How Long Do Drones Last

How Long Do Drones Last?

When we buy a drone, we hope it has a lifespan akin to any electronic gadget. After all, you did spend a significant amount on it! But the reality is that drones are not meant to last forever.

So, how long do drones last? The life of a drone is gauged by usage hours. An average drone will last between 150-800 hours of flying time.

The large gap in the expected lifetime is because this is influenced by various aspects – the drone model, overall maintenance, battery care etc., to name a few.

I could keep my DJI Mavic in pristine condition longer than most of my friends. Join me as I explain the factors influencing drone life and share some secrets to prolong it.

Factors Influencing Drone Lifespan

Factors Influencing Drone Lifespan

Below are some notable drone lifespan factors that can help you keep your drone in pristine flying condition. I’ll also discuss ways to optimize performance through care and maintenance tips.

1. Battery

The battery is what powers up your drone, and this makes it a crucial component of drone health. It is important to use original and compatible batteries to avoid flying issues in the drone.

Most mid-range drones can fly for around 15 minutes, provided the battery is in perfect condition. As the battery’s power decreases with usage, it will have an impact on the flight time.

Another thing to note is the type of battery you are buying. I was advised by a friend to buy lithium-ion batteries for high-power-consuming devices.

Since then, I’ve diligently followed this instruction, and it has proven to be a game-changer for me!

Now you might question me – how long do drone batteries last?

Well, lithium-ion batteries store more energy and last significantly longer than other batteries. Yes, they cost more, but the price is commensurate with the battery life.

Below are a few tips that I diligently follow with all batteries in all my gadgets:

–   Never expose your battery to extreme temperatures. This can cause the battery to deteriorate. 

–   Use the official charger when charging your battery.

–   Never over-charge the battery, and definitely do not charge it immediately after a flight.

–   When storing a battery, discharge it to about 40-60%.

–   Batteries must be charged and discharged to 15% every few months.

–   Keep the terminals of the battery and the charger ports clean.

2. Motor And Propeller Wear

The drone propellers and motor are prone to wear and tear with each flight. Harsh weather, drone altitude, speed, and propeller design contribute to drones’ gradual deterioration.

Let’s discuss some ways to extending drone motor and propeller life:

–   Weather conditions like rains, strong winds, and fog put immense strain on the propellers, causing them to corrode or malfunction.

–   Flying at high altitudes where the air density is lower forces the propellers to work more strenuously to generate the required thrust.

–   Constantly flying at high speeds puts more strain on the propellers and subjects them to quicker wear and tear.

–   Lastly, propellers that are designed incorrectly or have manufacturing defects are quicker to degrade.

Now that we know what factors contribute to wear and tear on drone motors and propellers let’s focus on the solutions.

To minimize propeller damage, it is advised to avoid aggressive maneuvers, visually inspect propellers after each flight, and practice regular maintenance. 

Like the propellers, the motor is prone to degradation over time. Reduced performance, unusual sounds, and worn-out bearings are the tell-tale signs of motor damage.  

Dirt & debris, corrosion, and demagnetization of the motors are some common causes of motor damage in drones. These can be averted to a large extent by periodic inspection and maintenance.

Some ways to care for your drone’s motor are:

–   Avoid flying near water or getting the drone wet. Water, especially salt water, can cause motors to corrode rapidly.

–   Keep an eye on the RPM of the motor. If the RPM is unusually high without any load, then it indicates motor damage.

–   Clean the motor after each use to remove any traces of moisture and dirt.

–   Regularly lubricate motor bearings with a good quality lubricant to reduce friction.

3. Drone Frame Durability And Maintenance

Now, you might ask – does the material and build of the drone frame impact its lifespan?

Yes, the material used in the drone body and components is decisive in determining its lifespan. Drones are generally made using carbon-fiber, aluminium alloys, magnesium alloys, and plastic.

In the event of a crash, it is the quality and robustness of the drone frame that minimizes damage.

The drone frames of the DJI Mavic and Phantom are made using a magnesium alloy called AZ91D. It is lightweight, strong, and has good corrosion resistance.

Carbon-fiber is another preferred material for making the motor mounts, chassis, and other structural elements of professional-grade drones. It offers high stiffness, corrosion resistance, and is extremely lightweight.

A plastic drone, on the other hand, is relatively feeble and prone to breakage in the event of a crash.

The premium frame and body quality are what you get when you invest in an expensive drone.

Dangers to the frame of the drone mostly arise from collisions or crashes. I’ve seen some expert pilots involved in serious drone crashes, so never be too overconfident!

Here are some tips to avoid this scenario:

–   Avoid flying close to tree branches. Even the slightest contact can prove harmful to your drone.

–   Ensure that the landing area is clear of obstacles before landing.

–   If you see any errors popping up on the drone app, immediately retract the drone.

–   Fly at a low height for a few minutes to warm up the drone and check the controls.

–   Keep the software updated so the controller can optimally perform its functions.

–   Don’t let your drone out of sight. Not only is flying out of VLOS (Visual Line of Sight) illegal, but it can also lead to communication errors that can lead to a crash.

–   Inspect the frame pre and post-flight to check for any cracks.

–   Use a soft microfiber cloth when cleaning the frame of the drone.

