Understanding how long a commercial drone can fly is quite important. After all, if you are looking for commercial drone services that require extended flight times, knowing this beforehand can save time, money, and investment. Unfortunately, the answer is not easy to come by.
The term “commercial drone services” is kind of a wide net, as it includes both drone-related services and also the manufacturers of available drones. Therefore, it is best to categorize and separate the different drones so that you can understand the flying time for the right type of drone.
Consumer Drones (15-45 minutes)
This is the largest category of drones currently available. Typically these are quad-copters that have batteries to power them. The charging method for these drones is typically a modern electrical outlet connected to the battery. As a result of these conditions and the widespread availability, these drones usually have the shortest flight times, which are about half an hour (give or take 15 minutes).
Military Drones (1 day+)
As you might expect, military drones are likely to have the longest flight times available. The chances of the general public knowing the actual longest flight time for a military UAV are slim. Military technology is generally kept under wraps and may purposefully misguide people into believing claims that are not factual. However, we are relatively certain military drones can fly for at least a full day, but that is a conservative estimate.
Commercial Drones (4 hours-7 days)
Commercial drone services have drones that are either custom-built or modified to provide additional functionality. This can include weight adjustments for extra sensors or cameras as well as better batteries or alternative fuel sources. Or, as is the case with DroneCatcher, a deployable net system.
Because of the wide range of functionality and customization available with commercial drone services, the flight time can vary widely. You can expect to see longer flight times, in general, when compared to consumer drones. For example, diesel engines can power a drone for around a week, whereas fuel-electric engines can only add four to five hours.
Specialized Drones (7 days+)
Our final category is a catch-all of sorts. Drones for commercial drone services, military, consumer or specialized applications are all still relatively new. As a result of the industry still being in a stage of relative infancy, records and times are broken like nobody’s business. Usually, this is because of a special one-of-a-kind craft or a completely new idea.
Take, for example, the Zephyr S drone made by Airbus. This impressive UAV uses solar panels attached to its 25-metre wingspan for power. During its maiden voyage, it flew for just under 26 hours. Sorry, our mistake. It flew for just under 26 DAYS.
Another great example of the potential for commercial drone services is the DroneCatcher we mentioned before. This company uses a cable system to charge the drone during most of its flight. Still, the drone has onboard batteries for when it needs to disconnect and wrangle a rogue drone.