Impossible to get 1 hour flight with current technology?

I've been reading about Micro Drones claim of 1 hour flight and I have been pouring over some numbers trying to figure out if this is possible with LiPo batteries. My answer is simply no.


I've look at different batteries and different motors. Typically the motors are able to thrust 10g per W. This means that for every gram of thrust needed you are going to consume 0.1Wh (watts per hour). Even this number is slightly optimistic, some motors / props have half of that output others go as “high” as 11-12g per watt.


Let’s use 0.1Wh per gram of thrust.


Now, let’s look at batteries (I’ve compared thunder rc and hk batteries) and the best pack for the punch is about 650 grams for a 8400mah battery (3s). With LiPos you are supposed to drain about 80% which gives about 75Ws for this battery. If you divide the weight of the battery with the Whs you find that you get about 0.11Wh per gram of battery weight.


So, to simplify; just to carry the weight of batteries you will burn up all the charge in one hour. It doesn’t matter HOW many batteries you add. The equation is still the same. However, I have seen that typically LiPo batteries packs more punch the bigger they get, but I could not find any reasonably priced batteries larger than 8400mah.


My dream of building a 1 hour flight octo with 4lb carry capacity is just impossible.

The only possibility I see is to tweak and build a really large copter and gain a few % here and there or come up with another source of energy than LiPos.


Can someone correct my math if it’s off please, or direct me to more efficient motors and batteries?



Roger Larsen

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Is everyone is starting to get the idea that the optimal matching of motors to props isn't trivial?  Then this is a great discourse.

In a BLDC motor, your throttle control directly controls RPM based on the KV rating, of course.  Here's what a typical BLDC performance curve set looks like (courtesy of Johnson Motors):

The "X" axis is torque and the "Y" axis is, well, everything else.  It's usually impractical "in the field" to measure either RPM or torque directly, but the two things you can measure are voltage (roughly equivalent to throttle position) and current.  It is important to note that the maximum efficiency peaks at about 30% power, and (as Mike said) maximum power efficiency is only about 60%.  This varies from motor to motor and among manufacturers, but the above curve set relationships are virtually axiomatic across all permanent magnet motors.

Most reputable motor manufacturers will supply data curves with real numbers.  The real baseline measurement is current; if you know that, everything else is determinable from the chart, as current and torque are directly and linearly proportional to each other.

It stands to reason that if one wishes the most efficiency, using over-sized motors for the application would be the rule, provided the weight penalty isn't unreasonable.  You can get more payback this way than careful propeller shopping, where almost all the figure of merit (FM) calculations from empirical data I've looked at place most model props in the 50-60% range in static thrust mode.  The important point here is that small props up to about 18-inches or so actually gain FM the faster you twist 'em, due to the Reynolds Number (Re) paradox.

Empirical measurement always rules.  But the basic rule-of-thumb for efficiency is buy a bigger motor than you need, and spin the prop as fast as you can, but not faster than the manufacturer recommends.

Interesting to note the requirement for high RPM. That might explain why the standard purple Arducopter motors seem so efficient with 10x4.7 props. Hope to see their graphs sometime or do tests myself.

Also wanted to mention some links to micro generators. Don't know if they ever reached production stage, but seem promising. and the same one 2 years later

Simpler design: MICE generators article


I recently ordered a laser tachometer.  For $12.50 it might be a pretty handy tool for working out motor and prop efficiency.  You just attach a little sticker reflector somewhere on a spinning part and point the laser tach at it.

As Brad said, getting a copter to hover with payload AUW at the ideal RPM where you have peak efficiency from both the motor and the propeller is a very large order indeed. Especially since performance curves from R/C brands can be somewhat lacking. But another rule-of-thumb that might crash a bit with the one Brad suggests? Is low kv motors and large (relatively) 14-16" propellers. But this is for heavy-lifter (6+ kg) applications. Not quads in the 1-2kg class.

