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.
Today is another list of drones generated from our database. As you may be aware, our database is ever expanding, but does not yet contain all of the drones on the market. We’ll get there! We know full well that there are commercial drones that far exceed what the typical consumer drone can accomplish, 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
Aerial inspection services can be time consuming endeavors, particularly if precision is required, which is why DJI made the M300 drones to enjoy nearly an hour of flight time. That’s right, most consumer drones float around the half hour mark, but the Matrice 300 RTK can stay airborne for up to 55 minutes. As one of the most capable inspection drones on the market, the M300 can swap between a handful of payloads, mounting up to two items on the bottom, and one on top. Then, whilst hauling around those cameras, lights, speakers, air detection meters and more, the M300 rocks RTK GPS precision.
Should I buy the Matrice 300 RTK?
If you are a hobby pilot, enjoying flights from your backyard, or an aspiring professional pilot, seeking to take amazing photo and video from the sky, the M300 is not really for you. The additional expense for RTK, the ability to haul infrared cameras, and the size of the drone can be fun, but are ultimately overkill for your backyard needs. However, if you’re in the business of inspecting things for a living, the m300 might be the best option you can get your hands on.
DJI Matrice 300 RTK
- Versatile commercial platform
- Precise and reliable
Superior inspection drone
The DJI Matrice 300 RTK packs multi-direction obstacle avoidance, advanced airspace awareness and multiple payloads for commercial drone operations.
DJI Mini 3 Pro with Battery Plus: 47 minutes
The DJI Mini 3 Pro is, with the standard battery, a sub-250g drone with a great camera for its size. The take-anywhere airframe has proven a big hit with consumers, but previous Mini drones had really low battery life.
With the Battery Plus installed, the Mini 3 Pro weighs more than 250g, but jumps up to an astonishing 47 minutes of flight time!
Why we fly the DJI Mini 3 Pro
For our time with the DJI Mini 3 Pro, we took advantage of its compact size for portability, and thoroughly enjoyed the flexibility of the new camera gimbal. In addition, the optional DJI RC remote was a pleasure to work with.
DJI Mini 3 Pro
- Ultra portable
- Good 4K video
- Optional 47 minutes flight time
Fly Mini, Create Big
The DJI Mini 3 Pro is an impressive and drastic airframe update for the Mavic line. It’s still a compact, folding drone, but a new camera gimbal system provides greater range for the 1/1.3-inch 4K camera that snaps 48 MP stills. Mavic 3 Pro weighs less than 250g, and has an optional bigger battery to get 47 minutes in the sky!
Autel Robotics Evo Lite: 40 minutes
The Autel Robotics Evo Lite, just like the Evo II before it, offer up an impressive 40 minutes of flight time. Though, the newer Evo series offers specs and features that the older Evo drones did not. Regardless, enjoy that time in the sky with a solid 6K camera that shoots clean low-light shots.
Why we fly the Autel Robotics Evo Lite
We find that the Evo Lite, particularly the Evo Lite Plus, fills an important gap in the consumer drone market, with specs and a price that are right in between two of DJI’s best offerings. Luckily, this new generation of Autel drones offer competitive flight features to DJI now, so we are happy to have the Evo Lite in our fleet.
Autel Robotics Evo Lite
- Great flight time
- Great camera
- Up to 6K video
The Evo Lite+ is a solid flying night camera.
The Autel Robotics Evo Lite and Evo Lite+ are a welcome addition to the compact, folding camera drone market. Superb flight time, great cameras, great flight range, and a fun set of flight features should keep most pilots happy. Enjoy up to 6K video from the sky.
DJI Matrice 200 series: 38 minutes
The DJI Matrice 200 series is discontinued, in favor of the newer 300 series, however, if you can still find one, it’s worth your time. With only 38 minutes of flight time, you’re still enjoying some of the longest airtime around, and the various payload options again make for superb inspection drones. I say again, commercial-class inspection drones.
Should I buy the DJI M200 series?
If you can find an M200, M210, or M210 RTK for sale, and you choose the one that best suites your flight needs, you won’t be disappointed. You might even save a decent chunk of change over the newer M300 series craft.
