How Far Can A Drone Fly From Controller? What Factors To Consider

how far can a drone fly from controller

The first question that many hobbyist drone enthusiast wonders about is: how far can a drone fly from controller. A simple, yet complicated answer is that the drone range miles depends on many variables. What are these factors which influence the range of drone flight?


What influences the range of drone flight?

Speed & battery life


The first factor which influences the distance a drone can fly is the combination of speed and battery life. Going back to high school physics, speed is calculated using a simple formula:

Speed = Distance * Time

Speed in the equation above represents the swiftness of the drone, specifically in the horizontal direction, since the discussion here pertains to the range. Currently, the top speed available in the market is 13 meters per second, while there are others in the range of 5 to 8 meters per second.

Time of flight is influenced by the speed; greater the time of flight, faster the speed and in turn, higher the range.

Speed varies between models, where one model like Yuneec Typhoon 4k offers flight time of 25 minutes others like Yuneec Breeze lasts for 12 minutes. Other popular drones like DJI Phantom 4 boasts of a battery life strong enough to sustain 28 minutes of flight time.

Considering the raw values alone, it is evident that the DJI Phantom 4 has a greater range when compared to Yuneec models.

Battery type of the drone


Battery powering the drone, as a rule of thumb, ought to be compatible with the physical size of the unit. A drone which possesses limited flight time ability can’t handle long range. Such drones are incapable of flying beyond 10 minutes. A drone with a longer battery life offers more flight time which in turn determines the distance the unit can fly from the controller. In all cases, longer the time of flight, greater is the size.

There are different types of batteries available and the most common is the 3.7 Volt Li-Po batteries. These typically power the drones which are priced at $100 or less. A slightly high priced drone, in the range of $200 and $500, are powered by a stronger battery from 7.4 to 11.4 Volts. A battery power such as this offers flight time of 15-25 minutes. The most expensive drones which are priced at $1000 and higher possess a battery with 4000 mAh with multiple cores.

Drone size

A strong relationship exists between drone size and battery life. Also, the size of the drone influences flight time and range.

Consider a smaller drone, packed with limited components like a mini-drone. These are built to carry an equally small battery. Logically, a small drone powered by a limited capacity battery will be unable to survive a long range. Given this limitation, small drones are built to suit the purpose of limited range.

Moving on to the larger drones which possess a powerful battery, the range of flight is stretched. Also, increased size accommodates the incorporation of a powerful antenna to rely on the controller signals to the drone. Additionally, a large drone offers the choice of customizing. You can replace the stock antenna with a more powerful one or even add in a stronger transmitter.

FPV flight and range of the transmitter

For those who are looking at extending the range of the drone, a primary influencer is a radio controller. Radio controllers which offer maximum range will aid wider circumference flight. The stock range of radio transmitters is capable of the signal relay within 1 mile; a few tweaks can stretch out the range. To gauge the range of a radio controller, consider its frequency. A low-frequency radio controller is capable of traveling farther albeit slower. If you reduce the frequency of the radio controller by as little as 1.2 GHz, the range increases by 10 km.

An alternative method of increasing range of flight is by replacing the antenna. If you were to replace the stock antenna possessing the range of 2dB with a stronger one, let’s say, 5 dB, range increase by up to 50%. The same result can be achieved by adding in power boosters to the RC controller.

For those of you, who are serious about adding a few extra miles of range, consider investing in a ground station with a high powered antenna array. Although the set-up doesn't come cheap, the end result is highly gratifying. Remember, that longer flight translates to blind controls. You will not have eyes on the drone if it goes farther and in order to hold a semblance of piloting, you will need a reliable FPV technology.

How far can a drone fly from controller

Local laws limit the range of drone flight.

In the continental U.S the maximum permissible altitude of flight is 1500 feet. In a few countries, drone flight is prohibited, altogether. Check your local laws before adding in extra boosters into the drone. It is important to understand that each drone contains an in-built range which is pre-determined by the build. At the same time, those who’re considering increasing the range of flight should bear in mind not to do so at the cost of local governing law. It just isn’t worth the trouble. Test out the range of the stock drone by flying in an open space using a spotter. Tracking your drone can also be done by attaching a GPS tracker. 

Last words

In an attempt to answer a simple question on the range of flight of a drone, the answer is anything but easy. Range of flight is relative to the size, in-built speed, FPV capability and antenna receptiveness. Although, the model specifications provide an estimation of the range, the actual flight range could exceed the limit. Test it out yourself to determine the specific range of flight. If you do find a report on high flight range, the feat was successful through modifications through firmware adjustments. Again, it is not worth getting caught when you meddle with drone flight limitations.