Waypoint

Power Up – A Drone Battery Management Guide

A drone’s battery is truly a crucial component. Care for it well and you will both prolong its life and optimise the coverage of every UAV mission you fly. But treat it poorly and, one way or another, your operation’s performance is likely to suffer. Waypoint spoke with senseFly’s expert team of support engineers to nail down what great battery care looks like.


Charging your drone battery

  • When you receive a new drone battery, if you plan to use it right away, charge it up to 100%. If not, it’s optimal short-term storage level is 70% (intelligent charging units, such as the senseFly SmartCharger, enable this kind of charging precision).
  • 1-2 days before your battery’s first operation, charge it up to 100%. Then, when your flights are over, charge your battery again to 70% until its next use.
  • If you notice a significant drop in your drone’s available flight time after fully charging one of your batteries, do not continue to use or charge that battery. Such a reduced power capacity can indicate an internal fault.
  • Immediately after flight, your UAV’s battery may be hot. To avoid potential damage, wait until the battery is cool enough to hold in your hand before charging it again.
  • If possible, always charge batteries in a LiPo guard bag (see image below) as these are designed to limit the spread of fire or explosion.
  • Never charge a swollen battery, one that is leaking or one that has been damaged.
  • If you notice a suspicious smell, noise, or smoke emanating from your battery or charger, disconnect it immediately.
  • Only charge your UAV’s battery with a manufacturer-approved charger. Do not attempt to charge your drone battery with any other unit.
  • Never use a damaged charger.
  • Since there is always some degree of risk that a battery will catch fire, do not charge batteries near flammable materials, or on flammable or conductive surfaces such as carpets, car seats, wooden flooring or wooden furniture. Try to charge batteries on nonflammable and nonconductive surfaces, such as in a large ceramic bowl.
  • While charging, do not leave the battery unattended, do not cover it or store it near a source of heat.
  • Do not attempt to charge a battery if the ambient temperature is below 0° C (32° F) or above 40° C (104° F), or if it is still installed inside your drone.
  • Pro tip: for efficient battery management, label each battery with a number (think: magic marker or stickers). That way, you can note down each battery’s charging status. Plus, you’ll know at a glance which battery was used for each flight, which is useful when logging your operations.
Drone_Battery_Management_Bag
The ideal way to charge a drone’s battery? Inside a battery-safe LiPo guard bag.


Storing your drone battery

  • Do not keep a LiPo battery either fully charged or discharged for more than a month. If you need to store a battery for a while and its level of charge is too high, use up some power with a short flight. If too low, charge it back up to 70%.
  • Do not leave a battery in your drone for extended periods of time. When possible, store batteries in the drone’s case instead.
  • If you need to store your batteries elsewhere, avoid direct sunlight and store them in a cool indoor location.


Safe handling of your drone battery

  • Avoid all contact with battery electrolyte—an electrically conductive liquid solution inside the battery—as well as electrolysis vapours. In the event of a battery leak, do not allow your battery’s contents to come into contact with your skin or eyes.
    • In case of contact with the skin, wash copiously with soap and water.
    • In case of contact with the eyes, rinse copiously with cold water, then consult a doctor.
    • In case of inhalation of electrolysis vapours, seek medical help immediately.
  • Inspect your batteries and charger regularly for damage to the cable, plug, enclosure or other parts. Do not use the battery if the plastic cover has been torn or compromised in any way.
  • Do not expose the battery to excessive physical shock such as impact (try not to drop it!) or crushing force. Equally, do not place any heavy objects on your battery or charger.
  • Keep batteries out of reach of children.
  • Do not allow your drone battery to come into contact with any kind of liquid. E.g. do not leave your battery/drone out in the rain or near a source of moisture.
  • Do not put your battery in a microwave oven or a pressurised container.
  • Do not attempt to dismantle, pierce, distort or cut the battery and do not attempt to repair the battery or charger.
  • Do not transport batteries in the hold of an aircraft, or any other area of an aircraft that is inaccessible during flight. Transport them in your hand baggage or preferably in a battery-safe bag.


When flying

Drone_Battery_Management_Flight
If you know you’re going to be flying, plan ahead. (Image: RDO Equipment)
  • Plan your drone’s flights so that they are comfortably within the limits of the battery.
  • Pro tip: leave a little extra time at the end of each flight in case your drone needs a little extra power for any reason, for example, to counteract strong winds or to hold its position while waiting for the landing zone to clear.
  • The lower you push a battery’s charge—hitting regularly below 20%—the shorter that battery’s life, and the lower its reliability, will be.
  • In low temperatures, or when there are strong winds, adapt your missions with shorter flight times in mind—when winds are strong, your drone uses more power, while low temperatures cause the chemistry of the battery to change and it to discharge more quickly.
  • In cold conditions, where the air temperature is below 5° C (41° F), try to keep your UAV’s batteries warm—ideally at least 5° C—before connecting them to your drone.


Disposing of your drone battery

Drone_Battery_Management_Disposal
Correct disposal of damaged batteries.
  • Do not discard of batteries with household or commercial waste—this harms the environment.
  • Damaged or unusable batteries must be disposed of properly, for example, in a container specially reserved for this purpose, following appropriate local guidelines and regulations (see image above). For more information, contact the distributor from whom you purchased your drone or your local municipal authority.
  • Do not dispose of a battery by setting it on fire.


Got a battery management story to tell?

Just drop it in the comments below.

2 Comments

  1. Raphael

    15.11.2017 - 12:10
    Reply

    Hello,
    Thank you for the article.

    My main question remains, what is the average number o cycles that a battery must last?

    • senseFly

      07.12.2017 - 16:24
      Reply

      Hi Raphael,

      According to senseFly’s support team, it is virtually impossible to say, since a battery’s usable life varies so much, based on an operator’s specific usage. It is this that determines a battery’s gradual degradation over time. Good and proper battery care, as described in the post above, is obviously key. If you have any further questions, contact your nearest senseFly partner: https://www.sensefly.com/about/where-to-buy.html. Thanks.

Leave a Reply to senseFly

Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *