Category Archives: Tips

How to care for your LiPo batteries

LiPo batteries can be highly dangerous, and many people have no idea!

For years, lithium polymer batteries (LiPos) have been known to be dangerous and unpredictable. Dropping, denting or crushing can shorten the life of the battery and even cause an internal short — a recipe for fire. There are a myriad of guidelines for storing, charging and transporting them. Even among experienced RC users, they have led to fires.

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I chatted with Toppilot, the creators of a brand-new battery line specifically designed to sponsor FPV racing competitions. The professional battery manufacturer knows what it means to need a good battery for competition — not only so it works properly but so it stays safe.

Of course, the #1 tip is to never leave a LiPo battery unattended during the charging or discharging process.

Beyond that, here are Toppilot’s tips for taking care of your batteries:

Before Charging LiPo Batteries

  • The #1 tip here is: RTFM (Read the Freaking Manual!)
  • Always check the voltage of batteries before each charge session in order to ensure they are at or above the minimum safe starting voltage. If their starting voltage is below recommended levels then your batteries have been over-discharged or have experienced a failure and should NOT be charged.
  • Always check the battery before charging for any type of damage. Check the battery packaging, wires and connectors for defects, which may cause a short circuit and eventual battery failure.

Continue reading How to care for your LiPo batteries

How to ‘get out of jail free’ from the FAA using ASRS

Did you know that there’s a “get out of jail free” card from the FAA? Commercial drone pilots can access a little-known FAA program called ASRS (Aviation Safety Reporting System) that can be used to help get out of trouble when operating your drone commercially.

A new podcast, CommercialDrones.FM discusses everything you need to know about the program in a recent episode. The podcast is hosted by Ian Smith, has been working in the commercial drone industry since 2013 and currently works for cloud-based drone data and mapping software company DroneDeploy. He is an FAA-certified commercial helicopter pilot and flight instructor, and he uses his personal experience to explain just how a drone operator could benefit from ASRS. Continue reading How to ‘get out of jail free’ from the FAA using ASRS

FAA Part 107 UAS Aeronautical Knowledge Test: everything you need to know (except the answers)

The Federal Aviation Administration announced today that drone operators will have to pass a UAS aeronautical knowledge test as one of the requirements for legally flying drones commercially.

Here’s a rundown of the entire announcement of its long-awaited Part 107 ruling.

Among the requirements to fly a UAS commercially include flying below 400 feet, flying only during daytime and flying less than 100 miles per hour. But the standout requirement is that commercial drone operators will need to take a written, in-person, drone-specific, aeronautical knowledge test.

“It’s a great idea,” said Logan Campbell, CEO of drone consulting firm Aerotas. “It forces people to understand how to keep the national airspace safe, which is really what the FAA cares about most.”

Drone operators with existing Part 61 pilot certificates can bypass the in-person, written exam and instead take an online course. But for drone operators without that, they’ll have to take the test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center.

The FAA has released a drafted document of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Airman Certification Standards, outlining what you can tentatively expect from the test. Here’s the tentative information we know for now:

Where you can take the FAA’s UAS aeronautical knowledge test:

The test can be taken at one of the 696 testing centers in the United States. Here’s a list of locations where you can take the aeronautical knowledge test. Applicants need to schedule the testing appointment in advance and bring a government-issued photo ID.

How do I study for the UAS aeronautical knowledge test?

The FAA released its Part 107 UAS online training course. Though it is intended for Part 61 Pilot Certificate holders, anyone, including non-pilots, can register and take for free. Read more about the training course here.

While the test will include a mix of both drone-specific and general manned aircraft questions, some readers have also pointed out that the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, which is the official FAA handbook, is a good place to start studying for more general airspace knowledge. You can pick up your own copy here.

Many private companies have also put together training sessions (either in-person, webinars, practice tests, etc). that provide a clear look at exactly what you’ll need to know for the test. Check out my guide on UAS aeronautical knowledge test training courses here.

Here are the study courses I would recommend:

  • UAV Ground School: Gold Seal’s online Part 107 course. Use promo code DRONEGIRL to save $25 and take that price down to just $174.
  • Drone Pilot Ground School offers a fantastic online training course with practice tests and repeatable videos (this is actually the course I used…and I passed on my first try!)
  • DARTdrones has a day-long, in-person training course. Use coupon code dronegirl10 to save 10% on  all DARTdrone courses site wide!
  • Drone Launch Academy: this is another online training course with repeatable videos and study guies. Use DRONEGIRL50 or this link to get $50 off!


What are the expected areas this commercial drone test will cover?

