How Far Can a Drone Fly?


We’ve all heard about drones and their impact on the society. These unmanned aerial vehicles have taken every sphere of our lives including spying on our enemies. Some of the tasks tend to cross moral lines.

That said, the drones do offer incredible benefits. Apart from the military applications, their use is swiftly expanding into scientific, commercial, agricultural and recreational applications. Other uses include product delivery, peacekeeping, surveillance, smuggling and aerial photography.

To accomplish these feats, we need to determine how far the drone can fly.

Types of drones

There are different classifications of drones; by shapes and sizes, range, and weight. The major functions of UAVs are target and decoy, combat, reconnaissance, logistics, civic and commercial UAVs and research and development.

Sorting drones according to weight is much simpler; heavier UAVs, miniature UAV which weigh below 25 kg and micro air vehicle which weighs less than 1g. In terms of range we have;

  • Hand-held 2 km range, 600m altitude
  • NATO type 50 km range, 10,000m altitude
  • Tactical 160 km range, 18,000m altitude
  • Close 10 km range, 5,000m altitude
  • High-altitude long endurance 9,100 km range, 30,000m altitude
  • Medium altitude, long endurance 200 km range, 30,000m altitude
  • Orbital low earth orbit
  • CIS lunar earth to moon transfer 

What components make up a drone?

Body and power supply

The drones don’t have a cockpit or windows. Small UAVs use lithium-polymer batteries while larger UAVs work best with airplanes engines.

Computing and software

Small drones use Autopilot or Flight Controller system hardware. Sensors give information concerning the aircraft. There are three sensors;

  • Exteroception which collects external information like distance.
  • Exproprioceptive compare internal and external aircraft state.
  • Non-cooperative detect targets that may cause collisions.

UAVs work in real-time meaning any change in data requires rapid response.

Communications and flight controls

Drone programs perform aggressive perching/landing on high surfaces then climb to better communications sites. Some UAVs have VTOL designs which control have varies flight modelization. Radio frequency front end are most common in UAVs. They connect the antenna to a flight computer and analog-to-digital converter.

how far can a drone flyHow far can a drone fly?

It depends on the following:

  • Horizontal speed of your drone which in many drones can be between 5 to 20 meters per second. The time component is determined by the battery and varies from model to model.  Some models can fly for 36 minutes straight at about 50mph.  Keep in mind 18 minutes is to the destination and the balance for the trip back. Some drone which use combustion engines have top speeds of 100 km/h and can stay airborne for 60 minutes.
  • Transmitter or radio controller will help you get the maximum range in case you need to go long distance. You can do a couple of modifications to extend the radio controller range. Another method is to exchange the stock antenna with antennas that run with lots of power.
  • Flying far means the drone will be out of sight. Introduction of reliable FPV technology will give you control of the drone, even when out of sight. This is a completely immersive experience.
  • Local laws prohibit flying of drones for more than 1 mile in some countries. To avoid losing you drone or facing jail time research the laws pertaining to drone flight.

The longest a drone has flown is 97 miles to deliver a four-pound package. The drone was fitted with a cellular chip, which connected to an existing cell tower infrastructure. Its power source was batteries and gas.

Best Drones on the market

Syma X5C 4 Channel 2.4GHz RC Explorers Quad Copter w/...
Equipped with HD camera.; 6-axis Gyro stabilization system ensures maximum stability during flight
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Avoid this sins when you flying a drone

  1. Don’t abuse the throttle. The result will be loss or crash of the drone
  2. Avoid flying in areas you’re not known or active airfields. In case the drone is stuck in a tree you can ask the neighbor to retrieve it for you. It’s illegal to fly a drone within a five-radius of a runway or active airport.
  3. Don’t attempt to fly when the winds speeds are high. Imagine wading into a drainage to save the drone because you couldn’t be patient.
  4. Know the limits of your battery. Running your battery until dead might damage both the drone and battery.
  5. Never fly alone when using FVP. A spotter with a good set of binoculars will help point out obstacles.

Last words:

Drones are useful and fun. Once you determine how far the drone can fly you can put it to work. Photography, agriculture, military; just name it. The benefits certainly outweigh the negatives. Ensure you have the necessary components to fly the drone. Batteries, good weather and functional flight controls.

Technology is set to increase the drone flight time to about one hour and permit it to hover like other birds, with little energy. As we wait let’s attach purpose to the drones.

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Tom/ author of the article

Hi! My name is Tom. I'm a fan of RC tech for almost 15 years. Being a professional engineer, I started this blog to help people to choose the best RC gadgets from thousands on the market.

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