I have the RC Timer 4215 650kv motors and would like to use the carbon fiber 15"x5.5 propellers mentioned in this thread. But what would be the best way to mount the propellers to the motors? These motors have a three point prop adapter so I can't do direct mount. Is the best way to ream out the middle mounting hole on the propellers and put on the prop adapter?

I've also been looking into this.
Because of the 2C max continous discharge, I'm trying to work out how many cells in parallel I need to be safe.

As an example, my current tricopter will fly for ~13min (general flying about, no flips etc...) on a single "25-35C" 3S Turnigy 2200mAh battery, so I'm assuming my average current draw is ~10.15A
The tricopter is ~850g AUW, I'm not too sure what the hovering current is; I'd roughly guestimate 8-8.5A (DT750 motors with 10x4.7 props).
However the ESC's are rated to 18A each (so 54A total) and the motors will definitely draw that at full throttle.

I'm not too sure what would be acceptable as a maximum burst discharge rating for these ncr18650A cells, if I'm just matching the continuous discharge to the average current I could get away with only a 3S2P but if I need to match the full throttle current I'd be looking at a 3S8P !

Ignore the AUW and hover current, I've just realised I don't count in the battery weight...

The large propeller inertia problem can be solved if you use the swash plate of helicopter to change pitch, instead of changing rotor rpm rapidly in fractions of a second. That is why serious military copter drones that routinely have 1 hour missions are helicopters, not quads.

Brad Hughey said:

Motors generally are going to be about 75-85% efficient, and the LiPoly technology is what we're basically stuck with.

The two variables which are under your control are propeller FM and disk loading.  In this worked example of a 4-pound quad, the ideal power (FM=100) is about 19 watts per gram.  If ultra efficiency is your goal, off-the-shelf props are going to disappoint you.

DIYD Thread - The Case For Large-Scale Electric Multicopters

As Jack said, if you made the disk loading light enough, it might work, but then rotational inertia would impact the controllability severely.  Ultimately, you're right - the energy density of batteries is still not there yet.

DIYD Thread - Worked Example of Energy Density Solutions

Beyond the purely mechanical problems with quads, can we talk about the Lipo, electrolytes battery problems with quads in the wider range of climates? There are arctic expeditions that we see helicopters with gas fuels routinely fairy personnel. Quad copters are nowhere to be seen with those high-latitude locales because the electrolytes freeze in hibernation, and Quads can't take gas engines without substantial pulley systems, swashplates add-on. Helicopters, on the other hand, routinely change between battery/motor power and gas engines without adding any pulley/swash. This is the nature of helicopters that de-couple power from control. 

Quadcopters can not do polar expeditions or perform high latitude missions in Scandinavian countries in the cold days. Quads are toys at its core.

Brad Hughey said:

Is everyone is starting to get the idea that the optimal matching of motors to props isn't trivial?  Then this is a great discourse.

In a BLDC motor, your throttle control directly controls RPM based on the KV rating, of course.  Here's what a typical BLDC performance curve set looks like (courtesy of Johnson Motors):

RIght now commercial drone like marvic can fly around 30 minutes, i personnally think that, within maybe 2-3 years some rivals product or the DJI itself will release some kind of 1 hour long flight.

I do wonder, is there any techonolgy could utilize some kind of hybrid tech, like when the drone is flying, the solar battery will be charged

The purpose of an (APU) auxiliary power unit is to provide power to start the main engines. An airplane (APU) is a also use to keep the aircraft computer and accessories on while the engines are turned off. check this

Wattage measures the optimal power a gadget could draw. It would not continuously decide on that power, yet, while it does, and the circuit can't furnish, fuses would be blown or, if incorrect fuses used, issues will capture on hearth. Now, many computer adapters those days are rated for a hundred and ten-240 Volts at 50-60-HZ. examine if yours is like that. if so, then the inverter isn't mandatory.

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