Purchasing a drone can be both exciting and scary. That is because drones can be relatively expensive, and the opportunities for damaging them seem endless. When I first purchased my DJI Mavic air 2, I was very careful not to fly outside of my capability for a very long time. That is because even the slightest of incidents can cause a drone to break.
Drones are very easy to break because they are made of lightweight materials which break easily on impact. Drones move rapidly through the air, reducing the margin of error during a flight, increasing the likelihood of collisions.
The most popular consumer drones on the market also have a lot of foldable pieces. The arms of a drone fold into the body for easy transport. The continual opening and closing of these pivot points increase the amount of wear and tear, which can cause weak points upon even the slightest of impacts.
There are two ways that drones break:
- during use – Heavy landings, unpredictable wind conditions, and inexperienced pilots are the number one causes of drone breakages.
- During storage – one of the most common ways I have damaged my drone is during storage and transport. Battery components and plastic sections of the drone are easy to snap by throwing down your bag heavily or accidentally dropping your bag onto a hard surface.
It is very easy to forget about the drone when it is a bag whereas, while it is flying, your full attention is on protecting the drone and flying safely. At least that is my experience!
Are drones fragile?
Drones are relatively fragile due to the materials used for construction. Drones need to be fabricated from lightweight materials, which are also impact resistant and able to withstand high operating temperatures.
The drone’s frame is typically made of a magnesium alloy that contains approximately 90% magnesium, 9% aluminium, and 1% zinc. Magnesium is a popular choice for drone frames because it is lighter than aluminium. This part is probably the strongest part of the entire drone.
On top of the drone frame is an impact-resistant plastic shell that protects the drone’s internal components and electronic parts. This shell is either high impact polystyrene or an acrylonitrile butadiene styrene. The plastic is the easiest component of the drone to break.
It is not only the materials that make a drone fragile. The highly leveraged forces acting at the body and the arm can concentrate drone crashes’ energy to small areas.
Things that make drones fragile
Many things can make a drone more fragile. This fragility is a combination of the way the drones can move throughout their and the materials they are made from. Also, beginning drone pilots can quickly move outside of their zone of capability, making accidents and incidents much more likely, increasing the likelihood of a drone becoming damaged.
They can move very fast
Drones can move incredibly fast across a surface. The vertical speed of most drones are limited and, below, I share with you some of the fastest commercially available drones.
|Drone||Vertical speed||Ground speed|
|Mavic Mini 2||5 m/s||16 m/s|
|Mavic Air||4 m/s||19 m/s|
|Mavic Air 2||4 m/s||19 m/s|
|Mavic Air 2S||6 m/s||19 m/s|
|FPV||10 m/s (no limit in M mode)||39 m/s|
|Phantom 4 V2.0||6 m/s||20 m/s|
|Inspire 2||5 m/s||26 m/s|
The fastest consumer-level drone on this list is the DJI FPV drone which can move at 39 m/s. This speed will be very intimidating if you are a beginner, and even the smallest errors could result in a catastrophic collision.
The faster your drone moves, the less likely you can respond quickly enough to obstacles or issues during your drone flight.
I recommend that you get used to your drone’s capability very slowly by first switching the drone to beginner mode and only turning it off once you are happy with how the remote control and the drone interact with each other.
Unlike terrestrial-based remote-control vehicles, a drone can move in all directions. It took a while for me to understand how to best navigate things above and below the drone, and having a direct line of sight at all times seems to be the easiest way to stay as safe as possible.
Drones are starting to come with 360° sensing capabilities as a standard feature. However, older drones do not have this capability, and it can be scary to move in a direction where you have no senses. For example, my drone does not have any sensors on the side. This lack of senses means if I am panning, I need to be extra careful.
The lightweight materials from which a drone is made also contribute to fragility.
The most fragile part of the drone is the shell. The shell hides all of the electronic components and wires and fits snugly onto the drone’s frame.
A drone frame and propeller are primarily made of plastic high impact polystyrene and a low no trial butadiene styrene.
High impact polystyrene (HIPS)
High impact polystyrene is used in drones such as the DJI Phantom and is typically used on the shell.
Because styrene does not mix with some other polymers, it forms a matrix instead of a complete mix of the materials. This peculiar activity means that when the material is put under stress, microcracks form, and the energy of the propagating crack is transferred to rubber particles.
The transfer of energy into the rubber mixed into the polystyrene means that it is resistant to impact.
Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) – Mavic series drones
ABS is made by reacting styrene, acrylonitrile, and polybutadiene. These can be mixed in various ratios giving a different physical property for each mix. The addition of acrylonitrile makes the ABS stronger than pure polystyrene. The acrylonitrile can also contribute to chemical resistance, fatigue resistance, hardness, and rigidity, protecting against the higher temperatures that drones can operate under. The styrene gives the plastic a shiny and waterproof surface and improves the hardness, rigidity, and processing ability.
