Let us charge. Let us inspect. Let Us Drone. How bad of a day would it be if your DJI Spark or Mavic 2 Pro crashed because the battery you were using was faulty? LiPo batteries can be very dangerous if handled improperly. Here in this post, I walk you through everything you need to know about DJI's intelligent flight batteries; from how to store them, to what signs to look for if you suspect a battery may be bad, and much more!
The first thing you should do before flying your DJI drone is read the manual. Not only does the manual tell you everything you need to know about your drone but there is a section specifically dedicated to the intelligent flight battery. Every DJI drone manual can be found here.
About LiPo batteries
Lithium Polymer (LiPo) batteries are commonly used in radio controlled devices (aircraft, cars, etc.), and in power banks, mobile phones, and computers.
DJI uses LiPo batteries for most of their drones so it's important that you have a basic understanding of LiPo batteries. Here are a few interesting facts:
- LiPo batteries can be made in almost any shape which is one of the reasons why they are commonly used.
- Overcharging or improper care of a LiPo battery could lead to a fire.
- LiPo batteries have a recharge cycle lifespan.
- A LiPo battery that has sat for too long may be a lost cause.
What makes DJI's batteries “intelligent”?
DJI's drones don't just have batteries, they have “intelligent flight batteries”. So, what makes them so smart? Well, they possess a variety of traits that justify their high price tag. Here are some of their capabilities:
- Each DJI battery has LED indicator lights that display the current battery level.
- Battery information, such as the capacity, voltage, and current is relayed to the aircraft.
- The DJI GO 4 app will display a warning message if a damaged battery cell is detected.
- Batteries protect themselves by only charging when the temperature is between 41 degrees and 104 degrees F (5 and 40 C).
- When the batteries are charging, the voltage of the battery cells is automatically balanced.
- The batteries have an auto-discharge function which will discharge the battery to less than 60% after 10 days of sitting idle. It takes about 3-4 days for the battery to discharge to 65%.
- In order to prevent over-charging, the battery will stop charging when full.
- To keep the battery from short-circuiting, the power supply will automatically cut off if a short-circuit is detected.
- The battery will stop charging if an over-current is detected.
- To save battery, it will automatically shut off after 20 minutes of inactivity.
Battery charging tips
There are some precautions you should take when charging your intelligent flight batteries. DJI is very clear that they take no responsibility if damage occurs when a non-DJI charger is used.
DJI takes no responsibility if the battery is charged using a non-DJI charger.-DJI
I have used non-DJI chargers to charge my drone batteries and haven't had any issues but I know that I am taking a risk when I do so. Just consider the risk vs. gain when choosing a charger that isn't from DJI.
Check out my highly recommended chargers for each DJI drone here.
Always make sure that the charger you are using has an adapter, and don't charge the battery on flammable surfaces such as carpet or wood. For a relatively inexpensive price, you can pick up a fire retardent LiPo safe bag to charge your batteries in. Here is one that is highly recommended: COLCASE Fireproof Explosion-proof Lipo Safe Bag for Lipo Battery Storage and Charging (check the current price on Amazon). I actually just read a review of a guy who was charging his battery in that case and it caught fire but the bag completely contained the fire/damage. Pretty impressive.
I'd recommend that you periodically inspect the charger for signs of fraying or wear and never use a charger that has been damaged.
Don't charge a battery that you just took out of your drone. It's important that you let the battery cool to room temperature before you charge it.
DJI says that charging your battery in an environment below 41 degrees F (5 C) or above 104 degrees F (40 C) could lead to leakage, overheating, or battery damage.
Battery indicator lights
I love that our DJI batteries have LED lights that can communicate a plethora of information to us. You will likely get familiar with the routine blinking of a charging battery and what three lights mean versus four, but what happens when the third LED on your Mavic Pro battery starts blinking three times per second? I don't know about you, but I don't have each indicator memorized. Fortunately, a quick search in the MP manual tells me that three blinks per second on the third LED means that an “over-voltage charger detected”.
