or you’re building one yourself.
Some of the suggestions could add minutes to your flight time whereas others may only give you an extra fraction of a second, but combined they can certainly make a difference.
This list also takes into account that some swaps will be possible for some drone applications but not for others. Cost is another important factor for many operators that will make certain suggestions easier to implement than others.
Here’s 21 Ways to Make a Drone Fly Longer:
1. Use propellers with a high pitch and low blade number
Propellers with a high pitch can generate more lift and reduce energy consumption. Propellers with less blades also tend to be more efficient. Testing different propellers to find the most efficient ones is a great way to significantly increase your flight time.
2. Use a high efficiency motor
Brushless motors that have low resistance, good cooling properties and high quality components are generally most efficient. Unfortunately, motor datasheets are not always reliable when it comes to reporting true efficiency figures, so it’s important to test them yourself to validate the numbers given. Including highly efficient motors in your drone is another way to get a good return on investment in terms of flight time.
Further reading: How to Test Your Drone's Motors
3. Find the most efficient motor-propeller combo with a thrust stand
Testing various motors and propellers with a thrust stand like the Series 1585 can tell you which combination of components has the highest overall efficiency, giving you the highest possible flight time. Efficiency doesn’t stop at the individual component level, it is also important to make sure your components work well together.
Image: test drone motors and propellers with the Series 1585 thrust stand
4. Reduce hovering and fly at a steady speed
Did you know that hovering draws more power than stable forward flight? Therefore flying your drone at a steady forward speed instead of hovering can help reduce power consumption and extend flight time.
5. Find the right batteries
There are so many things to consider when it comes to choosing the right batteries that this could be an article of its own. Actually, we did write an article on that, which you can check out here. Here’s a brief summary of the key points:
- Capacity: Investing in a high-capacity battery is a great way to extend your drone's flight time. A higher capacity battery provides more power for your drone for a similar weight, so the trade-off is generally worthwhile.
- Voltage: Batteries with higher voltage tend to be more efficient and can provide more power to the motors, which can help your drone fly for longer periods. However, make sure your drone can handle the higher voltage before installing a new battery.
- Resistance: Batteries with lower internal resistance are also more efficient and can increase your flight time.
6. Fly in optimal weather conditions
Avoid flying in windy or rainy conditions as the wind resistance can significantly decrease flight time. Extreme heat and cold are also hard on your battery and reduce performance, not to mention the possibility of total failure.
7. Choose your altitude wisely
Generally speaking, flying at lower altitudes is where you will find lower wind speeds and less wind resistance, meaning less work for your drone and an increased flight time. Here are a couple resources for checking the weather conditions before your flight:
- Windy app
- Your local aviation weather provider (NAV CANADA, AWC, etc.)
8. Reduce vibration
Vibration can cause unnecessary stress on your drone’s components and make them work harder than necessary, burning more power. Try using vibration dampeners or shock absorbers to reduce vibration and increase flight time.
Further reading: 16 Reasons to Test Your Drone's Motors and Propellers
9. Limit LED and camera usage
LEDs and cameras can consume a significant amount of energy, so try to limit their use if possible, such as during transit portions of your flight. Depending on your needs, you could also consider using a smaller or lower resolution camera with lower power consumption.
10. Calibrate and clean your drone regularly
Regular calibration can help your drone fly more efficiently and extend your flight time. Check your drone’s user manual for instructions on how to do so. Regular maintenance is also crucial to keep your drone in good condition, and this can extend its lifespan and improve its performance. You should clean your drone after every flight, inspect it for any damage, and lubricate the motors and propellers.
11. Use a high-quality charger
Using a high-quality charger can help you charge your battery more efficiently and extend battery life. Charging your battery too quickly can cause it to degrade faster over time, leading to gradually shorter flight times.
12. Use a drone with a good power management system
Drones with advanced power management systems can extend battery life and flight time by efficiently delivering the power needed to all components. Some power management systems include a voltage regulator, which can also help increase the lifespan of your components.
13. Don’t drain your battery completely
Keep a close eye on your battery life and avoid draining it completely as this can shorten its lifespan. Over-discharging puts stress on the battery cells and can lead to irreversible damage that may reduce the overall battery capacity. Listen to your low battery warnings!
14. Choose an aerodynamic design
Certain drone designs are superior for reducing drag and increasing flight time. Aerodynamic features include streamlined arms and frames, adjustable propellers and ducted rotors. With any of these components there may be a trade-off between drag and weight, so testing various options is ideal to get the best performance.
15. Use an ESC that is optimized for efficiency
Certain ESCs are built for extra efficiency with different power-saving features. Some examples include having low resistance circuits, operating at higher frequencies, using advanced control algorithms, and good heat management.
Further Reading: How Does an ESC work?
16. Optimize your center of gravity
If your drone’s center of gravity is not properly balanced, it can affect the drone's stability and handling, which in turn can increase your power consumption and reduce your flight time. When your drone is well balanced, it takes less power to maintain stability and altitude. Make sure to rebalance your drone if you add or remove components.
17. Use power-saving features when not in flight
Features like sleep mode and low-power standby mode can help your drone use less power when not in flight, reserving more power for your next flight. This is ideal for applications that involve frequent starting and stopping.
18. Optimize your drone's flight controller settings
There are several adjustments you can make to your flight controller settings that can reduce power usage and increase flight time. A few examples include: operating the controller in low-power mode, lowering the frequency of GPS updates, using stable mode in calm weather, reducing the max throttle etc.
19. Use low-resistance wiring
Low resistance wires can reduce the amount of power lost as heat and ultimately increase flight time.
20. Optimize your drone's cooling system
Products such as a heat sink or a cooling fan can be helpful in keeping your drone's components cool so they work more efficiently, thus maximizing your flight time. Again, it’s a trade-off between weight and efficiency.
21. Don’t fly too far from the controller
When a drone is further from the controller, it may require more power in order to maintain a stable connection with the receiver. This is especially relevant if there are obstacles between the drone and the controller. To save on power and improve your flight time, operate your controller from as close to the drone as possible.
We hope this list has been useful and has given you some ideas for how to make your drone fly longer.
Motor and propeller testing is one of the most effective ways to increase your flight time, and we have several tools that can help you do so:
- Series 1585 - measures up to 5 kgf of thrust / 2 Nm of torque
- Flight Stand 15 - measures up to 15 kgf of thrust / 8 Nm of torque
- Flight Stand 50 - measures up to 50 kgf of thrust / 30 Nm of torque
- Flight Stand 150 - measures up to 150 kgf of thrust / 150 Nm of torque
May 29, 2023
Thanks for your comment – check out our article on drone batteries here: https://www.tytorobotics.com/blogs/articles/a-guide-to-lithium-polymer-batteries-for-drones
This will help you choose the right battery to go with your ESC.