How far drone can fly? How to extend the drone range?

how far drone can fly

Howdy reader? Wondering how far your drone can fly? Similarly, I had the same question when I bought my first drone. I searched about it but no answer was satisfactory and I think you’re in the same boat. Do not worry buddy, I’m here to help you out. So get ready for a drone ride!

How far the drone can fly from a controller?

Generally speaking, Drones can fly from 20 m to 8 km for commercial drones. So how do you determine the maximum range of your drone? It depends on the drone type. As we know, There are several drones in the market so how do you determine it? For this take a look at the table I’ve made below and I think it’ll be helpful for you.

DRONE TYPERANGE
TOY/BEGINNER DRONESUp to 20 meters
MEDIUM RANGE DRONESUp to 4 kilometers
LONG RANGE DRONESUp to 8 kilometers
FPV RACING DRONESUp to 1 kilometer

So now you have got the idea of the range of your drone. Also, If you still have doubts. You can send a mail, I’m always here to help.

Factors on which the maximum range of drones depends?

If you’re talking about the maximum range of the drones then it depends on a lot of factors. Let’s have a look at some of the important factors:

  • Control Frequency
  • Transmitter Power
  • Interferences
  • Relative Position (Drone & Controller)
  • Drone Flight Law

Here we’ve listed some of these factors. You must be wondering by now, what are they and how do they affect your drone range? So without wasting any minute. Let’s discuss each and every point in an elaborate manner.

CONTROL FREQUENCY

Coming to the first point, We’ve control frequency. There are two types of frequencies that are used for the radio transmissions in the drone controllers:

  1. 2.4 GHz ( Slow speed but long-range )
  2. 5.8 GHz ( Fast speed but short-range )

The only main difference between both radio transmission frequencies is that 2.4 GHz has a slower speed of communication but they have a long-range. Therefore, It is one of the most widely used frequencies whereas 5 GHz has a faster speed of communication but short-range.

Now you know why 5 GHz frequency is used in FPV racing drones? Because they need to be faster with the movements while performing flips or turns as they don’t need to worry about the range.

It also answers why 2.4 GHz is used widely in general drones because they have long-range making it easy to control from very far away.

As 2.4 GHz is the most common frequency for radio transmissions, many devices occupy this frequency band like our wi-fi routers, cellular networks, etc This can also cause overcrowding or interferences which we’ll discuss in the upcoming points.

Therefore, You must try to use the 5 GHz band (It has 23 channels) as it is less crowded as compared to the other 2.4 GHz band (It has 11 channels) to overcome interference issues.

TRANSMITTER POWER

Talking about the transmitter power, People have a misconception about it. They think doubling their transmitter power doubles their drone range but that’s not true. It’s a hoax but something about is true.

The drone range is directly proportional to the transmitter power: Range ∝ Transmitter Power

It may not be 100% accurate but it gives us a rough idea about the relation between range and the transmitter power.

In order to double the drone range, You need to increase the transmission power by 4 times. As the radio wave transmission travel or propagate in the form of a sphere and the power density changes proportionally to the square of the radius. Therefore, Transmitter Power is only one of the variables used to calculate how far can a drone fly.

For example, If we have a 2 Watt transmitter that reaches 1 km, then you would need an 8 Watt transmitter to reach 2 km, on the same transmitter according to the above law.

INTERFERENCES

As discussed in the first point, We’ve talked about how interferences affect the range of the drone. Now we’re going to discuss each type of interference and its causes.

Type of interferences:

  1. RF Interferences
  2. Interferences Due To Surroundings

Before we discuss the above interferences, We need to discuss the Radio Fresnel Zone. So what is Fresnel Zone?

It is an ellipsoidal region of space between and around a transmitter and a receiver. As transmitted sound, wave, or light waves can follow slightly different paths before reaching a receiver, especially if there are obstructions or reflecting objects between the two. Here’s a diagram depicting the Fresnel Zone:

Fresnel zone how it affects the range of your drone?
An image representing Fresnel Zone from Wikipedia

I hope you understand the concept of Fresnel Zone by now. Now with the help of it, We’ll understand the concept of interference.

