Are you thinking of starting a career as a drone pilot or flying drones just for fun?
Knowing how far they can fly is one of the factors to consider since it helps narrow down which drone to get based on the task at hand. While drones have not been known to have the longest flight ranges, some can surprise you.
So, how far can a drone fly?
Most drones can achieve a flight range ranging from a few feet to 10 miles. How far they can fly from the controller will depend on the signal strength, the drone’s weight and payload, batteries, weather conditions, and the drone type. Specially designed drones like Military drones can fly more than 200KM from the controller.
Please keep reading to learn more about drone flight ranges and how to get the most out of them.
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Factors Affecting Range in Drones
Each drone manufacturer indicates a range that the drone can fly from its controller – but that’s on paper.
In real life, the drone is subjected to a wide range of factors that may affect the range. These include;
Signal Strength Between the Drone and the Controller
In ideal circumstances, the signal between the drone and the controller should be strong. But issues like electromagnetic interference, clouds, wind, and other weather conditions may weaken the signal or even block it completely.
Conditions such as temperature and wind affect a drone’s range.
For instance, if you happen to be flying in the direction of the wind, this might extend the drone’s range. But if you’re flying against the wind, the drone will consume too much power.
Another weather condition is the temperature.
When it’s too hot, the density height increases. As a result, the drone’s propellers will generate less lift, limiting how far it can fly.
The thicker the air is, which it is when it’s cold, the easier the drone can create a lift. But freezing temperatures present a different challenge.
Ice can form on the propellers, affecting how they function. The ice formation also introduces extra weight to the drone.
Even though a drone is advertised to have a range spanning several miles, if the battery is weak, damaged, or can’t last long, you can’t utilize the whole range.
As a pilot, you have to consider how much battery level is left and how long the drone will take to fly back.
Too high or cold temperatures also deplete the batteries faster, limiting how far you can fly from the controller.
Freezing temperatures also prevent the batteries from releasing a charge to the drone, preventing it from flying.
The same case applies to the transmitter, and since transmitters only need a small charge, the batteries don’t get warm enough.
A drone’s weight also plays a significant role in how well it flies and how far it can fly from the controller.
But when you add more payloads such as cameras, sensors, bait delivery systems for fishing, or even packages for delivery, the drone will have to do more work than it would without a payload.
As a result, it uses more battery power, and if you risk flying too far away from the controller, there may not be enough charge left to fly back.
Drone Type or Category
Drones are often categorized based on how they generate lift and the drone’s purpose.
How They Generate Lift
When speaking about how they generate lift, there are the single rotor, multi-rotor, and fixed-wing drones.
Multi-rotor drones are the most common since they are easier to maneuver, and their ranges are between a few feet to about 8 miles.
Single rotor drones, also known as drone helicopters, may not be the easiest to fly, but since they have fewer rotors, their batteries last longer, and they also have longer ranges.
As far as drone flight distance is concerned, fixed-wing drones achieve some of the most extended ranges and battery times since they consume less battery power than multi-rotor drones.
Drone manufacturers have also included propellers in fixed-wing drones, a category known as VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing), making these drones have the endurance of a fixed-wing drone and the maneuverability of a multi-rotor drone.
Read more on the different types of drones
In this category, there are three common types.
- Hobby Drones – These are drones with basic cameras, basic batteries, and a few features and are suitable for having fun as you take photos or pull off a few stunts. Their ranges are usually only a few feet.
- Consumer Drones are drones mostly designed to serve both the hobbyist and a user who’d like to transition to better photos and videos, both for fun or professional work. Most drones fall in this category, with the ranges being between a few feet and up to 8 miles.
- Professional Drones – These are drones designed for a specific task, be it land survey, agriculture, or surveillance. As a result, they can be customized to have longer ranges to fit the job they are built for. A good example is the DJI Matrice 300 RTK, a drone built for surveying and photogrammetry, and it has a 9.3-mile range. Some consumer drones can also be used as professional drones with suitable payloads.
How To Extend a Drone’s Range as Much as Possible
Below are some ways you can extend your drone’s range;
Check the Weather
The best way to utilize the provided range entirely is to fly the drone in optimum conditions.
Drone manufacturers indicate the temperatures and wind speed in which to fly the drone. Luckily, there are apps like B4UFly that can help you check the weather conditions before flying.
Fly In Open Spaces
Avoid areas with too many obstacles, such as trees or buildings, and avoid areas with electromagnetic interference, such as areas close to power lines, since they weaken the signal.
This ensures a flawless connection between the drone and the controller, affecting how far the drone can fly from the controller.
Use Range Extenders and Antennae Extenders
As the name suggests, these are devices designed to improve the drone’s connection and allow the drone to fly further.
They are small devices that you can easily mount and unmount from your drone. And they are not that expensive either.
Get Better Batteries
Even though a drone has a long-range, the batteries may not be powerful enough or strong enough to support a long flight.
