What is Lithium Polymer?
Drones and lithium-polymer batteries are the best match when it comes to delivering longer flight times, lighter weight, and greater flexibility. The chemical composition of LiPo allows for higher capacities and higher discharge rates. This means that a properly maintained lithium polymer battery pack can give your drone more "fly time", which is
Lithium Polymer vs Lithium Ion
When researching LiPo batteries, you may come across the term Lithium-Ion battery. Are they the same? It could be said yes or no.
Of course, both are made of lithium (can you remember their numbers on the periodic table without peeking?). Both rely on chemical processes that can lead to fires if not handled properly. Li-ion batteries are usually packaged in a more robust structure compared to LiPo.
Many lithium-ion battery models are similar to slightly larger AA batteries (batteries), and multiple batteries are often placed in hard plastic packaging for higher energy use (as found in laptop computers). Lithium-ion batteries are mainly found in power tools, computers and cell phones.
Lithium-polymer batteries don't leak because they're usually wrapped in aluminum-plastic film, which is stronger than lithium-ion batteries. LiPo is thinner - as low as 1mm.
Depending on the case, Li-polymer batteries are typically 20-40% lighter than their distant cousins. They also offer higher power output and higher capacity. In short, LiPo is to lithium-ion batteries what a fitness trainer is to a weak chicken.
Make it stay in the sky longer.
Unlike other rechargeable batteries, Li-polymer batteries hardly self-discharge. So they can be stored for 1-2 months and still fly.
However, LiPo chemistry is more volatile than other types of batteries, so it requires extra care when storing, transporting or transporting it. Improperly maintained Li-polymer batteries can cause fires.
Which Lithium Polymer Battery is Best for Your Drone?
Like many questions in life, the answer is "see the needs".
Unless you're building a DIY drone, your battery choices will be limited by the manufacturer. Most drones can handle batteries that provide various total flight times, but your choices will still be limited by the drone's maximum takeoff weight. But - longer flight times mean higher costs.
Choosing the right battery is like choosing the right car—some people want to get up and go; others want fuel efficiency. Do you like FPV flying? Your LiPo will need to provide a higher discharge rate to get the extra burst speed. Larger batteries can be useful for longer flight times, but again, longer battery life means heavier batteries.
How much should you have? Depends on how often you fly and what type of mission you perform. In the field, it's a good idea to have some spare batteries on hand. It also means buying a few extra chargers.
storage, transport and disposal
In case we didn't say enough - Lithium-polymer batteries are safe, but they can volatilize if not handled properly. Always store them in a fireproof place - you can even buy special fireproof bags. Some experts recommend storing them in metal ammo boxes. LiPo is stored at room temperature with a charge of about 50%.
Immediate action is required if the battery is burned, leaked, punctured or corroded. The following steps are recommended:
"Put the battery or device in a non-flammable material such as sand or cat litter as soon as possible. Contact the manufacturer's website or the retailer where you purchased it to see if the battery or device has been recalled. If so, follow the instructions.
Travel with your LiPo
You may be traveling with your drone because you plan to use it and travel smoothly; it is important to know the rules and requirements before packing your travel equipment, as the last thing we want is to hand over a brand new LiPo drone battery to local customs .
Checked Baggage and Carry-on Baggage
Passengers are now required to put detached batteries in their carry-on luggage. When checking carry-on baggage at the gate or on the side of the plane, all spare lithium batteries must be removed from the baggage and placed in the cabin with the passenger. This essentially means that if flying alone, you can carry up to three lithium polymer batteries. Plan to pack a drone with batteries in your checked baggage. If you happen to be flying with a friend or family member who is not a drone pilot , you can always ask them to bring some batteries for you.
Lithium batteries over 100 watt-hours are permitted as carry-on baggage with airline approval, but only two spare batteries are allowed per passenger.
The responsibility of the drone owner is simple: "know your drone". That means knowing the basics of law, flight, electronics, parts and safety. Having a keen understanding of all things batteries forms a big part of "knowing your drone."
Lithium polymer terms
Like any complex technology, the use of lithium polymer batteries requires familiarity with some key terms.
battery and voltage
Lithium polymer batteries are assembled using rectangular cells that are connected to produce a certain voltage. One grid represents about 3.6V; 2 batteries, 7.2V, etc. The number of batteries in an off-the-shelf drone will depend on the size and design of the battery box. Of course, DIY pilots will have more options
Obviously, the more cells, the higher the voltage and the longer the flight time. For example, DJI supplies the Mavic 2 with a 14.4V four-cell LiPo battery with a flight time of 31 minutes.
Usually measured in milliamp hours (mAh), the capacity determines how long the battery can fuel the drone's motors. Simple math - the higher the mAh, the longer the flight time. But there's a trade-off -- higher capacity means a heavier battery. Another benchmark - DJI supplies the Phantom 4 with a 15.2V Li-polymer battery with a capacity of 5870 mAh and a weight of about 1 pound. This translates to approximately 30 minutes of flight time.
The discharge rate of the lithium polymer battery determines its energy extraction rate for powering the drone motor. This is probably one of the most important terms to understand.
The discharge rate is measured by the C rating. As with most LiPo terms, the higher the number, the heavier the battery. Once you know the C rating, you can calculate the estimated flight time by first finding the battery's maximum continuous current draw (A).
Do the calculation: Multiply the C rating by the mAh (convert four digits to two digits). This will provide "A" amps of current from the battery.
Example: 5870 mAh rated at 10C draws 58.7 A (current draw).
Once you have these numbers, you can plug them into an online calculator to estimate the flight time of your LiPo battery.
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