Drones are fast becoming one of the most popular gadgets for people to own. With all sorts of different types, you’ll be able to find a drone that fits your needs and budget. But, there is one essential yet often overlooked component that you’ll need to maintain to keep it in the air, and that’s propellers.
They will need to be replaced from time to time, so how do you know when to change your drone’s propellers? First, let’s take a closer look at what they do.
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What are propellers and how do they work
A propeller is a rotating blade that attaches to the motor on one end and to the drone on the other end.
Propellers are critical for drones because they provide the thrust needed to get the device off the ground and keep it in the air. When drone propellers get damaged and aren’t rotating correctly, your drone won’t be able to fly.
There are times when new props will need to be changed (usually after crashing). For example, if you notice your drone isn’t flying right—vibration or flight is sloppy—then your drone propellers probably need to be changed.
When to change your drone’s propellers?
The first thing to mention is that it is essential drone pilots visually check propellers before and after any flight. If you notice any damage, it could make it dangerous to fly, so always have a spare set handy.
In addition to checking propellers visually, there is definitely a sound difference to a damaged prop, so be mindful of the sound they make when in operation. You’ll hear a lot more noise if there’s damage to the blades, and blades that are damaged will likely need to be replaced soon after noticing this sound.
Propellers can become damaged in a variety of ways. If you have ever crashed your drone, at least one propeller is likely damaged. At the very least, the blades will be loose enough that they no longer rotate properly.
Another way to damage a propeller is to allow it to become clogged with dirt, dust, or sand.
If a propeller becomes damaged, it can affect the flight of your quadcopter. For example, it might make the drone fly unevenly or sloppily. If you notice something wrong with how your drone is flying, then it’s probably time to replace the propellers (or at least one set).
But what about if there is no damage?
Many opinions are floating around. But, if you believe DJI (who I’m sure have no interest in maximizing sales), drones require new props every 3 months is the answer.
But, as you can see in this forum, most drone owners find that to be a bit much and prefer to do it based on how many hours they have been flying.
To me, it all depends slightly on what the drone is used for. For example, if your drone is just being used for personal use (e.g., aerial photography), you will not need to change props as often as if it was used commercially when peak performance is essential.
I recommend changing drone your propellers after around 200 – 300 hours of flight time or whenever you notice they have damage. You should try to have at least one spare set with you, more if you are traveling. On the commercial side of things, you should probably have a whole spare drone set up as the last thing you need while on a job is your equipment to fail.
How to replace the propeller on your drone
If you are changing the propellers on your drone because they are becoming loose or not rotating properly due to dirt, dust, or sand, the first thing you’ll need to do is remove them.
For most consumer drones, you can simply pull them off with a bit of upward pressure, but some may require using a blade wrench to unlock them and then unscrew them from the inside of the propeller.
You will then want to get new props that will fit your drone. Even if you have just one propeller that needs replacing, it is often best to replace all four as they tend to wear out at about the same rate. So while the others may look OK, they will wear faster than the new one.
If you are not changing the propellers on your drone because they have been damaged, there’s another step ahead before flying again – balance and recalibration may be needed.
How to balance propellers on your drone
Rather than write it out, I thought, if a picture paints a thousand words, a video must be a million. So I found this great video from YouTube that shows you how to balance the propellers on your drone.
How to calibrate a propeller on your drone
You should also be sure to calibrate after changing your props. Each drone has its own way of doing this, so be sure to refer to your manufacturer’s guides. A quick search of your drone make, and model + calibrations should do the trick if you no longer have your instructions.
Why you might need a new set of propellers for your drone
To understand why you might need to replace your drone’s propeller, I’ll give you an example.
Imagine if you were driving your car and one of the tires locked up, rubbed across the ground, and got a big flat spot. If the tire is no longer able to provide traction, it risks your safety.
Now, imagine that the tire is replaced with another one, but now they are too fat compared to the other three for this car which could cause other problems that affect how well your vehicle can drive through various surfaces.
Propellers are much the same in that they must be matched to the drone it is meant for. While some drone propeller replacements will fit on various machines, other replacements only work for specific drones and can cause problems if not put on right. It really isn’t worth risking your safety by trying to be lazy here, so be sure to read the instructions before attempting to put on new propellers.
Without accurate calibrated and balanced props, a drone may bounce around in its own turbulence, become unflyable, and ultimately risk people or property nearby. Not that you would be flying too close to either if you are following the rules correctly.
In conclusion, there are times when you will need to replace your drone propellers and other times where it may not be necessary. If you have done any of the following: if they have been hit or damaged in any way, if they become worn out or loose, or if you notice vibration or the drone is not flying right – then it’s time for new propellers.
When buying new drone propellers, be sure to research and get the right ones for your drone model. There are likely to be many different third-party props available, maybe even low noise propellers to give you a quieter flight, but it is almost always better to get manufacturer’s originals if possible.
Drone flight safety should always come first, so never fly a drone with old, broken parts!