The FAA’s draft says test areas include:

  1. Applicable regulations relating to small unmanned aircraft system rating privileges, limitations, and flight operation
  2. Airspace classification and operating requirements, and flight restrictions affecting small unmanned aircraft operation
  3. Aviation weather sources and effects of weather on small unmanned aircraft performance
  4. Small unmanned aircraft loading and performance
  5. Emergency procedures
  6. Crew resource management
  7. Radio communication procedures
  8. Determining the performance of small unmanned aircraft
  9. Physiological effects of drugs and alcohol
  10. Aeronautical decision-making and judgment
  11. Airport operations
  12. Maintenance and pre-flight inspection procedures

Get more in-depth information from the FAA’s website about each of these topics here.

How much will the aeronautical drone test cost?

The FAA estimates the out-of-pocket cost for an individual to become a certified remote pilot with a small UAS rating would be $150, less than any other airman certification that allows for non-recreational operations in the national airspace.

When will I be able to take the test?

Members of the public will be able to take the knowledge test at testing centers on the effective date of the Small UAS Rule in August 2016, an FAA spokesperson told Drone Girl.

How will the test be formatted?

The FAA’s draft says the UAS aeronautical knowledge test is a set of 60 multiple choice questions with a single correct response for each one, according to the FAA’s draft. Each test question is independent of the other questions, so  a correct response to one does not influence the response of another. Here’s the breakdown of questions by topic:

Unmanned Aircraft Systems Airman Certification Standards

What happens if I fail the FAA’s aeronautical knowledge test?

No sweat! You may not retake the knowledge test for 14 calendar days from the date of the previous failure, so use that time to relax and refresh on the parts you are unsure of. After two weeks, you can retest. You don’t even have to tell your teachers what happened — no instructor endorsement or other form of written authorization is required to retest.

Happy flying, and studying!


How to make money in drones (through investing)

Want to know how to make money in drones? Investors can now hop on the drone bandwagon, without even having to get into the digital cockpit.

The nascent drone industry has been rapidly growing, with PricewaterhouseCoopers valuing the drone industry at over $127 billion. And a new ETF has paved the way for investors to try and take a piece of it. The PureFunds Drone Economy Strategy ETF currently comprises 41 companies that are involved in the drone industry.

“People really believe in the potential of the drone industry,” Andrew Chanin, CEO of PureFunds said. “This is a way for investors to get exposure.”

The drone ETF’s holdings currently include military drone manufacturer AeroVironment Inc. and consumer consumer-drone manufacturer Parrot. There are also companies that make produce drone components of drones like Ambarella, which supplies many of the chips for the cameras in high-end, commercial-grade drones and  Flir, an Oregon-based sensor manufacturer that focuses on thermal imaging and makes drone cameras for drone behemoth Chinese-based drone-making giant DJI.

I wrote about the ETF over at Get everything you need to know here.

10 tips for better drone photography

Here’s an excerpt from a story I was featured in by Drone Lifestyle. Read their 10 tips for Better Drone Photography featuring a different tip from 10 prominent drone photographers here.

 Tip #1 - Sally French - Finding Your Drone Community

A great way to raise your drone photography game is to learn from and work with others. That is why finding a community very important. Since Sally first got involved with drones in college, she has connected with fellow drone pilots all over the world. Sally is so involved with the drone community she often goes by simply “the Drone Girl.”

Pro Tip: “Recently, Facebook groups have gotten really popular. I belong to a few; some location-based and some interest-based. One of my favorite groups is the Amelia Droneharts Facebook group, an international group of female pilots. Every group is different and I don’t think there is one overall “best” one to join. Just try them all out and find the personalities you jive with best. Whatever your medium is—Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, in-person meetups—you’ll find your niche if you put yourself out there.”

15 things every LiPo battery user should know

LiPo batteries are generally safer and more environmentally friendly than other R/C batteries like NiCd and NiMH. LiPo batteries have become the most common high performance R/C battery and are used in R/C cars, boats, planes, helis, multirotors and more. However, if charged, discharged, stored, maintained, or handled improperly, they can become extremely dangerous. This is a simple guide for safe LiPo battery ownership and use. This guide applies to all R/C LiPo batteries including all DJI Smart Batteries used in the Phantom 2 series and Inspire 1.

dji phantom 3 battery

1. Never charge, discharge, use, or store a damaged or puffy LiPo battery. Immediately follow proper disposal protocols.

2. Avoid purchasing used LiPo batteries. You never know what the previous owner did with them and they could already be badly damaged. “LiPo Battery Like New, Used Once” is usually a scam and should be avoided.

3. Always use a proper LiPo battery balance charger/discharger when charging and discharging your LiPos. It is crucial that all cells in a LiPo battery maintain the same voltage across all cells at all times. If the voltages across the cells deviate too much from each other (5mV ~ 10Mv), the battery can become unstable and dangerous. (Unless it’s a single cell LiPo, in which case you do not need to worry about cell balance).