Many drone body materials are created via an injection moulding technique, which can be made very quickly in a continuous manufacturing process.
High leverage points
Due to the nature of drone flight, they need to have arms that hold propellers far away from the drone body. The propellers need to be far enough away from the drone body to produce significant left without interacting with the main shell.
The protruding propeller and motors mean that the drone’s arms stick out from the drone’s body. This form factor creates a relatively fragile connection between the drone and the frame. Forces from landing get transferred through the arm into the drone body. The connection is put under a lot of strain.
Drone arms are one of the most likely components of the drone to break and the hardest to repair.
If you want to know more about the materials used and how you would fix a broken drone arm, check out my other article – how to fix a broken drone arm – click here to be taken to the article.
When I first got my drone, I wanted to take it everywhere. I have taken it on long road trips, planes, and every long hike that I have been on for the past couple of years.
To increase portability, drone manufacturers often include foldable arms and propellers. The foldable arms mean that every time you want to fly, you need to extend the arms. Some drones also require extended arms to access internal components such as the battery or the gimbal casing.
The continuous opening and closing of the drone parts creates additional wear and tear on plastic joints on the drone.
I am always very careful when opening and closing the drone and make sure that I only move it in the pivoting joint direction. For example, my DJI Mavic Air has both opening and rotating joints for the forward and back arms, respectively.
Small electronic components
Inside a drone, there are plenty of tiny resistors and capacitors on a circuit board that can easily break upon impact. The electronic components in a drone circuit board are precision machined. The printed circuit board mechanically supports and electrically connects the electronic components using conductive tracks and other features.
Many components come together to make a drone fly. Inertial measurement units, electronic compasses, lights, accelerometers, gimbals, and much more need to be running seamlessly together.
The electronic components can also be directly accessed through vents and other air pathways through the drone frame. This open structure allows for moisture ingress, which can corrode the sensitive electronic components inside the drone.
Whether it is impact or moisture, the electronic components are certainly very fragile.
I do not fly my drone if there is the slightest risk of rain or snow. I make sure that the internal components are protected from moisture at all costs.
Learning to land securely and safely will protect the drone from any landing incidents, and if in doubt, I push the return to the home button to get my drone to return to me safely.
How to make your drone less fragile
there isn’t too much you can do to make your drone less fragile besides reinforcing the most at-risk components. If you are making your drone, you can easily reinforce components using decals and stickers. Alternatively, if you have bought a consumer camera drone, you will likely have two use decals and stickers and get used to repairing your cracks.
Some manufacturers offer a refresh plan which allows you to send the drone back if you experience any accidents and damage to your drone. If you want to know more about DJI’s care refresh plan, check out my other article, where I compare and contrast DJI care and DJI care refresh packages.
using decals that have been specifically designed for your drone is a fantastic way of reinforcing some of the more fragile components of the drone’s body.
The plastic combined with the adhesive makes it the perfect way to spread the impact energy across the entire frame. This energy distribution means that upon impact, the frame is less likely to crack or buckle.
You can purchase decals that wrap the entire frame or just a small component of the arms or body. You have to make sure that none of the extra decals interferes with moving parts and does not add significant weight to the drone.
Because the arms are some of the more fragile parts of a drone, you can purchase struts and other plastic reinforcements to limit their movement.
The extra reinforcement means that the force is spread evenly across other drone components, making you less likely to snap the joint.
You can also purchase other silicone buffers for drone components and other protectors that snap onto the drone’s body. You can buy them to protect the battery, lens, camera, gimbal and other components.
The foldable propellers on some drone models can also be relatively fragile during transport and storage. Silicone propeller protectors are a fantastic way to keep the foldable parts of the drone secure and safe during transport.
Type in your drone model into Google with the protection you require, and you will be surprised at the number of options available to you.
Are drones easy to crash?
For inexperienced pilots, drones are easy to crash. Drone manufacturers want you to fly your drone as quickly as possible upon receiving the package. Slowly introducing yourself to the different features of the drone and slowly expanding your capability will be the simplest way of protecting your drone.
DJI beginner mode has been developed specifically for people who do not want to wait to fly the drone but have never flown a drone before. Drone manufacturers are well aware that the excitement of purchasing a drone means that many people will take it out of the box and fly within a matter of minutes – as long as the battery is charged.
Beginner mode limits the potential for a new pilot to damage the drone or other people by putting restrictions on flight limits and available features.
Do drones break easily? Summary
This article has covered everything you need to know about drone breakages and the most fragile components you should look for. It is possible to reinforce your drone using various methods, but learning to pilot your drone slowly and steadily increasing your capability is the easiest way to protect your fragile new gadget.