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Batteries and Chargers

A drone isn’t going anywhere without power, and that comes from the battery. Lithium Polymer (LiPo) batteries have been the standard for aerial drones and RCs for a while now. They are lightweight and can provide a lot of current for their size. Which battery to buy depends on what it will be used for. Smaller drones obviously need a smaller and lighter battery, but the choice is always a trade-off between weight and flight time.

I’ve heard good things about the Gens Ace Eco Series, one of which is pictured below. This might be appropriate for a mid to large sized drone.

Note that there may be some advantages of going with the newer Lithium -Phosphate (LiFe) batteries. They are supposed to be safer to charge and have similar or better energy density. However, cell for cell, their voltage is lower than LiPo batteries, and not everyone has gotten ‘on the bandwagon’ with this technology.

Batteries are no use without a good charger. LiPo batteries require a special charger, like the Gens Ace iMars 50W model  pictured below. This charger will work with multiple battery chemistries, including LiPo and LiFe.

Price

  • Gens Ace Eco Series LiPo Batteries: $3.50 to $15.25, depending on voltage and capacity.
  • Gens Ace iMars 50W Charger: $39.00

What they Do

Batteries are rated by the voltage they supply, their overall capacity and the charge/discharge rate. Voltage is determined by how many 3.7V cells are wired in series, and are specified by the ‘S’ rating (e.g., 3S is 3 x 3.7V or 11.1V). Overall capacity is specified in milliamp-hours (mAh); the higher the value, the longer they will last. Multiple sets of cells can be wired internally to the battery pack to provide higher capacity. The ‘C’ rating describes how quickly the battery can be charged and discharged.

Why they’re Cool

Spend more time in the air! Having two or more batteries is really handy, so you can change out one when it is depleted and have a charged one ready to go. Charge your batteries safely and effectively with a quality charger.

Andrew Terranova

Andrew Terranova is an electrical engineer, writer and an electronics and robotics hobbyist. He is an active member of the Let’s Make Robots community, and handles public relations for the site.
Andrew has created and curated robotics exhibits for the Children’s Museum of Somerset County, NJ and taught robotics classes for the Kaleidoscope Learning Center in Blairstown, NJ and for a public primary school. Andrew is always looking for ways to engage makers and educators.


Comments

  1. The Parrot AR.Drone is a fantastically capable platform, but I wouldn’t call it a complete package. Until they include a remote control or make it compatible with standard RC controllers out of the box, it will remain an iPhone accessory to me.

    Kudos for ease of repair and spare part availability.

  2. Fair point! You do need to supply the smartphone or tablet to control the AR.Drone. Parrot has a compatibility tab on their support page, which tells you exactly which devices it will work with.
    http://ardrone2.parrot.com/support/

  3. I don’t see the HoverFly kit listed !!! Those are awesome kits !

    1. Yes, that’s a good one to add to the list. Thanks for mentioning it. Hoverfly makes some very nice flight systems, boards and accessories. I almost included the Parallax Elev-8 quadcopter (http://www.robotshop.com/parallax-elev-8-quadcopter-uav.html), which uses a Hoverfly control board.
      Interested readers can find out more at http://www.hoverflytech.com.

  4. Michael Margolis says:

    I really like that tricopter build. Although the component table needs a correction for the speed controller cost – 3 of those will be $23.40 (the table shows $9.40). its still a lot of tricopter for the money. This will go onto my list of new years projects, thanks for posting this.

    1. Whoops! Good catch, Michael. I’ll see if we can get the cost table updated. I’m hoping to make this one in the new year too. Let me know how yours goes!

  5. Bruce says:

    Walkera has a new model called the Infra X, which is slightly bigger than the ladybug. It has sensors that allow it to avoid walls and the ground. Around $100.00, hard to find, but the videos look awesome.

    1. Nice find. That does look really cool. Did I mention that the market for small quadcopters is evolving at an incredible pace? You should definitely shop around and see what is out there before you buy. Be sure to check for independent reviews so you can be reasonably sure you are getting a quality product.

Aerial Drone Gift Guide