LiPo batteries are one of the essential components to drone technology. The vast majority of UAVs utilize these batteries to fly. They’re available in numerous sizes and configurations to suit your needs and preferences.
Aside from keeping them charged, many drone enthusiasts don’t give their LiPo batteries a second thought. Yet correct disposal – and actually knowing when it’s time to retire them – is beyond important.
Below we detail how to best care for LiPo batteries (to prolong their life) and properly get rid of them when it’s time to throw them out.
About LiPo Batteries
LiPo is short for lithium polymer battery (or lithium-ion polymer battery). These batteries are also frequently abbreviated to LIP or Li-Poly. Most LiPo batteries come in a pouch format. The battery is made of lithium-ion and is completely rechargeable.
LiPo batteries have a C rating, which means the power is drawn from the battery. They have a mAh (milliamps per hour) power rating which describes the amount of power the battery supplies.
Larger LiPo batteries hold a larger charge and thus supply more power. However, they also weigh a lot more than smaller batteries. With a drone, it’s important to find a good balance between weight and power supply. A drone must be powerful enough to carry a larger battery in the first place.
Despite their many benefits to RC enthusiasts, LiPo batteries can be dangerous when used incorrectly. There are plenty of videos that highlight the dangers of LiPo battery accidents on YouTube. This is why it’s so important to learn to use and dispose of these batteries correctly.
Shop Amazon’s selection of LiPo batteries for drones to find the best for your UAV.
Caring for LiPo Batteries
Properly caring for your drone’s LiPo batteries will increase their usable lifespan. Keep them in tip-top condition and you won’t have to dispose of them as soon.
Here are a few top LiPo battery care tips:
- New Batteries – Carefully charge new LiPo batteries. Charge and discharge at a slower than normal rate, no faster than 1C. Only discharge to 50% after the first few uses to prolong the life of the batteries.
- Battery Chargers – Only use a battery charger specifically designed for LiPo batteries. These come with a balancing feature that improves both charging safety and battery life.
- Charging Stations – Certain batteries, like those used for the DJI Phantom 3 quadcopter, come with charging stations. These stations let you charge multiple batteries at the same time.
- Never Charge Unattended – Perhaps the most important LiPo care tip of all is to NEVER LEAVE YOUR CHARGING BATTERIES UNATTENDED. Even the safest charger is dangerous. Always monitor your charging batteries and change them outside of your house whenever possible.
- Storing Batteries – Carefully read the manufacturer storage directions for your LiPo batteries. Most recommend a storage temperature between 5C and 27C, though the lower the temperature, the better. We also recommend using a LiPo safe bag for improved safety.
When Should You Dispose of your battery?
Properly cared for LiPo batteries should last for at least 200 cycles for normal drone use. Care for them incorrectly and they might only last for a few charges.
The rule we like to follow is the 80% rule. When your battery no longer holds at least 80% of its original charge capacity, it’s time to get rid of it.
Another indicator of a spent battery is excessive puffing. Though all LiPo batteries will eventually puff to some degree, it’s important to dispose of them when they puff more than normal.
LiPo Disposal Methods
Take a look around the Internet and you’ll find people discharging old LiPo batteries in dozens of ways. Yet not all of these methods are actually safe and effective.
The three LiPo disposal methods below show you how to discharge the batteries. Once discharged, you can cut the discharge lead, twist the wires (voltage and ground) together, and then wrap the battery in paper.
When properly discharged, it’s safe to dispose of a LiPo battery in the trash. However, I always prefer bringing mine to a recycling center.
Here are the top three LiPo battery disposal methods:
- Discharger Method – Many LiPo battery chargers come with a discharge function. But most have a minimum voltage limit meaning that it won’t discharge the battery 100% of the way. Use a small current to discharge the battery to be safe.
- Light Bulb Method – This is perhaps the most common way to discharge a LiPo battery. It’s quick, safe, and cheap. Use a halogen lightbulb instead of an LED bulb. Connect your bulb discharger and leave it somewhere fireproof. Connecting a small motor to the battery is a similar discharge method.
- Salt Water Method – The slowest and least effective method, the salt water discharge method is still safe and easy. The salt water conducts electricity, discharging the battery completely. The salt also neutralizes the lithium inside the battery.
Use the salt water method by filling a plastic container with a mixture of cold water and salt. The mixture should be about 30g of salt for every liter of water used. Put the batter in the salt water, leave it in a fire proof location, and the battery should be completely discharged after two weeks.
The salt water method is also the preferred method for disposing of damaged LiPo batteries.
All three of the disposal methods discussed above work well. Yet there’s still an even easier method to get rid of used drone batteries that we haven’t talked about yet.
Whenever a LiPo battery of mine is near the end of its life, I take it to a local shop that sells batteries. Nearly any store that sells LiPo batteries will recycle said batteries, even if you didn’t buy them there.
To me, this is the safest, easiest, and most effective method to discharge and dispose of LiPo batteries. It leaves more time to fly your UAV without worrying about the logistics of drone battery disposal.