One of the biggest obstacles when flying drones is their fairly short battery life. Early machines were lucky to exceed ten minutes in the sky, which is fairly standard for modern toy-class drones, but the best consumer drones are now exceeding half an hour, and many fixed wing can exceed an hour.
Outside of the consumer class drones, there are commercial machines that can fly for multiple hours and even some solar powered units that can fly indefinitely, but we’re mostly going to stick with the consumer, off-the-shelf drones here today.
Why trust Drone Rush?
I’ve been a fan of flight since a young age; while I’ve had few opportunities at the helm of manned aircraft, the hours on my fleet of drones continue to grow. I enjoy putting cameras into the sky, silky smooth aerial imagery makes me happy. My goal is to help all pilots enjoy flight legally and safely.
Drones with the best flight time
DJI Matrice 300 RTK: 55 minutes
The DJI Matrice 300 series are high-end commercial inspection drones. When surveying a jobsite, battery life matters, and the M300 delivers.
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DJI Mini 3 Pro with Battery Plus: 47 minutes
The third installation of the Mini line from DJI has two batteries available. The standard battery keeps the drone’s overall weight under 250g, but if you don’t mind the extra weight, the Battery Plus provides up to 47 minutes of flight time.
DJI Mavic 3: 46 minutes
When we first read the spec sheet for the DJI Mavic 3, we new we were in for a treat. A Micro Four Thirds camera that can shoot 5.1K video, multi-direction obstacle avoidance sensors with the full suite of automated flight modes, and a monstrous connection range of over 9 miles, what’s not to love?!?
Autel Robotics Evo Lite: 40 minutes
The Autel Robotics Evo Lite, Evo Lite+, and the older Evo II modes all offer up to 40 minutes of flight time. The Lite drones are similar in design to the older Evo II models, but far exceed the older machines in terms of camera and flight capabilities.
[drones-list id=”20027″ topper-text=”40 min” topper-icon=”award”]
DJI Matrice 200 series: 38 minutes
Like the M3oo series, the M200 series of commercial inspection drones from DJI are powerful machines designed for a diverse set of long-flight-time operations.
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DJI Mavic Air 2: 34 minutes
The Mavic Air 2 was one of the first consumer drones from DJI to exceed the 31 minute mark, clocking in at up to 34 minutes in the sky. A solid camera experience from this portable drone makes it a compelling option for pilots.
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DJI Mini 3 Pro with standard battery: 34 minutes
With the standard battery installed, the DJI Mini 3 Pro offers up to 34 minutes of flight time. That’s a huge accomplishment for a sub-250g drone that packs a reliable 4K camera.
Yuneec Mantis G: 33 minutes
When it launched, the Mantis G was a solid competitor in the compact, folding drone market. The Camera was a little sub-par for the time, which means that it’s a tough sell to consumers today. If the camera is not your concern, the Mantis G is a reliable and fun drone that has cool voice activated flight features.
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DJI Mini 2: 31 minutes
The DJI Mini 2 was the first fully GPS-enabled, fully stabilized 4K camera drone to hit the market for under $500, and it weighs less than 250g. The Mini 3 Pro may be superior in the sky, but the Mini 2 remains our top pick if your budget remains at or under $500.
[drones-list id=”21892″ topper-text=”31 min” topper-icon=”bolt”]
Notable commercial and fixed-wing drones with superb battery life:
- Insitu ScanEagle – Military style surveillance drone with up to 24 hours flight time
- Parrot Disco – Fixed wing drone with over 45 minutes flight time
- Impossible Aerospace US-1 – Commercial quadcopter with up to 2 hours flight time
- Air Hogs Hoverblade – Toy boomerang with up to 2 hours battery life
How can I improve battery life?
There are many factors that affect battery life in your drone. Most of the factors are absolutely predictable, such as weight, aerodynamics, power consumption from lights or cameras, and fighting wind in the sky. For example, removing the camera and propeller guards from the Syma X5C practically doubles the flight time. If you have unnecessary accessories attached to your machine, consider removing them.
It’s important to note that drones are more efficient when moving than when hovering. This isn’t always true, but the likes of DJI tend to report maximum flight time when constantly moving at a smooth and consistent pace. This is easier to understand with fixed-wing drones — when moving fast enough, the wings create lift, pulling the drone through the air requires far less energy than to hover in place. Explore our science of flight series for more details.
The last piece of advice I can offer is to fly smooth and slow. Ever notice that racing drones, the ones that fly at top speeds and make many rapid direction changes, they rarely exceed 8 minutes of flight, most are rated for about 5 minutes. Camera drones tend to last longer, as you keep them smooth for video capture. Bottom line, it takes a lot of energy for a drone to change direction, the fewer direction changes, including acceleration and deceleration, the longer you’ll fly.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I improve my battery life?
The two top things you can do to improve battery life on your drone is to reduce weight, if possible, and adjust your flight habits. You may not be able to reduce weight on your drone, but most of us can learn to fly a little smoother and gentler. Rapid movements, flight at top speeds, and turbulent conditions eat more battery that you’d imagine. A drone at hover is constantly making micro-adjustments to stay in place, change to ATTI mode, or fly in slow circles, to reduce how much your machine is fighting to stay in place and level.
Accessories are also a battery drain. For example, for our toy-class Syma X5C, we got around 5 minutes of flight while recording video and with prop guards installed, we bumped to over 11 minutes when we removed the prop guards and camera entirely. That was weight and power savings. LED lights are not a huge draw of power, but they pull power, adjust them if possible, remove them if not needed.
Finally, for the long term, practice good battery management. Lithium batteries do not like to be stored at 0%, nor at 100%. Do not leave them plugged in at all times either. Keep cool and dry, and avoid unnecessary bumps. Physical damage is both dangerous, and bad for their ability to hold a charge.
Will my drone return to home when the battery is low?
Some drones are absolutely designed to return to home at a certain battery level, and to auto-land at a critical level, while some can even use GPS location data to predict how much battery is required to get back to home, but none that we know of can account for wind and other conditions. Be aware that if you fly out with the wind until you have used exactly half of your battery, you probably won’t have enough power left to return, as the extra drain from fighting the wind will stop you short.
Can I install bigger batteries?
For some drones, absolutely. Some drones have hardware/software limitations to be aware of, but the general theory is simple enough, more mAh = more flight time. Software limited machines will actually lock the drone, or refuse to boot up, if the ‘official’ battery is not installed, so you’re not likely to get a bigger battery on your DJI drone, for example. Otherwise, please be aware that different batteries may offer different voltages. This is most evident in the racing community, where you’ll hear about batteries called 1S, 2S and up to 6S, usually. The over-simplified explanation is that each ‘S’ is worth 3.7 Volts. You will absolutely burn out a 1S rated drone if you install a 6S battery.
Assuming your drone can handle the full range of voltages, a 1S battery is worth about 750 mAh of power, a 6S battery is usually worth about 2,000 mAh, but we’ve seen them 11,000 mAh and larger. Again, please just be aware of the voltages, but the more mAh in the battery, the long it should last.