How long do drones last before they break?

Like all technology, drones have got a limited lifespan. Like a laptop or new computer, the technology and electronics inside will only last so long before you need to replace it or upgrade. Purchasing a drone can be a relatively expensive decision, and therefore, you must understand exactly how long drones last before they break.

The likelihood of a drone breaking increases if you do not develop your skills as a pilot. The electronics of a drone will last several years if kept away from moisture and avoid accidents.

There are a wide variety of ways that a drone can break. Personally, I have broken my drone during transport. I was carrying my drone in a bag, and the bag fell off the arm of a sofa. The resulting damage wasn’t too bad, but it reminded me of the importance of looking after your drone at all times.

I have had my drone for three years, and it continues to work amazingly well without any obvious damage being visible. The hardware of the drones can last many years, but there is another aspect of purchasing a drone that you are not in control of that can severely limit the life span of your drone – obsolescence.

We will look at this later .in the article!

Ways a drone can break

How a drone can break include during use, storage, and transport. A drone is a piece of equipment that you carry on your journey to an interesting flight area. Inevitably, this means that your drone has the potential of coming into contact with a range of viral mental hazards and also is subjected to the basing and movements encountered whilst in a bag.

Use

When we think about the damage a drone can sustain, we often think about the damage caused by heavy landings, accidents, and interactions with overhanging objects and obstacles.

It is important that you slowly expand your ability to fly your drone and don’t rush into flying in challenging situations immediately. Many drones have beginner mode, which limits the speed and capabilities of the drone so that you can get used to all of the basic controls before launching into more advanced piloting features and automated software features.

Damage can happen at any point of the flight, including takeoff, landing, and during the mission.

Storage

Storage is less spoken about the way that a drone can break. Ensuring that your drone is appropriately stored away from extreme temperature fluctuations means protecting the internal electronic components.

Batteries are particularly sensitive to high fluctuations in temperature because they are made of a lithium polymer composite. This lithium polymer composite is required because it is a very light battery system that can handle many charges.

Just and other pollutants in the storage environment can also wreak havoc on internal drone components. Drones have several events to dissipate the high amount of heat that is generated during their flight.

Keeping your drone away from any humidity is also going to extend its life dramatically.

Transport

Arguably, transporting your drone is when it is more likely to break. Many people purchase a dedicated hard case with interior foam padding to protect their drone. The cutouts perfectly nestle the drone in squishy comfort, which means that the drone can be placed in checked-in luggage and thrown about without too much thought.

How long do drones last before they break - travel

Others, however, do not think about the dangers that their drone undergoes during transport and it can easily become damaged.

Transport is where I have experienced the greatest amount of damage to my drone and its accessories. Whether bumping around in a case or being forgotten about at the bottom of a rucksack, you can increase the chances of breakage each time you are not careful with your drone.

The weak spots in a drone

there is no doubt that a drone has several weak spots, which are particularly prone to damage and can significantly reduce the amount of time you have to fly before it is broken beyond use.

The likelihood of a drone accident occurring is directly proportional to your risk tolerance. If you are the sort of person, who likes to take on risks and fly their drone beyond their limits, your drone will only last a matter of weeks before you encounter a serious issue.

On the other hand, when a drone is treated with respect, you understand that you need to learn and improve your skills slowly – a drone can last many years without incident.

The arms

Drones have arms that stick out significantly from the main body of the drone. The propellers need to be kept far enough from the body to produce significant lift, and that air can flow freely downwards away from the propeller.

The protruding arms are a particular area where damage can occur. Even the lightest of bumps can damage the arms of a drone.

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.

How to fix a broken drone arm

Moreover, these arms can often be folded inwards to improve the transportability of the drone. The constant opening and closing of plastic on metal components can also increase their chance of breaking.

I am always very careful not to force my drone arms if they do not want to move in a particular direction, and my drone has lasted more than three years without incident. Making sure that you look after your drone very carefully will reduce the strain and wear of components.

The electronics

Drones are a complicated collection of hardware sensors and electronic components. There are many tiny resistors and capacitors that can easily break or become corroded due to contact with high humidity or water.

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.

The batteries

Drone batteries have to be looked after particularly well. Luckily, if your drone battery fails or breaks, you can often find a replacement – unless the drone is particularly old.

Check out my other article – how long do drone batteries last? Everything you need to know! – Where I go through this question in a lot more detail.

How long do drone batteries last

Drone batteries are relatively robust bits of electronic equipment, and that you can expect that the average battery can be charged up to 500 times. You can check how many charge cycles a battery has gone through in many flight apps and check the health.

Because the battery is a very hard-working component of drones, they tend to be a shorter-lived component.

Symptoms of needing a new drone battery may be:

  • Shortened flight times – if your flight times are getting shorter and shorter with the same batteries, it could be that your battery needs replacing.
  • Excessive heat while discharging or charging – if you find that your battery is becoming uncomfortably warm during charging or discharging, you should replace it out of a matter of safety.
  • Corroded or damaged metallic connections – if your battery has significant corrosion or discolouration on the metal components, then you should replace the battery as soon as possible.
  • Excessive time charging – if your battery has issues with charging, you should consider buying a new battery over a few hours.