In such a case, you can get better batteries with more capacity. These will also come in handy when you extend the drone’s range.
What Happens When You Fly a Drone Out of Range?
Once you fly a drone out of range, you’ll probably lose the connection between the drone and the controller. And once that happens, a lot of things can take place depending on the drone you’re using. But the most common scenarios include;
- Return-To-Home function – Nowadays, most drones have an automatic Return-To-Home feature. This feature allows the drone to automatically fly itself to the home point or the last known location at the click of a button.
- Stop and Hover – If the RTH feature is not working or doesn’t exist on the drone, the drone may hover until the controller comes back into the range.
- Fly-Away – Some drones will keep flying even when they don’t sense the controller. As a result, they’ll fly until they encounter an obstacle or until the batteries are dead. The drone is likely to crash and experience severe damage in both cases.
- Landing – Some drones are designed to execute an emergency landing after a connection loss.
Before all of this happens, you will have realized and taken proper action. That’s because drones lose video footage transmission before losing the link between the drone and the controller.
Why? Because communication between the drone and the controller occurs within the 2.4GHz frequency, a long-range frequency. On the other hand, video transmission occurs through the 5.8GHz, a short-range frequency.
Due to cases where drones may end up flying away after flying out of range, it’s vital to invest in external GPS trackers with batteries so that they will still be functioning even after the drone’s battery is dead after the crash.
Use Cases for Long-Range Drones
No doubt, drones have revolutionized many sectors. But if they had longer ranges, they would be applicable in even more industries.
Below are the main industries that would significantly benefit from long-range drones.
Surveying And Mapping
Surveying and mapping require a drone to fly over vast tracts of land.
And since you need to acquire high-quality photographs, you may need to fly at lower altitudes, and the drone will need to fly further away from the controller.
That’s why for surveying several acres of land, fixed-wing drones are more practical since they tend to have longer ranges and more powerful batteries.
Package delivery using drones became more popular during the Covid-19 pandemic, but it has been in the works for years.
A good example is Zipline’s drone delivery service that delivers medical supplies and samples in rural Rwanda, among other countries.
Google and Amazon have also been developing the Wing and Amazon Prime Air drone delivery services respectively.
For drone package delivery to work, the drones have to fly several miles beyond the line of sight, and a drone with a few meters of flight range won’t cut it.
Long-range drones play a significant role in agriculture. They can help inspect crop health using a wide range of sensors, for starters.
Secondly, they can be used to spray herbicides and insecticides on crops.
And lastly, they can also be used to map the land. In a place where walking or driving over the whole tract of land is hectic and using an airplane is too expensive, drones offer the perfect bargain.
Surveillance and Inspection
This is another area drones have become valuable.
Whether you’re monitoring a construction project or surveilling a perimeter against intruders, drones are up to the task.
Search And Rescue Missions
Long-range drones are also useful in search and rescue missions in areas where it’s too risky or too confined for vehicles or larger airplanes to access.
And like with all other applications, this wouldn’t be possible if the pilot had to be a few meters close to the drone every time.
Other Uses of Long-Range Drones
Besides using long-range drones for professional purposes, you can also fly them for fun and recreational purposes.
Think of it like just going for a drive, but with a drone, and view the scenery, landscape, and other features in the areas you’re flying in.
Just make sure you’re flying within the stipulated guidelines. While BVLOS flying may not be allowed, you could apply for a waiver as a licensed drone pilot.
Besides, the fact that the drones can fly miles away from the controller means the connection will be super strong for short-range flights, which translates to better footage and fewer lags.
Best Long-Range Drones
Now that you know how valuable a long-range drone can be, it would be imperative to find out which long-range drones are already on the market. Below is a comprehensive list and comparison table.
|Drone Model||Transmission System||Flight Range||Flight Time||Camera Resolution|
|DJI Air 2S||OcuSync 2.0||7.5 miles (12KM)||31 Minutes||5.4K|
|DJI Mavic Air 2||OcuSync 2.0||6.2 miles (10KM)||34 Minutes||4K Ultra HD|
|DJI Mini 2||OcuSync 2.0||6.2 miles (10KM)||30 Minutes||4K|
|Autel Evo 2||Enhanced Transmission Power||5.5 Miles (9KM)||40 Minutes||6K|
|Phantom 4 V2.0||OcuSync 2.0||4.9 Miles (8KM)||30 Minutes||4K|
|DJI Mavic 2||OcuSync 2.0||4.9 Miles||31 Minutes||4K and 8K|
And there you have it. Most consumer drones, which are the majority of drones in the market, can barely fly further than 10 miles.
However, unless you use drones for BVLOS flying, a few miles range is enough to fly within the line of sight, which is required by most regulations.
But going for a drone with a longer range, like the DJI Air 2S, is paramount since it means you will enjoy a better connection for shorter flights.
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