One of the key specs to consider while buying a drone is flight time. You don’t want to have your flying cut short by a low battery warning. Although buying spare batteries may help you get your drone back in flight when one is drained, it is tiresome having to land and replace the battery every few minutes. So how long can a drone fly?
Drone Flight Time
A consumer drone can fly for 15-30 minutes. Consumer drones are those you can buy and use. They are currently the most popular drones. The flight time range includes most of the drones you can find on the market today. It does not include military drones which have been in existence for longer and can fly for much longer with some flying for up to 24hours straight. The focus here is on consumer drones which are available for you today.
Although the average flight time is between 15-30 minutes, the flight time is very varied. It is not only different from brand to brand but also from one make to another within the brand. Some drones can fly for longer than the above range like the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom that can fly for 31 minutes. Others will fly for as short as 5minutes, for example, entry-level drones. Why the huge difference? What determines how long a drone can fly, and how do you get the best value for your money in terms of flight time?
1. Drone Category
A key determinant of the drone flight time is the drone category, which bases on drone performance. The flight times for each category are as follows:
- Beginner drones: 5-10 minutes
- Mid-range drones: 15-20 minutes
- High-end drones: 20-30 minutes
Beginner drones are entry level UAVs that are best for those who want to buy their first drone mainly for fun. They are referred to as toy drones because of their low performance and flight time. A good example is Protensic A20 with a flight time of 10 minutes.
Mid-range drones are the most popular as they balance performance with affordability. They are perfect for virtually any activity. The Blackhawk with a 15-minute flight time is one of the best options here.
If you want to go big, then the high-end drones like the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom are your best choice. They have the best performance in terms of flight time, stability, durability, cameras, and other features. Industry leaders fall into this category.
2. Source of Power
The primary determinant to how long a drone can fly is the power source. The stronger the source of power, the more the drone can stay in the air. There have been a lot of technological advancements when it comes to powering the drone that has led to better flight times. Before looking at the most common power source of drones, here is a look at game-changing power sources for drones. Note that most of these technologies are still in testing or limited to the developers alone. They are not commercially available in the drones you can buy in the stores.
Hybrid Fuel-Electric Engines
The design allows for the recharging of the batteries by combustion of fuel. A drone will, therefore, fly for longer as it has access to more power until the fuel runs out. The Hybrix.20 drone by Quarternium is an example and can fly for 4 hours 4 minutes.
A drone can fly longer on diesel. The Vanilla Aircraft VA001, for instance, flew for five days straight and still had three days worth of fuel left.
A drone can fly for a year when it is powered by solar power. The technology has been shown to work by Airbus with their Zephyr S drone and BAE Systems with their PHASA-35 drone.
Plugged in the Ground
DroneCatcher has its drones plugged into a power source on the ground through a long connecting cable. The drones detach when they have to address a problem which is usually catching stray drones so that they don’t get to the airspace and cause accidents.
The final innovation in the list of game changers is the use of a combustion engine, which is what the Yeair! drone is bringing to the market soon. The drone can fly for 60 minutes straight.
Although the above options offer impressive flight times more than the average 30 minutes tops, they are still not available for you. Batteries are the commonest power sources used in drones today and determine how long a drone can fly. It is simple; a stronger battery means more flight time.
The best battery for a drone is one that can store more energy per unit mass. That is because you want the battery to be as strong as possible while being as light as possible. Lithium, being the lightest metal, is thus used. You may notice LI on batteries, which stands for lithium. LiPO stands for Lithium polymer, which even makes the battery lighter and thus ability to store more energy without compromising on weight.
Battery life or how long the drone will fly after you fully charge it will depend on:
- Type of battery where lithium batteries store more energy
- The capacity of the battery
- Deep discharge abilities of the battery where the deeper it can discharge, the longer you can fly
- The power consumption rate of the drone
A new battery always means you get the maximum flight time possible. However, the battery deteriorates over time, and you will get less and less flight time. It will get to a point where it becomes unusable which is after about 500-1200 cycles. It may be shorter if you subject it to anything that can damage it.
You can do a number of things to extend the battery life of your drone:
- Always store the battery and the drone in a cool, dry place
- Avoid charging when it is still hot immediately after use
- Charge the battery to full capacity (100%) before flying
- Do not overcharge
- Never drain your battery fully
- Avoid aggressive flying
3. Drone Weight
Unlike fixed-wing drones, quadcopters rely on the propellers to stay in the air besides moving horizontally. That means that the heavier the drone, the more the energy spent on keeping it in the air which shortens the flight time. Heavy drones thus have shorter flight times unless powerful batteries power them. Lighter ones can fly for longer on the same amount of power. You will, therefore, find most high-end drones weighing so little.
