How Far Can a Drone Fly

How Far Can a Drone Fly?

Drones come in different types, sizes, and capabilities. It’s the pilot’s job to understand their drone’s capabilities to avoid any issues.

One area you need to understand about your drone is how far it can fly, Flying too far could lead to battery depletion, a lost connection, or even a flyaway if the drone fails to reconnect to the controller. So, how far can a drone fly?

While a high-end drone’s range could be 2.5 to 60 miles, a toy drone’s range could be 0.011 to 0.057 miles. Various factors determine the drone range, including obstacles, battery life, weather conditions, signal strength, and drone model.

Also, the drone range could be long or short depending on drone use; for example, military drones are designed to fly thousands of kilometers but consumer drones are limited to a few miles.

This article will talk more about drone range and what affects it. Keep reading.

How Far Can a Drone Fly?

As mentioned, a drone’s maximum range may vary based on various factors, including its signal strength and model, as we shall see in this article.

So, while some low-end drones feature a flight range of only 0.011 miles, other high-end drones feature a range of 7.5 to 2.4 miles or more. DJI Mini 3 Pro, for example, has a range of 7.5 miles, while the DJI Air 3 has a flight range of 12.4 miles.

Nevertheless, despite the potential of your drone to fly high, there may be other restrictions set by the relevant authorities that restrict you from flying too far from the controller.

However, the authorities’ maximum distance restrictions differ based on whether the drone is used for commercial or recreational purposes and where the drone is used.

In most regions, you should always fly your drone within visual line of sight, which is about 1600 feet. To fly beyond visual line of sight, like Zipline’s recent project, needs special authorizations, observers, and other clearances.

The 1600-feet limit is for horizontal flight; various civil aviation agencies also have a limit of how high you can fly, which is usually 400 feet to avoid colliding with manned aircraft.

Below, we shall discuss different drone ranges based on various aspects.

Drone Model

Drone Model - How Far Can a Drone Fly?

The technology involved in manufacturing drones contributes significantly to their ability to fly high. High-end drones have a higher drone range than low-end drones.

Below is a table showing a few drone models with their estimated maximum range.

DroneFlight Range
Mavic Air 211 miles
Mavic 39.3 miles
DJI Mini 26.21 miles
DJI Mavic 2 Pro6.21 miles
Autel Robotics EVO II5.59 miles
DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.04.97 miles
Autel Robotics EVO Drone4.35 miles
DJI Mavic Mini2.49 miles
Holy Stone HS720 Foldable GPS Drone0.62 miles
Altair Outlaw SE0.25 miles
SIMREX X300C Mini Drone0.028 miles
Holy Stone HS210 Mini Drone0.031 miles

Drone Type

Drone Type

The table above highlights multirotor drones, which are the most common ones. However, fixed-wing drones, another type of drones, conserve battery life and are able to last longer.

In automated flight, or when using advanced transmission technologies, a fixed-wing drone can travel up to hundreds of miles. This is why fixed-wing drones are being used for deliveries, and not multi-rotors.

Another implication of multi-rotor drones that limits how far they can fly is overheating.

The rotors rotate at high speeds, causing overheating, and the drone may need to frequently land to cool. So as much as it could be designed to fly far, it would still need to land after a short distance.

Battery Life

Drones depend on the batteries for power supply to the propeller and motors, among other components. Drones with batteries with long life can, therefore, fly higher and for longer than those with a short battery life.

Larger drone batteries have higher capacities, giving the drone a more extended flight range. Sadly, these drone batteries make drones heavier, negatively affecting how long it can stay in flight.

Even larger and commercial drones like the DJI Agras or MAtrice series drones use batteries. So as much as they are powerful, they can’t fly too far from the controller due to limited battery life.

One way drone manufacturers are dealing with this is exploring other ways to power drones, such as gas, but only military drones are able to use this.

Power sources like gas, on a fixed-wing drone, and with satellite communication (more on this later) allow military fixed-wing drones to travel thousands of kilometers.

Weather Conditions

Bad weather negatively affects a drone’s range. So, high humidity and temperatures may shorten the drone’s range. For example, high temperatures make a drone’s battery overheat, reducing its life.

In addition, flying a drone during a strong wind highly drains the battery, shortening the flight time and range.

Flying your drone in favorable temperatures for high ranges and longer flight times is best.

Signal Strength

For a drone to communicate with its controller, it uses radio frequency signals. This connection is also one of the reasons drones are detectable by radar.

Strong signals make the communication between the pilot and its controller effective and successful. Even so, there’s a limit: the further the drone goes, the weaker the signals become.

Trees, buildings, towers, or anything with an electromanetic interferences will block these signals, limiting how far the drone can fly from the controller..

So, pilots may have to stay within a specific range to keep communication with their drones strong if the drones have limited ranges.

Even so, drones with short flying ranges are cheaper, and you must always fly them within the line of sight.

Drones with strong signals have a high price tag and a high range. Sadly, keeping the line of sight could be challenging if the drones go too far.

Thankfully, you can also buy a drone with GPS. Hence, when it loses communication with its controller, it tries to ‘Return to home’ based on its settings.

To avoid weakening the signal strength, you could do a few things:

  • Fly in Good Weather: As mentioned, extreme temperatures and a strong wind weaken signal strength.

    Snow and rain, for example, weaken signal strength. Therefore, avoid flying your drone if it is extremely cold or hot.

  • Environmental Conditions: As highlighted, the flying environment could negatively affect the signals. Also, for a drone to communicate with its controller effectively, it uses a specific wavelength, also used by Bluetooth and Wi-Fi devices.

So, if many devices use the same signal frequency as your drone, there will be interference.

Remember, drones use an electromagnetic spectrum and frequency of about 5.725–5.825 GHz and 2.400–2.483 GHz, respectively. If possible, avoid flying in areas where the signal could be blocked or interfered with.

Drone Weight

Heavy drones need more power to stay in the air. Hence, heavy drones don’t have long ranges. So, if you’re looking for drones with a longer range, consider light drones with a streamlined design.

Such have a small front to reduce turbulence. Drones with a low drag also feature a higher range than heavy drones.

Transmission type

While the systems come in different names, most consumer drones use Wi-Fi to communicate with the controller, which significantly affects how far they can fly.

For instance, DJI uses OcuSync, which is a system that automatically switches between 2.4 GHz and 5.4GHz frequencies.

Currently, DJI has upgraded to OcuSync 4.0 which promises a range of up to 20KM.

DJI drones also have some of the longest ranges among consumer drones. On the other hand, special drones like Military drones use satellite communication, allowing them to travel thousands of miles, but it will be difficult to find such technologies in consumer drones.

Wrap Up

Wrap Up

How far a drone can go depends on many aspects, as we have seen, for example, the drone model, the signal strength, weight, battery life, drone type, and weather conditions during flights. So, while some drones can barely fly a 1 mile, others can fly thousands of miles.

Even so, there are various actions you could take. For example, flying the drone under favorable weather conditions and in less frequency-congested conditions to avoid signal interference could increase the drone’s range.

Also pay attention to the drone’s capability and fly it within its maximum range.

Despite your drone’s maximum range, remember to consider the various regulations such as keeping it within the line of sight and using observers if you fly too far.

Author
Peter Karanja

Peter is a licensed drone pilot and drone fanatic. He owns a DJI Air 2S that he uses to shoot videos for fun, enjoyment and for clients.

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