Recharging Your Equipment
If you’ve ever flown all day for a job or jobs, then you know that you probably need more battery life than you typically use on a typical single job site visit. A full day in the air will burn every battery you have, the RC, and the device you’re using, sometimes a few times over. So how do you keep everything charged and the bird in the sky when you have to fly all day? You have to recharge while you’re in the field and managing the recharging of everything when it’s not in use can be more difficult than it seems. Not everyone has had to deal with this part of drone work but when you do, you’ll want to be prepared.
One solution to keeping your batteries charged is to buy an insane amount of them. The problem is that it’s expensive and that pile of batteries may become obsolete with the next drone you buy. The better solution is to have the right amount of batteries and the right recharging solution that will work for your current needs, and hopefully, your future needs as well.
The easiest and probably most affordable way to recharge your equipment in the field is to utilize the power produced by the vehicle you’re driving. You can usually find a battery charger that plugs right into your automobile’s auxiliary power outlet (cigarette lighter) and will charge a battery. However, depending on the job(s), you may be burning batteries way faster than you can charge them. Not only does it take time to charge the battery, but you also have to wait for the battery to cool down before it will begin to charge. During this process, you might fly two, three, or even more times before a single battery is recharged putting you far behind the curve. To solve this, consider these options.
If you have multiple auxiliary power outlets in your vehicle, you can purchase multiple battery chargers and charge multiple batteries at the same time. If you don’t have multiple outlets, you might consider using a splitter.
Don’t be afraid to spend a little more on a good solution and do your research on what will work with your setup. Make sure that the splitter will charge the number of batteries you want to charge simultaneously. I have two power outlets in the vehicle, one splitter, and three chargers, but can only charge two batteries simultaneously. I believe this is a limitation of the vehicle since two batteries will always charge but a third will not charge at the same time if there’s too much plugged in at the same time. That’s a big heads up to test the system before you get to the job.
Another solution is a portable power station. This might or might not be a good solution depending on your specific needs. I have the CAT 3 in 1 Professional Power Station With Jump Starter & Compressor. I like having this on a job because it’s very versatile and provides AC power, USB charging, jumper cables, and the ability to air up a tire. It’s a nice item to have when your job is out in the middle of nowhere but it’s not going to keep all your batteries charged all day. I can usually only get about 2 1/2 batteries charged from almost empty while on the job. It also takes an overnight session to get the unit recharged. Once again, do your research on what will work.
Finally, a generator is a robust solution that won’t let you down but it will probably cost you. Generators can get pricey depending on what you get, but you also have to put gas on oil in them and get them serviced every so often. This solution is a little bit of an overkill for most of us but might be the right solution for your needs especially if you’re going to work in remote locations or places where power is not readily available.
There are certainly other solutions out there like vehicle inverters, and custom battery recharging systems for specific batteries. I personally have not used either so won’t weigh in on how effective they are. The key is to get the right solution for your job, equipment, and specific recharging needs. I’ve found that a combination of affordable and reusable solutions works well for what I do.
The great thing about recharging equipment is that it might just apply to your personal life as well. It’s great to have a good business solution that can also be used for a camping trip, a day on the lake, or another activity that might need a mobile power, or recharging solution. That shouldn’t be your primary consideration but it might be something to think about.