Drone Flight Hours and Usage Patterns

Drone Flight Hours and Usage Patterns

How does flight time and usage patterns affect overall drone longevity? The maximum wear and tear in a drone happens during flight.

This includes the time duration as well as the conditions in which it is flown. 

Let’s discuss the flight time first.

Before you take your drone for a spin, pay attention to the manufacturer’s designated flight time.

Some drones can be airborne for up to 45 minutes, others for just 15 minutes. Never exceed this limit, as it can take a toll on your drone’s machinery.

Battery capacity is one of the measures of a drone’s flying time. The more the battery capacity, the greater the flying time.

For example, the DJI Mavic Air 2 has a battery capacity of 3500mAh. This gives it a flight time of up to 34 minutes.

Next, we come to the weather conditions. I’ve seen many enthusiasts fly drones in adverse weather despite manufacturer warnings.

I’ve also seen their drones battered up by the weather and in frequent need of replacement parts!

If you read the DJI manual, you will know what are the manufacturer’s recommendations for optimal drone usage.

It clearly prohibits flying in rain, fog, or snow. Unless absolutely unavoidable, do not test the limits of your drone by flying in inclement weather. This can cause your drone to drift and lead to malfunction.

Another thing to avoid is aggressive speeds and maneuvers. While this is okay for racing drones since they are designed for speed, regular drones cannot perform optimally with this usage pattern.

Technological Obsolescence in Drones

Technological Obsolescence in Drones

I’m simply amazed by the rapid speed at which the drone industry is evolving! Within a few months of purchasing the Mavic 3, I saw that DJI had launched the Mavic 3 Pro.

They added a third 1/1.3-inch CMOS Medium Tele Camera to it, which offers the ability to capture pictures with more compression.

Of course, I was heartbroken that I hadn’t waited for the new launch! But such is a drone enthusiast’s life.

Are there strategies to prevent technological obsolescence in drones? There will always be new launches with better features, and one cannot have them all. To overcome this technological obsolescence, I always update the software.

With each new update, the controller adds some new features that upgrade its capability. Replacing old parts and adding new accessories also gives a novel feel to the drone.

Your drone will not last forever. So, care for it meticulously and enjoy the flying experience. It will soon be time to buy a new one *wink*

Manufacturer Guidelines For Drone Usage and Maintenance

Manufacturer Guidelines For Drone Usage and Maintenance

Most drones come with a manual that lists some guidelines and maintenance tips. It is imperative that you read these thoroughly to keep your drone at top performance.

What routine maintenance practices can I adopt to extend my drone’s life?

DJI has a checklist that offers advice on drone inspection, battery health, drone transportation, and other aspects.

I found it extremely useful as a first-time drone owner and always advise everyone to read it.

I couldn’t find a separate detailed maintenance manual for my DJI Mavic online, but there was one for the Matrice 30 series.

You can read it here; I’m also summarising some general pointers below:

–   A Basic Maintenance is to be carried out depending on your requirements. This will include deep cleaning, calibrations, and updates.

A Routine maintenance for drone longevity every 300 flights/every year. Deep cleaning, calibrations, updates, and component replacements are recommended.

–   A Maintenance every 900 flight hours/3 years. Besides the above requirements, this maintenance will also have propulsion system component replacement. Factory service is advised for this.

Future Trends in Drone Longevity

Future Trends in Drone Longevity

With the wide applicability drones offer across sectors, their future definitely looks promising.

We can expect groundbreaking innovations that will herald exceptional improvements in drone performance and longevity.

Advanced materials like graphene, thermoplastic composites, etc., are being considered for manufacturing drones.

These materials combine strength and resistance with the treasured quality of being lightweight.

This will make the drone body and frame more durable and longer-lasting.

In addition, the design and manufacturing of drones is also expected to undergo a face-lift. 3D printing is one such possibility.

Not only will it reduce manufacturing time, but it also promises better aerodynamics and enhanced durability.

How long can I expect my drone’s battery to last?

Future trends in drone durability also focus on increasing the battery life. This is needed to increase the flight time as well as offer more power to the drone.

There is also a possibility of hybrid power systems to fire up the drone.

Conclusion

So, how long do drones last? To reiterate, in the present scenario, a mid-priced drone’s lifespan is, at best, 2-3 years.

But can regular cleaning and inspection help prolong the lifespan of a drone? Certainly, I know of people whose drones have far exceeded that time and continue to be in top condition.

But like I said above, they follow some very strict pre and post-flight maintenance rituals.

The lesson to take back is looking after your drone is key to maximizing drone lifespan and optimizing performance.

FAQ

What future advancements can be expected to enhance the durability of drones?

Technological breakthroughs in battery life, drone frame and body, drone design and manufacturing are some advancements that will enhance drone longevity.

How often does a drone’s battery require replacement?

It is advised to replace batteries every two years or as soon as you notice a dip in drone performance.

When should I consider changing my drone’s propellers?

Generally speaking, propellers last up to 3 months or 200 flights. But replace them immediately if you notice any cracks or bends on the surface.

Author
Diptesh Das

Diptesh Das is your friendly ‘content maniac’ and drone enthusiastic! Being passionate about content writing. He is a firm believer of the power of words and thereby ended up leveraging them to create an impact by sharing his drone knowledge and experiences.

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