If you have planned an amazing off-the-grid trip with your drone and were so excited that you forgot to bring the charger along, here’s how you can juice your drone battery again.
There aren’t many options that will save you if you took your drone on that exotic trip but forgot the charger. Your best and safest bet is to fall back on the power bank or the extra set of batteries you have packed. You can also try and use a car jumper starter charger with some precautions or make your own charger while taking some risk.
As you can see, there are a few conditions that you need to keep in mind because unlike charging your phone, if you go wrong with charging a drone battery the result might even be an explosion and no one wants that. So, here’s a primer on the things you need to know before you try experimenting with your precious little toy.
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How to Charge a Drone Battery without the Charger
Everyone who has a drone will want to take it off the grid to an exotic location for some breathtaking visuals at some point or another. If that thought does not occur to you organically, it is only a matter of time before the many drone videos you will find online introduce that germ to you. And so, you start planning a trip.
But here’s the kicker.
If you are Losty McLosterson and forget to take the charger along, oh well, you will need to do some hard thinking on how to charge your drone. You will need a backup for when the drone’s battery runs out of juice. Problem is, it’s not always as simple as plugging it into a USB port and getting the job done as we do with our phones.
Drones use bigger batteries because they need more power. This means the charger will need to provide more output to get that thing flying...in this case, quite literally.
The USB chargers that we use to power our phones do not have enough current to boost the battery of a drone. But fear not. Because this is not the end of the road. There are a few options that can save the day even without an AC outlet. Here are your choices.
If you are going completely off grid, you need something that can keep your battery going for a long time. Seasoned camerapersons always keep extra gear to make sure their cameras are never dry.
This is all the more applicable if you are not going to be near a charging station anytime soon. After all, we’re not talking about substituting a USB cable for an outlet charger. This isn’t your iPhone.
Solid power banks like the Goal Zero Sherpa 100 are actually a good option. You can buy them beforehand online and apart from drones, they can be used to charge the batteries of other accessories too like cameras, phones and other electronics.
Some of these power banks also come with a 12-volt DC output which means that you can also use a car charger to kickstart your drone battery. Some power banks are expensive but they are a great way to extend the life of your drone battery while you are away from civilization.
Here’s another veteran move. Carrying extra batteries is always an excellent idea. And if you are going to do this, make sure they are not cheap imitations that are readily available in the market these days.
The DroneMax M10, for instance, is a good one to carry along. The battery is big enough to keep the drone going for a couple of extra rounds. Except, you must remember that this is not a way to get the job done cheaply.
Make Your Own Charger
But if it is purely a case of forgetting the charger, you do have the option of making your own charger but this is not recommended and it is more of a “desperate times call for desperate measures” situation.
A battery’s capacity is usually measured in milliampere hour or mAh because that value is determined based on the voltage it draws. Instead, you need to convert that to watt-hours or Wh which is the energy that any battery will produce for about an hour when you know the voltage.
You can calculate that using the formula:
(mAh) x (V)/1000 = Wh
If you are using Li-ion batteries, the basic operating voltage is about 3.7 volts. Let’s take that as the base value and consider charging a Mavic battery. Don’t worry, you can extrapolate this for other batteries too. These batteries have an operating voltage of about 11.4 volts and 3,830 mAh which means they are rated at 43.6 watt-hours.
Typically, those with a drone come back with 30 percent charging after a good day’s work. This means you need to recharge the 70 percent that was used to reach full capacity. That is about 30.5 watt-hours.
You can use car chargers to help you get there. These are DC chargers and since we are talking about a Mavic battery, note that a Mavic Pro’s input voltage is about 12.16 volts while the output is 13.2 volts and 6 amps.
It is important to know that whatever battery you are trying to charge, the input voltage of the battery and the charger have to be in the same range for the charger to work. You should also know that the input source needs to have 6 amperes of power. If you’re not sure how much that is, a regular USB charger is 2 amps or less.
You can try using an inverter and boost the DC input to AC but that is not efficient. Ideally, you should use a DC to DC system. Now, you also need to figure out if you need charging for multiple flights. The best way to do this is to check the flight time that your original battery gives you when it is fully charged.
You can also try a portable car jumper starter battery if you are looking to provide juice for a lithium-ion battery. This will give you enough charging for at least another flight.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Charge a Drone Battery?
The safest way to charge your drone batteries is to do it outdoors where there is no chance of them catching fire. Because, when a battery explodes, it emits lots of toxic gases into the atmosphere.
If you do this indoors, the level of danger increases. But don’t do this in direct sunlight because then the battery will overheat. And keep them away from combustibles like plants that are dried out.
If you have to do this indoors, take some measures to contain a fire in case there is one. You can charge them in cinder blocks or have a bucket of sand handy to extinguish the fire. Be sure to never keep it in a fireproof container because this might just pressurize the energy and lead to an explosion.
How Can I Charge My LiPo Battery without a Charger?
You can use a power supply or a USB port. If you take the first option, the best way to go about it is to use an alternate set of batteries with the same cycle rate and voltage. But you can also try charging them with a USB port but it will take much longer. So, be prepared for that. It is also a bit dangerous to try this, so consult a professional before you do.
How Do You Charge a Drone Battery with a USB Cable?
You can try using the cord that came with your drone. This is a USB cable that can be plugged into your computer. You can also use a wall charger and connect it to the mini USB connector that is usually on the front side of the drone. If you’re using this method, you don’t need to remove the battery from the drone at all.