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If you have recently purchased a quadcopter or drone you might wonder how far it will actually fly. Knowing how far a quadcopter can go will allow you to make sure you never lose it or crash it by taking it too far away from you and your controller.
How far a quadcopter/drone can go is as simple as knowing the flight speed and the flight time that your quadcopter has.
When you look at the performance specifications of a given quadcopter, you will see metrics that register its maximum flight speed and flight time. You can use the simple equation of distance= rate X time to calculate the quadcopter flying range but don’t forget to divide by two since you want the drone to come back to you.
You also won’t want to do an exact time and distance either as the flight time can be greatly affected by conditions such as wind, battery deterioration, and more. To be safe it is normally best to leave yourself a 10-20% window so if you think you can fly a mile away then you will only want to actually fly .8-.9 of a mile just to be safe.
Ultimately the best way to know exactly how far your drone can fly is to take it up in the air and fly it while following close behind. When the battery dies you will know the exact distance that your quadcopter can go.
Factors that affect how far a quadcopter can go
There are a few different factors that will affect how far a specific drone can go. Each of these factors will vary from model to model so you need to take each factor into account when buying or flying your drone.
Size of the quadcopter
A larger quadcopter will use its battery much faster than a smaller one. For you to stay in the air, it has to fight against gravity by using its propellers at a higher speed than a smaller and lighter drone would be. Larger drones will often have bigger or more batteries to help compensate for this but it is something that you need to keep in mind.
This is an important consideration when determining how far a quadcopter can fly from the controller. Most drones have a battery life of roughly thirty minutes but that varies from drone to drone as well. You must keep in mind that if it takes five minutes to fly away from the controller, you will need five minutes to fly it back, which is necessary if you don’t want to lose your quadcopter.
So you should never fly the drone too far away from your controller where it can’t make it back.
How far can they fly?
Toy quadcopters may go only as far as 65 feet, whereas long-range quadcopters can fly as far as many miles.
There is also normally a connection between how far a quadcopter can fly and how expensive they are. The more expensive DJI drones will have much better batteries and features than a cheap drone that you purchase at Walmart or Target. You can find plenty of middle of the road drones with great reviews (such as this one) but they will still not fly anywhere close to as far as a professional drone will.
The model of quadcopter goes a great way in determining how far it can go. In terms of consumer quadcopters, the maximum range is currently about 4 miles in total (which the Mavic Pro can reach) for recreational drones but there are professional drones that can fly further. As far as height is concerned, the sky’s the limit, although most countries have rules that limit most drones to around 400 feet in height.
With larger quadcopters they could certainly get much higher than that but the FAA (and other organizations in different countries) limit the height because of possible interference with planes and helicopters.
Quadcopter laws and regulations
State and local laws are becoming more and more complicated with the rise in popularity for quadcopters/drones. There is an FAA regulation that allows you to fly drones as long as they are in the line of sight, while other countries say you can only operate a quadcopter up to a certain distance away from the controller.
Several resources can be publicly accessed to help keep users informed, and checking quadcopter laws by state and country is essential. In the United States the FAA is in charge of regulating drones/quadcopters so you will want to check out their website to learn all about those rules.
Practical advice as you fly your quadcopter
When you are flying your quadcopter around there are some important things that you should keep in mind to help you stay safe and be able to fly another day.
No matter the distance you are flying, crashes are real and possible anytime you take your drone up. Make sure you are operating your drone in an area so that if you do happen to crash, there is no possibility of hurting anyone. You should always be aware of your surroundings and avoid airports and any public places where there are crowds of people.
Flying in a park is a great option but if the park is crowded because of a holiday or festival then it is no longer a safe place to fly your drone.
Use a spotter
If you are flying using the first-person view, it’s best that you do not operate your quadcopter alone. The first-person view camera gives you a limited view of your drone’s surroundings, making it easy to get lost in the first-person view. Having someone to keep an eye on your drone using binoculars will help them see things that you might miss and they can warn you of any nearby obstacles that you might not have seen otherwise.
Keep track of your drone
Attaching a small GPS tracker to your drone is recommended if it isn’t already equipped with GPS (most models will have it already). It may not be possible to retrieve your drone if you crash it far away from you so adding a GPS tracker or using the one that is equipped is a good idea.
Even if your drone has a GPS module, it will normally only operate for as long as your battery lasts. A backup GPS will continue to work to allow you to find and recover your prized drone even if the battery on your drone has died entirely.
Fly in open areas
To avoid any interference, it’s best to fly your quadcopter in wide open spaces. If you decide to fly your drone for long distances, you should do it in as large of an area as possible to help you keep it within eyesight. .
You can safely fly your quadcopter to a distance of about ½ mile and still keep your drone in your line of sight. For advanced drones, be sure to have your return home point set, return to home altitude set appropriately, and activate the setting to return to home on a weak signal.
How far quadcopters and drones can fly will vary a lot depending on the model, the manufacturer as well as the battery and other features that each drone has. Ultimately you can find out how far your drone will fly by multiplying its maximum speed by its total flight time and then dividing by 2 (since you have to account for the flight back as well.
Many quadcopter manufacturers will give you approximate flight length but that will be affected by weather conditions and how good your battery is working. The easiest way to get the exact right distance is to simply test your personal drone out and see how far it will go in real life conditions.