You’re asking about the legal drone speed limit according to the FAA, right? That would be 100 mph. Of course, we’ll not stop at legal info, let’s explore how a drone flies, what barriers there are to speed and what you can do to fly faster.
Join us for another in our Science of Flight series, learning some of what makes a drone operate. Our goal is to help you understand how to fly, expanding your knowledge and improving your experience in the air.
What’s a drone?
First, we have to establish some ground rules. Well, not really ground rules, just, rules as to what we’re talking about here today. We’ve gone in-depth to explore what makes a drone a drone, while different styles of craft have entirely different science behind their movement, we will be talking mostly about quadcopters here today.
A fixed wing craft flies like an airplane, essentially, so we’ll focus on machines that have upward facing rotors instead.
How fast can a drone go?
Before we get into the actual science behind it all, I wanted to share some typical drone speeds with you. One of our favorite machines, the DJI Mavic Pro, can scoot along at about 41 mph at full throttle. Take it out of sport mode, ensuring stabilized flight and smooth video recording, and that drops down into the 30 mph range. But, just like your car, you don’t always fly around at full speed. My flight records indicate my moving average speed of my Mavic is about 11 mph, but I spend almost half of my time at a hover, that’s what drone photography is all about, especially for panoramas.
The Mavic Pro, even at 30 mph, is pretty fast compared to the average out there. In my experience, the average toy-class machine may get up to 12 mph, not very fast. Most of the drones you’d find on our under $1000 list and in our camera drones list have similar speeds to the Mavic Pro. Moving up the scale, you have something like the DJI Inspire 2 clocking in at just under 60 mph.
Commercial drones have some higher speeds, but for you and I at home, racing drones are where it’s at if you have the need for speed. Your average machine is still only going to clock in at 50 – 70 mph, but some of the top racing quads can break that 100 mph mark. The fastest I’ve heard of is 129 mph, a little rig based on the Stigg frame in our Best racing drones list.
Safety and legal
I’m going to pretend for a moment that you do not know all of the legal of drone flight. So, here are some rules that the FAA has in place for drones, including, even though it’s not front and center, a 100 mph speed limit.