That's right, every combination of LED illumination and rate at which they blink (or don't blink) means something and you can find out what that something is in the manual.
DJI GO 4 will give you information about your battery status
The intelligent flight batteries also relay pertinent information on the DJI GO 4 app.
You can locate the battery information by tapping on the battery icon in the upper righthand side of the screen while in camera view.
At the top of the battery menu, you will see the current voltage of each battery cell, along with the temperature. This is valuable as an imbalanced distribution of voltage could indicate a bad cell.
Beneath the cell bars, you will be able to set when you would like the “Low Battery Warning” and Critically Low Battery Warnings” to display while flying. I recommend not having the initial “Low Battery Warning” to be set below 30% to give you plenty of time to get that drone back to your location safely.
Having the “Smart Return-to-Home” box checked will allow the drone to automatically return home when it determines that a RTH flight is necessary as it knows how much battery the drone will need to fly back depending on its location.
At the bottom, you can see “Time to Discharge” which is where you can choose how many days the drone will keep its current charge before beginning the discharge process. If you don't fly too often, I'd suggest that you change this to something like 3 instead of 10 days so the battery isn't unnecessarily holding a charge.
DJI gives you the option to show the battery voltage on the main screen which comes in handy if you suspect that there may be an issue with the battery you're using.
Tap on “Details” to bring up information about the battery such as the serial number and how many times the battery has been charged.
How to transport your DJI drone battery
If you have a case or bag designed to carry your drone, then there are likely spots in it to store the batteries. Where people often run into trouble is when they leave their drone bags in their vehicles. If you live in a city that gets warm during the summer, you can bet the inside of your car will be blazing hot if left unattended for more than a couple of minutes.
Be mindful of how long the batteries will be left unattended in a hot car and ensure that they are stored in a well-ventilated and secure spot during transport.
If you will be flying on an airplane, there are specific guidelines that you will need to adhere to. Remember back a couple of years ago when those Samsung phones were exploding because of the LiPo batteries? Well as you could imagine, the airlines and FAA takes LiPo batteries very seriously as most every passenger has at least one in their possession.
Taking your drone on an airplane is complicated enough that I wrote an article titled Can I Take My Drone on an Airplane?, which I strongly recommend reading if you plan to travel.
Batteries up to 160 watt-hours are typically permitted on airplanes. The battery currently in the drone may be checked with the drone, but any spares must be put in carry-on luggage. Most airlines allow you to bring up to 2 spare batteries in your carry-on luggage as long as they are placed in individual baggies and have tape over the terminals.
DJI states that you should not bring fully-charged drone batteries on airplanes due to the potential fire hazard, but this is not an FAA or airline rule.
Storage tips for your DJI drone battery
When you've had your fun and it's time to store your drone for a while, it's tempting to just throw everything in the closet and move on to your Netflix show. Hold on there, tiger, the Great British Bake Off can wait.
Here are a few things to consider when storing your drone and batteries.
If you don't plan on using your drone within the next 10 days it is recommended to discharge your batteries to 40%-65% to extend their battery life.
As mentioned previously, the batteries will automatically begin to discharge after 10 days to below 65%. You can adjust the amount of time you would like the battery to wait before discharging in the battery settings of the DJI GO 4 app.
It is normal to feel some warmth emitted from the battery during the 3-4 days it takes for the battery to discharge below 65%.
- Never store the batteries near a head source.
- Never store in a place where they could get wet.
- Keep away from metal objects.
- Keep away from sharp objects.
- Never store the batteries in temperatures above 140 degrees F (60 C).
I recommend that you store the batteries in a fire retardant case like the one I mentioned above for charging.
Check out my recommended gear!
Signs that the battery may be bad
If you suspect that one of your batteries may be bad, it's very important that you DO NOT use it! It's simply not worth the risk. So, how do you know if the battery is bad?
