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POWER PLAY! GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR BATTERY INVESTMENT BY MIKE GANTT PHOTOS BY JOHN REID Some may consider the brushless motors and electronic speed controls as the “heart” of a multirotor’s power setup, however, this is only partially true. Powering those motors is the job of the very necessary flight pack. Multirotors rely on lithium-polymer (LiPo) batteries, which are lightweight and put out a lot of current. The motors and speed controls are typically “set it and forget it” teams; they’ll do their job with little if any adjustments. Batteries, on the other hand, need more attention: our LiPos are constantly being charged, discharged, installed, removed, transported and stored. To get the most out of these expensive units, we need to be conscious of these activities and follow a few guidelines. 44

A proper charging station includes a safety container and balance port, not just the charger. Charging A myriad of charging systems are available today, the newer of which have more bells and whistles to aid in charging a battery better and extending that battery’s life. First, let’s talk about the charger: It needs to support lithium battery types for safety reasons, and it will either be plugged into an outlet or into a 12-volt power supply to produce a charge current. When a LiPo battery is connected to a LiPo charger, you need to select a charge rate, which is how much current is to be directed to that pack. Typically, a rate of 1C should be used. This is one times the capacity of the battery and is the optimum rate of charge. For example, a 3-cell 2100mAh pack should be charged (on a 3-cell setting) at a rate of 2.1 amps until the battery is fully charged; this usually takes about an hour. Attempting to fast-charge a battery may seem fine, especially if you are in a hurry to get in the air, but I avoid doing so. I have plenty of batteries, so the extra time to charge isn’t a big deal. I will add that if you want to charge at a rate higher than 1C, make sure you are using highquality batteries that are designed to be fast-charged and that you are using a high-quality balancing charger. When you fast-charge, it’s very important to balance the cells as they’re being charged or the pack could be damaged. It should go without saying that you should never leave your packs unattended when you’re charging them; always monitor this process and stay nearby. Above: Balancing bridges like this one allow for a variety of cell counts to be managed and maintained while on charge. Balancing Keeping the individual cell voltages in a pack balanced is imperative to extending the pack’s life. As individual cells become unbalanced, the pack starts to lose its longevity and will not deliver its electrons quite as well. The stronger cells will deliver more current and eventually run down the low cell until it affects the entire pack. New-generation packs deliver much higher currents than cells from just a few years ago, but they can still drift out of balance while being used. This is especially true when you place high demands on your flight pack. Furthermore, the individual cells in less expensive battery packs can be a bit less consistent and can vary more in capacity. If you don’t use a balancing charger, either situation can and will cause individual cells to be pushed to a too high voltage when the pack is charged. The bottom line: being balanced brings out the best in a battery. AS INDIVIDUAL CELLS BECOME UNBALANCED, THE PACK STARTS TO LOSE ITS LONGEVITY ... BEING BALANCED BRINGS OUT THE BEST IN A BATTERY Gear & Gadgets 45

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