On April 23d I got my DJI Phantom and have been very busy making the surrounding parks unsafe for children and small pets. One of the issues you run into very quickly, especially when you feel the need to put a GoPro on for every flight, is the lack of power! Yes, when it comes to drone flying I start to feel powerless after about 10 minutes, unlike Superman, this is not a power you can get from the sun, it is in fact simply a matter of charging. The annoying thing is, even if you buy 3 spare batteries, it will take about an hour to charge each one.
Here is the thing, LIPO batteries, in the case of the Phantom, are made from 3 cells, it’s why the type of battery is called S3, you know the S from Cell. Makes total sense right?
These Lipo batteries are built with 3.7 Volt cells, 3 cells of 3.7Volt give you 11.1volt. the Phantom will not like any lower or higher voltage type batteries. The ones that fit inside the Phantom are 2200mah, giving you about 10 minutes flight time with a GoPro, or a possible 15 minutes without. Adding another battery will add so much weight you won’t get double the flight time but perhaps another 30% more out of it.
Another interesting number on the battery is the C number, the stock Phantom battery says it is 20C, this is a number that tells you how fast it can deliver power or discharge rate of the battery. 20C means you can discharge it at a rate 20 times the capacity of the pack, the new ones I got, have a 30C rating and should, therefore, be able to give more power. But to be honest I have not noticed any difference, in fact, it seems the stock battery last longer, but I have not timed it, maybe I’m doing more extreme stuff with the other batteries?
I’m told LIPO’s don’t like to be charged unevenly or discharged to the breaking point, this seems to be the moment they exploded in anger. They are basically like small children, very energetic when charged, can explode when they get too low on energy and need a balanced diet for optimal performance.
To get the best out of LIPO batteries you need to use a balance charger, the Phantom comes with one, by the way, this means the charger is smart enough to check the state of each cell and charge them so they are balanced. A bit like Yoga for batteries.
The first time I did a balance charge (actually got a more pro charger with a fancy display that tells me what it’s doing) it took 120 minutes to get a properly balanced charge going. Probably because it first makes sure all cells are equally charged and then fills them up. On average it takes about 55 minutes to charge a single battery, either on balance charge or fast charge, when your batteries are in good shape there is little difference so I stick to balancing the force in this one.
Use the Force
If you are considering extra batteries and charger here are a few practical things to consider: type of battery and charger, not forgetting the right cable!
The charger and battery set I got included the cable that fit’s the Phantom connector, but only because it was a Phantom powerpack and charger set.
So now what? Do we get 12 batteries and 4 chargers so we can fly for 2 hours every three hours? I’m not sure, to be honest, might get a third duo charger that can handle S6 batteries in case I ever upgrade to a large multirotor that can handle something like a Black Magic 4K, because this is addictive. and boys like hobbies that include complicated toys! But 10 minutes is not a lot and if you really want to get some airtime, you need more then fancy sneakers and one or two batteries for this one.