Many of the smaller drones are battery powered. Costs can vary considerably depending on the application and in many cases, the battery alone can add up to 10% of the value of the drone system. It’s essential to understand the drone’s batteries, because a battery malfunction in the air can be costly. Proper battery management can mean the difference between getting 100 or 300 charging cycles.
Technology in Battery Packs
Four essential components make the battery pack:
- The batteries themselves
- A circuit board that controls the battery cells with protection circuits and residual life status
- Wiring and connectors from the batteries to the drone
- Packaging the components into a compact enclosure
Most drones use Lithium-ion cells for the batteries. Many of these use polymer or aluminum foil as the packing material. This material tends to be much lighter than other methods of binding the cells together and has become the preferred method. These batteries are called Li-Po batteries.
Li-Po Battery Care
The single most important thing you can do to extend the number of charge cycles is ensuring that the battery is not overly discharged. Many flyers follow the 80% rule – ensuring that the battery is never discharged more than 80% of its capacity. In fact, even this is too much. If you fly the drone aggressively, 60% discharge is a better figure. A new battery pack should be ‘broken in’ gently by not drawing more than 50% in the first few cycles. For resources on how to judge the charge in a Li-Po pack, check this link.
There are many other issues related to the safe handling of Li-PO batteries and on how to travel safely with them. Many points are covered in this excellent (and short) resource, “15 Things Every Lipo Battery User Should Know”.
Some warning signs
We tend to look at our batteries as just another component of the drone, forgetting at times how vital this power source is to safe flight. Here are some warning signs to look out for:
- Battery pack getting hot with use (warm is OK)
- Swollen or bulging battery cells
- Batteries should not smoke EVER
- Hard crash or damaged batteries need to be checked out before next flight
Finally, as always, something to lighten up the blog. One more reason to look after your drone’s batteries!
David King Chief Technical Officer
Serving as the Chief Technology Officer, David is responsible for the discovery and implementation of new technologies that yield competitive advantages while working closely with Executive Management to develop strategies to increase revenue and performs cost-benefit and return-on-investment analysis.
In October 2005, David joined AEgis Technologies as Director of the Simulation Development Group. During that time, David helped formulate the direction of AEgis’ software development efforts to ensure maximum reusability, thereby speeding ongoing development while reducing costs. His focus is technology transfer to commercial products and product development. Under his leadership, the Simulation Development Group developed and fielded over 8000 UAS training systems across the DOD. David has held the title of Vice President, Simulation Development and most recently, Executive Vice President, Technology Solutions Division.
With more than 25 years in the Modeling, Simulation, and Training industry – and having served in product design and development, technology advancement, project management, and leadership positions. David is a recognized leader and innovator in the MS&T industry, having co-founded, matured and sold a two-man start-up company into a highly-successful small business (CG2, Inc.) in just seven years with no outside venture capital or investments. In addition to being recognized locally as an “Outstanding Small Business” for three consecutive years by the Madison County Chamber of Commerce.
Before co-founding CG2, David spent eight years in the US Army in missile-related fields. He worked for Electronic Associates Inc. and later AMTEC Corporation at Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, AL, on a broad range of projects including the Sensor Vision III Real-Time IR Scene Generator, JAVELIN, STINGER, CHAPARRAL BAT, AIT, and THAAD HWIL simulations.
Specialties: Modeling, Simulation and Training. Hardware in the Loop, real-time simulations.