There are a few indications that a battery could be bad.
- Do you notice a decrease in flight time?
- Does the battery feel unusually hot?
- Is there physical damage to the battery such as punctures, cracks, discoloration?
- Is the battery warped?
- Are you getting errors on the main screen?
- Is there an imbalance between the cells in the battery settings?
If you have a bad battery, I would strongly suggest that you dispose of it. I discuss proper disposal methods at the bottom of this post.
If the battery is less than 6 months old and has less than 200 charge cycles on it, you may be eligible to receive a new one from DJI under a limited liability warranty. Check out the post I wrote on how to tell if your DJI product is under warranty here.
Are DJI's batteries interchangeable?
“I just bought a Mavic 2 Pro, can I use my old Mavic Pro's batteries in it?” I've read about a lot of people asking if they can use batteries that weren't designed for their drone.
The answer is no, by the way, even if the specs of the Mavic Pro batteries worked with the Mavic 2 Pro, the MP battery physically does not fit in the M2P.
Now, there are some batteries that are interchangeable. For instance, you can use the Phantom 4 batteries in the Phantom 4 Advanced and Pro. The P4 used a 5350mAh, 15.2V LiPo battery, whereas the P4 Advanced and Pro uses a 5870 mAh battery, but the batteries are physically interchangeable and there is no adverse affects of using one battery vs. the other (besides a difference in flight times).
If you are wondering if your drone supports a battery from an older model, simply Google it. There is plenty of literature about DJI's batteries out there. You can also reach out directly to DJI as well.
Perform a deep cycle to maximize the life of a DJI drone battery
DJI suggests that you discharge the battery to about 8% every 20 flights, then fully charge the battery after it has cooled. This is called a “deep cycle”. Performing a deep cycle extends the life of the battery. Obviously, it's not wise to attempt to fly the drone until the battery is down that low, so fly it down to about 20%, then let the drone sit and idle until you've reached the 8%.
Don't drain the battery down to 0%! Doing this could damage the cells in the battery.
How many times can I charge a DJI battery?
One full charge and one full discharge is considered a “charge cycle”. DJI does not say how long the batteries will last. How many charge cycles you will get out of your battery is determined by a few factors, such as: how aggressive you fly, what temperatures you exposed the battery, if you did a “deep cycle” periodically, and others.
The limited warranty that comes with DJI's drones covers the battery for 6 months and a charge cycle less than 200 times (whichever comes first).
There are people that reported getting over 400 charge cycles with DJI's new batteries, which is a huge improvement over the older Phantom's that would occasionally only see 50-60 charge cycles before pooping out.
The most common sign that will indicate that a battery is getting old is shorter flight times. When your flight times become significantly shorter it would be wise to dispose of the battery as the chances of the battery malfunctioning greatly increase.
Another reason to replace the battery when the flight times begin to decrease is that we get used to having a certain amount of time in the air and the routine trip out to the little island in the middle of the lake may no longer be possible with the aging battery. Muscle memory may take you out to the island and you won't think twice about having enough battery until you get that low battery warning and the drone is nowhere close to your location.
How to properly dispose of a drone battery?
When you've decided to do away with that trusty battery that has given you so much joy, there is a proper way to dispose of it. Whatever you do, please don't just toss it in your trash! Not only is that illegal, but it's also a huge fire hazard.
The first thing you should do is discharge the battery down to 0% to reduce the fire hazard. You should then bring the discharged battery to your local battery recycling center.
To find a local battery recycling center, head over to Earth911, which has a locator.
A quick question. Should I feel insecure that there is a good chance my drone's batteries are smarter than I am? I mean, come on, the technology that goes into creating just a battery for these amazing flying machines is incredible. I have fortunately not yet *knocks on wood* had a battery fail me while in flight, but I make a point of maintaining my batteries properly. Have you had faulty or damaged drone batteries? What was the story? I'd love to hear about it in the comment section below.