4. Always use a fire proof LiPo safety bag, metal ammo box, or other fire proof container when you are charging, discharging, or storing your LiPo batteries. While LiPo fires are rare, they can happen incredibly quickly and can do a lot of damage. All it takes is an internal short circuit to set the battery off. There is no way to predict when it will happen. It does tend to happen more often when batteries are fully charged, being overcharged, or while being discharged, but it can happen to any LiPo at any time. Never fill the container to capacity with your batteries, always follow manufacturer recommendations on LiPo bags for how many mAh’s it can safely contain. It’s ALWAYS worth investing in an (under $10) explosion-proof LiPo bag or ammo can.

5. Do not use your flight case/travel case for long term LiPo storage. The foam and plastic in these cases can help spread a LiPo fire. Always use a fire proof container such as a metal ammo box or fire proof safe for storage.

6. Never leave your LiPo batteries charging while unattended. If a battery starts to become puffy, smoke, or catches fire you need to be able to immediately handle the situation. Walking away for even just 5 minutes can spell disaster.

7. A LiPo fire is a chemical fire. Always keep a Class D fire extinguisher nearby your battery charging/discharging and storage area. The battery charging/discharging and storage area should be free from any materials which can catch fire such as wood tables, carpet, or gasoline containers. The ideal surface for charging and storing LiPo batteries is concrete or ceramic.

8. Never overcharge a LiPo battery. Typically a full charge is 4.2v per cell. Never “trickle” charge a LiPo battery.

9. Never discharge a LiPo battery below 3.0v per cell. Ideally you never want to go below 3.2v per cell to maintain a healthy battery. 2.9v per cell and lower is causing permanent damage.

10. Never leave your LiPo batteries sitting around on a full charge for more than 2-3 days. If by the 3rd day you realize you are not going to use your battery today, you need to discharge your battery down to 3.6v-3.8v per cell for safe storage until you are ready to use the battery again.

11. Always store your LiPo batteries at room temperature. Do not store them in a hot garage, or in a cold refrigerator. Even though a cold battery has less chemical reaction taking place which can prolong its lifespan, taking a battery out from a cold fridge can cause condensation to occur on the inside of the battery, which can be very dangerous.

12. Always remember that heat is the number one enemy of LiPo batteries. The hotter your batteries get, the shorter their lifespan will be. Never charge a battery that is still warm from usage, and never use a battery that is still warm from charging.

13. Depending on how they are used, most LiPo batteries typically do not last longer than 300 charge cycles. Leaving them around on a full or depleted charge all the time, running them completely dead, or exposing them to high temperatures will shorten this lifespan dramatically.

lipo battery bag 14. LiPo batteries do not work well in cold weather. The colder it is, the shorter your run times will be due to the slowing down of the chemical activity within the battery. If it is below 14F (-10C), LiPo usage is not recommended at all. Your battery could cause your R/C vehicle to suddenly fail without warning in these temperatures.

15. Always pack your LiPo batteries in your carry-on bag and never in your checked baggage when traveling on an airplane. It’s the law.

-Written by Jessika Farrar

Jessika Farrar is the founder of ASG Aerial and specializes in aerial photography for personal and business use. Visit to learn more, or to book an appointment.

Jessika Farrar is also the Network Administrator for the S.W.A.R.M. Network where thousands of pilots from around the world volunteer their skills to help connect life saving drone technology with missing people. Go to to learn more about how you can help.

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The perfect solution for when all your friends ask you what drone they should buy

I know it’s happened to you. Someone knows you have a drone, and suddenly they want one. But instead of researching it themselves, they ask you what to buy.

“My budget is, like, $200.”

“It has to be a really good drone though.”

“Like, it has to take high-quality pictures.”

“But like, how long is the battery life?”

“Ok maybe I’ll up my budget to no more than $400..but only if you insist.”


And in flies Drone Configurator. It was created by my friends at Drone Life. Simply select the type from a series of choices including price range, camera, application and type, and the database sorts through more than 200 models of drones to help you find one based on your criteria.

Happy flying (and buying)!

5 essentials for happy drone flying

What are some essential (and non-essential) tools you need to bring before going out flying? Drone Girl reached out to her top Twitter fans for their feedback, and the answers returned range from the obvious, the practical, to the truly exceptional. Think I missed something? Leave a comment below, or tweet @thedronegirl!

1. Battery checker


Tons of you jumped to the practical answer; @CosmoRogers, @rcflyingbits and @Hovership_RC all think it is imperative to have a LiPo checker.

Ditch the Energizer Bunny; drones traditionally run on LiPo batteries. LiPo batteries must be handled with extreme care, and one way to care for them is to make sure you don’t overcharge batteries or run down batteries. Also they are like $10, so just buy one.

And Mr. Rogers is certainly correct. It is absolutely, very, extremely awkward when you go out to fly, plug in your battery, and realize your battery has no juice. Don’t be awkward. Get a battery checker! Continue reading 5 essentials for happy drone flying