RF Interferences

This type of interference can occur when an unwanted signal or radio wave frequency interfere the communication between the controller and the receiver. Now looking at its causes:

  • The frequency overlaps with your radiation pattern,
  • The frequency is the same as yours,
  • And the frequency is of higher power than your transmitter.
Interferences (Surroundings)

This type of interference may be caused by interferences like buildings, trees, or any other object which disrupts the movement of the wave. If we introduce some objects into the Fresnel zone, the link strength decreases which can be seen in the examples below. Always remember objects that are in the direct line of sight between the receiver and transmitter cause the largest interference. Check out this example:

Image showing interference with the help of Fresnel zone how it affects drone range
Analyze the above images to understand the Interference with the help of the Fresnel region.

I hope you understood this concept very well. Moving forward to the next point, We have the topic – Relative position of the drone and controller.

RELATIVE POSITION (DRONE & CONTROLLER)

If we look at the relative position of the drone and controller, We’ll have two features that affect their communication range:

  1. Radiation Pattern
  2. Antenna Gain

Now we’ll discuss both of the characteristics. Starting with the radiation pattern, What is the radiation pattern?

If we look at the radiation pattern, It can be referred to as the directional dependence of the strength of the radio waves from the antenna. Every antenna has its own distinct radiation pattern.

Directional Radiation Pattern

Directional antennas can only broadcast or receive in a cone-shaped pattern in one specific direction.

Omni-directional Radiation Pattern

Omni-directional antennas are the ones that can broadcast or receive equally in all directions form a radiation pattern that is a sphere centered around the antenna.

FYI, If you are only planning to fly in short distances from the controller, such as in a local park, then an Omni-directional setup will work just fine for you. However, If you are flying long distances, then a unidirectional antenna pattern is what you want.

With the help of the following diagram, you can differentiate between Omni-directional and directional antennas:

difference between omni directional and directional radiation pattern

Now we’re coming to the last point which is drone law.

DRONE LAW

Even if your drone is able to fly ranges like 8kms or similar then it’s not necessary that you can. Yes, you heard it right. As different countries have different rules for this but most of the countries suggest that the drone should be in your line of sight and it shouldn’t go far where you can’t see it. Also, Live feed from drones isn’t considered in this case. So you need to careful while flying drones.

It’s good to keep a tab on your drone while flying it otherwise you will face heavy penalties which in my opinion is not a good thing to happen any day. Pro-tip, Don’t fly near airports.

How to extend the drone range?

After reading all the above points, you can clearly see what factors can extend the range of your drone. Still, For the people who are too lazy to read it. I’m going to put all the points down here.

  • Use 2.4 GHz instead of 5 GHz as it has a long-range.
  • Try to fly in an open area.
  • Avoid flying in an overcrowded area as interferences may occur.
  • Purchase a drone range extender.

I have seen people getting confused while looking for a drone range extender (Generally, They work like wifi repeater). So If you need help while purchasing a drone range extender and don’t know much about it. Write it down in the comments below, I’ll try to help you with it. Also, If you want me to write down a whole article based on drone range extension. I would be happy to write about it.

CONCLUSION: HOW FAR DRONE CAN YOUR DRONE FLY?

  • Toy drones can fly up to a range of 20 meters.
  • Long-range drones like DJI MAVIC PRO 2 can have a range of 8 km.
  • If your drone is able to fly long ranges then it is not necessary that you can fly it.
  • There are certain laws that prevent drones from flying on long-ranges like:
    • The drone should be in the line of sight.
    • Limit to the range of drones by law.
  • Limit put by the drone manufacturers.
  • Also, Factors that affect the range of drone:
    • Interferences
    • Transmitter Power

At last, We part our ways. Now you know how far your drone can fly. Have a nice day!

When l'm not working, am usually with my two year Labrador, who loves to run and exercise even more than I do. I love to play video games, and travel whenever I can.

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