You can also increase the flight time of your drone by reducing its size. Remember how race cars are stripped of the parts that are not essential? You can do the same with your drone by removing what you don’t need on the flight, for instance, propeller guards, lenses and other parts.
4. Propeller and Motor Type
The propeller configuration and motor strength determine how fast the drone runs through the battery on the drone. Propellers with a larger surface area and angle of attack are more energy efficient and will allow the drone to fly for longer. Drones with the most extended flight times have their propellers made with attention to detail in those two aspects.
A more powerful motor enables a drone to fly fast. However, it consumes more power and thus reduces how long a drone can fly. Racing drones are an example here with impressive speeds of up to 120mph but limited flight times of about 5 minutes.
5. Mode of Flight
How you fly a drone can determine how long it will last in the air. Hovering requires the least energy and therefore will keep your drone in the air for a longer time, usually an extra 10 minutes for some drones. A stable flight too saves on energy, for instance when you are filming.
Sport mode, on the other hand, results in less flight time as it is more tasking on the battery. Aggressive flying where you do flips, spins and turns will drain your battery faster and therefore lead to less flight time. It also impacts on the overall lifespan of your battery.
6. Flight Conditions
The maximum flight time you see on drones in the stores may actually not be what you will achieve while flying the drone. Your flight conditions have a considerable role to play when it comes to how long the drone can fly. When you fly out in the open, your
drone has to struggle against the resistance from wind, snow, humid air, or even rain.
You will, therefore, need to ensure the weather is clear if you want to get longer flight time. Rain and snow may even damage your drone if it is not waterproof. It there is wind, try flying in its direction to save on power.
Best Drones in Flight Time
- DJI Mavic 2 Zoom – 31 mins
- DJI Phantom 4 Pro – 30 mins
- Blade Chrome 4K – 30 mins
- DJI Mavic Pro – 27 mins
- Trexxas Aton Plus – 25 mins
- Yuneec Typhoon H Pro – 25 mins
- Yuneec Q500+ – 25 mins
- DJI Phantom 3 Standard – 25 mins
- Parrot Bebop 2 – 25 mins
- Upair One – 18 mins
How to Fly Your Drone Longer
- Buy a more powerful spare battery
- Reduce the weight of your drone by leaving only essentials on-board
- Get propellers that have better configuration
- Avoid flying aggressively
- Choose the right weather conditions
How Long Can a Drone Fly Conclusion
A drone can fly for about 15-30 minutes on average for most of the popular drones available. The flight time, however, varies from one drone to another depending on the power source, weight, propeller and motor type, mode of flight, and flight conditions. Longer flight time means better results for commercial drones or more fun if you are just in for the First Person View thrill.
How long can a drone fly without refueling? A gas-powered drone can longer than 30 minutes on a single tank of fuel, which always lasts much longer than a battery-powered drone because gasoline weighs less than batteries. But a gasoline-powered drone cost more.How do you extend the flight time on a drone? ›
The lighter your drone, the longer the battery life will be. Reducing your drone's payload can help increase its flight time by reducing the amount of weight the drone has to carry. The heavier the drone, the more energy it must use to maintain flight, and the faster the battery will drain.What is 6 hour flight time drone? ›
Flowcopter says that its hydraulic drone can stay in the air without refueling for up to six hours and cross distances of up to 900 kilometers (about 560 miles) with a payload of up to 330 pounds.Can drones fly indefinitely? ›
The team of researchers at NPU have equipped a drone with a module that converts light energy into electricity, allowing it to capture power from a high-energy laser beam so it can stay in flight indefinitely. The researchers have dubbed these UAVs optics-driven drones (ODDs).What drone has the longest time? ›
- Best All-Round: DJI Mini 3 (51 Mins)
- Budget Pick: DJI Mini 2 (31 Mins)
- Also Great: Autel Robotics Evo 2 (40 Mins)
- Best for Pros: DJI Mavic 3 (40 Mins)
A typical consumer drone can fly typically between 10 to 30 minutes, while more advanced professional drones can fly for even an hour or more.What is a flight time extender? ›
The flight time extender can increase flight by up to 25 times longer! So, you could get a week or more out of your balloons. Larger sized latex balloons will have longer flight times.Can a drone fly for 24 hours? ›
The drone has a wingspan of 50 feet, a maximum takeoff weight of 2250 pounds, is propelled by an engine of 115 horsepower, can travel at speeds of up to 135 miles per hour at altitudes of up to 25,000 feet, and can remain airborne for up to 24 hours at a time.What is the FAA drone 5 mile rule? ›
By federal law, when flown within 5 statute miles of an airport, a model aircraft operator is required to give prior notice of the operation to the airport or air traffic control tower.Can you fly a drone 30 minutes after sunset? ›
You can fly during daylight or in twilight (30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset, local time) with appropriate anti-collision lighting. Minimum weather visibility is three miles from your control station.