Also, any strange activities to do with batteries should be investigated and replaced with the drone battery if in doubt. However, with good maintenance and care, a drone battery will last you for a very long time.

The casing

the drone casing is a particularly flimsy part of the drone construction. It is necessarily light and offers minimal protection due to the number of air vents often cut into the frame shell.

Ultimately, the casing gives the drone its unique look and provides a sleek look that skills all of the messy internal components and wires.

A drone frame and propeller are primarily made of plastic high impact polystyrene and Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene.

Both of these materials are chemically resistant and have a high hardness and rigidity.

Drone bodies are created and manufactured via injection moulding technology which allows the drone bodies to be made quickly and in almost any shape.

The case of your drone could easily become cracked and damaged by a heavy landing or a minor accident. It is unnecessary to replace a drone shell if it doesn’t interfere with the propellers or airflow around the drone’s body.

Propellers

Propellers are like the tires on a car. They are meant to be replaceable and susceptible to cracking and stress fractures because of their high speeds. But you may want to replace it to retain the drones anaesthetics and appearance.

If you want to know more about when you should change your drones propeller, check out my other article – where I go through all of the nine symptoms.

When you should change your drone’s propeller

Replacing a propeller as soon as you experience any significant changes in noise, or they have completed about the same number of flight hours as your battery, is time to replace them.

Replacing your propellers regularly is inexpensive and can save you from catastrophic damage caused by accident.

Being made obsolete

When a drone breaks, our first instinct is to fix what is broken. In some cases, such as a broken drone arm, this can be relatively easy to do independently.

As drones get older and the manufacturers replace old models with updated, newer ones, replacing broken parts becomes harder and harder.

Even my DJI Mavic air will struggle to find new batteries or components.

The lack of components from the manufacturer of old drones means that broken drones often end up in E-waste. The issue of repairing your old electronic components has been a hot topic in recent years and, luckily, repairing your electronics should get easier and easier as new legislation is being introduced to protect consumers from planned redundancies.

How to make your drone last longer

There are various inexpensive ways to make your drone last longer which we will look at below.

Use a beginner mode

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.

If you want to know more about DJI’s beginner mode and how to turn it off, check out my other article – click here – where I go through everything you need to know about beginner mode.

Buy a dedicated case

If your drone does not come with a dedicated fitted case, I highly recommend that you purchase one.

Having a case that securely nestles and protects your drone will be the best way for you to protect your drone during transport. The best but most expensive option is a hard case with custom foam on the inside. With this level of protection, you can even place your drone into checked luggage.

A soft case can give you some protection but often gives you a false sense of security, and it is where I have damaged my drone the most.

My DJI Mavic air came with a semihard case which was formfitting to the folded drone. It is enough to protect it from light knocks, but it gave me a false sense of security for how much protection it provides.

Do not put in check-in luggage

I am very careful with my drone when I am travelling. I never place my drone in my checked luggage because I want to be responsible for handling it.

Even if you try to put your drone safely among some clothes, it doesn’t always result in full protection.

Replace propellers regularly

Make sure that you replace your propellers regularly, as, without them, your drone will fall out of the sky. I highly recommend that you purchase two sets of extra propellers when you first buy your drone and set a calendar reminder in your software of choice for changing them.

They can become easily brittle, and because of the high forces they encounter during rapidly spinning at high rotations can suffer from stress fractures.

Look for cracks and damage

Regularly inspect your drone for cracks and damage. You can look for cracks and damage on every part of the drone, including:

  • the propellers
  • the motor
  • the arms
  • the moving and folding arm connections
  • the body of the drone
  • the frame
  • the battery connection
  • and the metallic contacts for the battery

Regularly inspecting each of these areas will mean you are on the front third should you notice any corrosion or other issues.

One thing that is particularly corrosive to the body of the drone is insect guts. I have had several incidences where my drone has contacted bees and other insects, and they leave a sticky residue that needs to be removed immediately.

Keep it away from moisture

keep your drone away from moisture as much as possible. You should also consider storing your drone in a low humidity box if you live in an area of high humidity.

The drone’s body has many holes to allow efficient heat transfer and venting of the heat accumulated and generated by flying.

Keeping a drone in the air is a very energy-intensive process.

The holes can be an easy way for water and other pollutants to enter the drone’s body and contact-sensitive electronics and small electric components.

Summary

In this article, we have been over everything you need to know about how long drones last before they break.

The smaller the drone, the less likely it is to break because it will be very lightweight. Consumer-level drones are relatively heavy and require the patient building of skills to fly effectively and safely.

The electronic components and the drone’s arms and motors are the easiest parts to break should you have an accident.

Learning to fly is a fun process, and by taking your time, you significantly reduce the chances of having an accident that will break your drone.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton is a writer and YouTuber with a PhD in science. He has written and/or produced videos for Science Alert, COSMOS magazine, and Australia's Science Channel among others. Andy started droneflyingpro.com to share his love and the research of all things drone! He has been a drone pilot for many years and has flown many types of drone. His favorite is still the DJI Mavic Air for the portability and functionality packed into a small and portable drone!