DJI Matrice 200 series: 200/210/RTK
- Versatile commercial platform
- Capable payloads
Versatile commercial drone
DJI designed the Matrice 200 series to offer a versatile set of inspection capabilities. Choose from various payloads and mounting points to look up, down and all around.
DJI Mavic Air 2: 34 minutes
The DJI Mavic Air 2 was a treat of a drone. Not only did it offer one of the best cameras for a sub-$1000 drone, it also stepped up the flight time from the Mavic series’ normal 30-31 minute ratings, that’s right, the Mavic Air 2 is rated for up to 34 minutes. The newer Air 2S is the better drone in terms of camera and flight capabilities, but the Mavic Air 2 has better battery life, you decide which is more important.
Should I buy the DJI Mavic Air 2?
The Mavic Air 2 holds an important place in the Mavic lineup, it’s more capable than the mini drones, and less expensive than the larger craft in the series. Sadly, battery life is the Mavic Air 2’s only shining point, as the other drones outpace it in one way or another. I’m trying to say, if you can’t afford the Air 2S or larger, but you can afford more than the Mini 2 and smaller, the Mavic Air 2 will keep you happy. Just know that it has the same camera sensor as the Evo II, which we critiqued for its age already.
DJI Mavic Air 2
- Great battery life
- Large camera
- AirSense transponder
A technological leap in small flying cameras.
Mavic Air 2 takes power and portability to the next level, offering advanced features in a compact form factor. Intelligent shooting functions and excellent image quality put aerial masterpieces within reach. Safer, smarter flight enables you to up your game while fully enjoying the creative process.
Yuneec Mantis G: 33 minutes
The Yuneec Mantis G was an exciting drone for us, we were sure it was the beginning of Yuneec taking on DJI directly in the small, folding consumer quadcopter market. While the Mantis G was able to keep up in most regards, it fell short in availability. We had a hard time finding them to purchase when they were still new, and that trend continues today. That said, it has fun flight features, and a solid 33 minutes of flight time, that’s a win!
Should I buy the Yuneec Mantis G?
At this point, I’d say no. I want to say yes, I want Yuneec to bring the Mantis series back to the forefront, I want to see more great offerings for consumer camera drones, but the Mantis G is no longer a contender for a great camera drone. Still a great drone, fun to fly, and the price might be superb if you can find it.
Yuneec Mantis G
- Compact camera drone
- Voice controls
Voice controlled drone
The Yuneec Mantis G adds a stabilized camera Gimbal to the Mantis Q – exactly the missing piece from the original folding drone. Now you can shoot smooth 4K video. Launching in October 2019.
DJI Mini 2: 31 minutes
The DJI Mini 2 is actually one of many, many consumer drones that offer 31 minutes of flight time. This became the standard from DJI for a number of their aircraft, including the Mavic 2 Pro, Mavic 2 Zoom, and more. We chose the Mini 2 to round out the list today because it’s one of our favorite drones in our fleet. The Mini 2 is not the best camera drone around, nor one of the most capable, but it’s one that gets a ton of use. Around here, we tend to reach for larger camera drones when we need the footage, and smaller, less expensive drones when we’re teaching a new pilot to fly, but when we need something small and light to toss in our bag, this is the one.
Should I buy the DJI Mini 2?
Yes, actually, the Mini 2 is one of the best well-rounded aircraft in our fleet, particularly for the price. it’s going on a year old, but it’s still our top pick for a drone under $500, and the only drone under $500 with a 4K camera that we’d consider for actual camera tasks.
DJI Mini 2
- 4K camera
- Very portable
- Easy to fly
- 249 grams
Best drone under $500
The DJI Mini 2 is a superb update from the Mavic Mini, now offering a 4K camera, Ocusync 2.0 and more power.
Commercial and fixed-wing
Notable commercial and fixed-wing drones with superb 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.
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, and avoid other mistakes. 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.
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.
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.
Article originally published on www.dronerush.com as Best battery life: What’s your flight time?
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