The latest report from the DOJ reminds the law enforcement community that the new federal law does not provide authority to state and local police to disable threatening drones. Only certain federal agencies are given these new powers.Do drones have a limit? ›
The safest and legal height limit for consumer drones is 400 feet. Flying a drone at a higher altitude poses significant safety risks, as it can potentially interfere with the flight path of larger manned aircraft. However drones flying within the same airspace as manned aircraft is not uncommon.What is the drone 2023 law? ›
All drone pilots required to register their UAS must operate their aircraft in accordance with the final rule on remote ID beginning September 16, 2023, which gives drone owners sufficient time to upgrade their aircraft.What drone flies 100 miles? ›
It costs $499, and the company says that right out of the box, the Draco drone can hit 100 miles an hour on a straightaway. And it's made from entirely modular parts, so if you crash, you can easily buy replacements for your broken bits. Drone racing has become increasingly popular over the last three years.What is the highest speed drone? ›
Last November, Lademann, a professional witness and a small group of other enthusiasts gathered in Scottsdale, Arizona as the XLR V3 set a new Guinness world quadcopter speed record, at 224 mph (360.503 km/h). On an earlier flight, he recorded an instantaneous max speed of 257.25 mph (414 km/h).What is the strongest drone ever? ›
- MQ-9 Reaper. ...
- TAI Aksungur. ...
- GJ-11 Sharp Sword. ...
- Okhotnik B. ...
- EADS Barracuda. ...
- Avenger. ...
- XQ-58 Valkyrie. ...
The short answer is, “Yes”. Recreational operators have always been allowed to fly their drones and radio-controlled aircraft at night.How long can a drone fly before its batteries run out? ›
The typical flight time for most high-quality drones is about 20 minutes. Lower quality drones have battery life ranging from 5 to 10 minutes while mid-range drones have flight time between 15 to 20 minutes. Professional drones have flight time between 20 to 30 minutes. What is this?Is it hard to fly a drone at night? ›
It used to be almost impossible to fly at night. But with new regulations and some high-visibility lights, our licensed drone pilots can take to the skies after dark.Why can't I fly my drone above 400 feet? ›
When you fly a drone above 400 feet, you risk a dangerous in-flight collision that can damage equipment and lead to unwanted consequences. Most near-miss events between aircraft occur above 400 feet. You may risk losing your drone at great heights.
Premium consumer drones can fly up to 8 kilometers (4 miles) or 2.5 miles. A typical range for mid-level drone technology is between 400 and 1.5 miles (0.6 to 3 kilometers). Modern, high-end drones range to 8 kilometers (or 5 miles).What frequency is a long range drone? ›
The most popular frequencies for long range flying are 1.2 GHz and 2.4 GHz.How can I increase my flight hours? ›
- Aerial Tour Pilot. For tourists or out-of-towners, few experiences can offer as incomparable a view of a new area as an aerial tour. ...
- Glider Tow Pilot. ...
- Traffic Watch Pilot. ...
- Certified Flight Instructor. ...
- Additional Opportunities.
- Watch movies / TV-Series. ...
- Work your way through glossy magazines. ...
- Listen to audio books. ...
- Eat. ...
- Catch up on work / school. ...
- Sleep. ...
- Stare out of the window and philosophize. ...
- Write lists.
