One of the most oft-asked questions about commercial drone services is regarding how long they can fly before needing more power. This is a good question to ask, as it can really affect the usefulness of the service and helps to inform decisions between service providers. Below, we look at some of the major factors that affect drone flight times.

Before that, however, we must have a brief aside regarding the difficulty in measuring flight times. Most drones do not come with a built-in safety net or glide function, meaning that if they are airborne when they run out of juice, they will just plummet to the ground. This makes pushing their capabilities a risky and uncommon practice.

Farmer spraying his crops using a drone

The Factors Affecting Commercial Drone Flight Times

Battery Life

The battery life might be the most obvious consideration when it comes to determining the flight times for commercial drone services. The battery life of a drone must be carefully balanced between capacity and weight, as too much of one or the other can render the drone unflyable.

Weight/ Size

The size and weight of a commercial drone will also determine its effective flight time. Heavier drones may be capable of handling more tasks at once, but they will likely suffer in the flight department range as they cannot maintain their altitude for long. Therefore, much like the balancing act that commercial drone services must consider for battery life, the need to balance size and weight with performance must be taken into consideration.

Air Density

A perhaps surprising entrant on the list of factors affecting commercial drone flight times, air density has its own role to play. Air density is part of the reason why most drones are relegated below a certain altitude, as above it, their propellers and wings cannot produce the lift necessary to keep the aircraft aloft.

To a larger extent, air density also refers to the weather conditions during each flight. The length of time that a drone can stay airborne is affected by strong winds, humidity and still air. The huge variability in these conditions at any given time makes assumptions about how long drones can fly just that, assumptions.

Power Method

The way that a commercial drone receives its power or fuel is a major factor in flight time. Some of the longest-running drone flights have relied on solar power and onboard navigation to keep themselves aloft. Others use a tether which limits their range considerably but allows them to operate for long periods of time with little to no stopping.

How Long Can Commercial Drones Fly?

The length of time that consumer drones can fly is between 5-30 minutes, depending on the quality of the drone. This means commercial drones can likely fly longer, but it will really come down to the individual circumstances at play. Many commercial drone services have very specific usage, meaning that the time they are airborne may not be the most important factor.

As a result, the best way to determine the length of time a commercial drone you are interested in can fly is to contact the company that manufactures or uses the drone.