How high can drones fly ?

How high can drones fly ?

Asked on 14th September 2022 in Others.
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    How high can a drone fly (legally)?

    Altitude is determined by factors like signal strength, air density and regulations. Distance is controlled by signal strength only. According to Popular Mechanics, the legal maximum height in Europe is 500 feet. The United States has a very strict maximum altitude limit of 400 feet. Note that these optimal altitudes are proportional to starting altitude, not sea level. Additionally, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) only allows drones to fly within the line of sight of the user. However, you can apply for special permits or waivers from the FAA and local governments.

    Drones in skyDrones in sky

    How high can a drone fly (physically)?

    The maximum altitude the drone can fly is 10 km (33,000 ft.), as evidenced by both military drones and adventurers.

    The physical limit for spinning rotor drones is about 10 kilometers (33,000 feet). This is because the air becomes thinner as altitude increases, and there is little force (pushing on the rotor blades) to maintain its mass in the atmosphere. However, this is a dangerous activity and should only be flown within the legal altitude limits for your area. Maximum altitude is limited by several factors such as drone weight, construction, and propeller speed. External factors such as air pressure and weather conditions affect drone performance.

    When it comes to physical capabilities, nothing stops drones from flying over 400 feet. Air pressure decreases with altitude, but the reduced lift simply prevents the drone from flying at an altitude of about 13,000 feet. At this altitude, most drones cannot generate enough lift to lift their own weight. However, finding yourself by chance at this altitude is very difficult. You must hike to some of the tallest mountains in the world. 

    Drone in motionDrone over mountain

    Technically, most modern drones have built-in altimeters that are programmed to detect if it is flying near or beyond the 400ft limit. These altimeters measure the ambient air pressure and compare it to the sea level air pressure which the drone measures during calibration.

    The nice thing about the drone altimeter is that it is programmed to set the altitude to ‘zero’ at the takeoff point. This means that the drone can fly 400 feet above the high-altitude starting point before it is blocked from further ascent. However, being 400 feet off the ground is important here, so be aware of the terrain around you.

    This also means that if you decide to fly the drone down from take-off point, you may get negative altitude readings. This does not affect drone performance. Avoid landing the drone at a lower altitude as the new takeoff point may reset the altitude to zero which can make it difficult to find the drone.

    Drone flying downwardDrone flying downward

    Regulations setting a maximum altitude of 400 feet for drone flights have been controversial. This rule is based on a minimum cruising altitude of 500 feet for manned aircraft. The FAA believes a buffer of 100 feet is sufficient to avoid close encounters between manned aircraft and drones. This rule is especially important in areas where helicopter flying is common, as helicopters tend to fly at low altitudes.

    When it comes to manned aircraft cruising altitudes, minimum cruising altitude¬† also varies depending on the terrain directly below the aircraft’s flight path and the presence of large man-made structures. For example, a helicopter flying over a tall skyscraper sets a minimum cruise altitude of 500 feet from the skyscraper.

    Drone over mountainDrone in motion

    Drones used for recreational purposes may fly below 400 feet in uncontrolled airspace and may not fly in restricted airspace. Recreational drone operators are also not exempt from the 400-foot rule.

    Above restriction also applies to commercial drones. If the pilot is within 400 feet of the structure, under regulations he is allowed to fly the drone beyond 400 feet.  Commercial drone pilots perform tasks such as inspecting telephone lines, pylons and industrial machinery.

    In India drones cannot be flown more than 400 feet vertically.

    This article is referenced from here, here and here.

    Answered on 14th September 2022.
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