Is there a limit to how many times I can change my flight? There's no limit to how many times you can change your flight, but you'll have to pay for any fare difference each time.Can I fly my drone a mile away? ›
Small Drones can have anywhere from 700 to 1,300 feet of range. Medium drones can have up to 3.1 miles or 5 kilometers. High-end drones can be programmed with GPS capabilities allowing them to more accurately stay within the set boundaries set by the controller.What happens if you fly your drone too far away? ›
What Happens When The Drone Gets Out Of Range? If your drone flies too far away from you, it may crash. One way to prevent this is to keep an eye on your drone's position and altitude using the controller's screen. If something goes wrong, immediately return your drone to you before it gets too far away.How far can a police drone fly? ›
What Is The Range Of A Police Drone? Drones are typically able to fly within a range of about one mile, but this depends on the drone model and its purpose. For example, a drone designed for surveillance will have a smaller range than one designed for photography.Will the FAA know if I fly my drone over 400 feet? ›
There is no existing mechanism for the FAA to monitor if there are drone pilots, licensed or otherwise, who will fly above this altitude limit. That is well and fine until you get into a close encounter with a manned aircraft, for which you could be facing heavy penalties if the FAA can identify you as the drone pilot.What is the FAA 400 foot rule? ›
In general, you can only fly your drone in uncontrolled airspace below 400 feet above the ground ( AGL ). Commercial drone operators are required to get permission from the FAA before flying in controlled airspace.
If you're flying a drone or model aircraft that's lighter than 250g, you can fly closer to people than 50m and you can fly over them, but you must not fly over crowds.Can drones fly in rain? ›
Can drones fly in rain? Generally, drones cannot fly in rain, because – as mentioned – the most fragile and critical part of the drone (the motor and the electrical components) drones are neither water-resistant nor waterproof.Can you fly a drone over a crime scene? ›
Drones hamper law enforcement and medical aircraft when flown near a crime scene or accident. Drone pilots who interfere with emergency response may be fined up to $20,000 for a first offense.What time is best for drone? ›
Be sure to also do your best to shoot your footage in the most pleasing light of the day, and with the lowest possible ISO values. By shooting at ideal times of day like sunrise or sunset, you'll ensure that your drone footage captures beautiful tones and colors in the sky.What happens if you fly drone over 400 ft? ›
When you fly a drone above 400 feet, you risk a dangerous in-flight collision that can damage equipment and lead to unwanted consequences. Most near-miss events between aircraft occur above 400 feet. You may risk losing your drone at great heights.How long can a DJI drone fly? ›
A flight time of 30 minutes is around the benchmark you should be looking at, with exceptional drones like the Mavic Mini 3 offering a massive 47 minutes of flight time with the Intelligent Flight Battery Plus. Battery performance contributes significantly to a drone's flight time.Why do drones have limited flight time? ›
It's all about how much power you are asking the drone to output. This is one of the reasons why racing drones only last 2-5 minutes flying at top speed, and a cinematic camera drone like a DJI Mavic can cruise around for 30 minutes or so. Higher speeds require higher rotations-per-minutes (RPM) from the motors.Can FAA track your drone? ›
Remote ID helps the FAA, law enforcement, and other federal agencies find the control station when a drone appears to be flying in an unsafe manner or where it is not allowed to fly.Can I get permission to fly my drone above 400 feet? ›
The 400-foot rule for drones may seem like an absolute limit, but it's actually one of the most flexible of the drone restrictions. Not only can drones take off from higher altitudes if you are flying in the vicinity of a large structure, but drone pilots can also request for a waiver to fly above 400 feet AGL.Can you fly a drone at 1000 feet? ›
The maximum allowable altitude is 400 feet above the ground, and higher if your drone remains within 400 feet of a structure. The maximum speed is 100 mph (87 knots).
Don't Fly Too Close To An Airport
The FAA recommends that you never fly within a five-mile radius of an airport. If you're flying a drone in the vicinity of any airport, it's even more important to be aware of the rules and regulations surrounding drone flights near airports.
The DJI Mini 2's Maximum Service Ceiling Above Sea Level is at 4000 m. Just a friendly reminder to always please check local rules and regulations before use, as they may change over time.How far can police drones fly? ›
What Is The Range Of A Police Drone? Drones are typically able to fly within a range of about one mile, but this depends on the drone model and its purpose. For example, a drone designed for surveillance will have a smaller range than one designed for photography.Can you fly a drone next to a road? ›
You are prohibited from flying a drone over a highway with moving vehicles according to Federal Aviation Administration regulations. If you're in a restricted-access or closed-access site and the people inside the vehicle are aware that you're using your drone, then flight is permitted.