Finding the Best 18650 Li-Ion Battery for FPV Long Range Flying and Equipment

by Oscar
18650 Li Ion Battery Fpv Long Range Flying Equipment 2024

18650 Li-ion cell is a popular battery choice for both long range FPV drones and equipment such as FPV goggles and radios. However, with so many options on the market, selecting the best 18650 cells can be overwhelming. I tested various 18650 batteries, comparing their performance and true capacity to find the ideal batteries that offer long flight times and reliable performance.

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Why 18650 Li-ion Batteries?

Choosing the right battery is crucial for optimizing the performance of FPV equipment. The 18650 Li-ion battery emerges as a top choice due to its balance of wide availability, longevity, and cost-effectiveness. It’s particularly favored by long-range FPV pilots for its superior energy-to-weight ratio compared to traditional LiPo batteries. Although it may not deliver the high current output of LiPo batteries, it is adequate for drones designed for efficiency and endurance.

For a deeper dive into the pros and cons of Li-ion batteries over LiPo, check out this post: https://oscarliang.com/li-ion-battery-long-range/

Left: 4S 1500mah LiPo; Right: 4S 3500mAh Li-ion

To sum it up, here’s why 18650 batteries are preferred for FPV drones and accessories:

  • Capacity and Efficiency: They offer substantial energy storage in a compact form factor.
  • Rechargeability: These batteries are capable of hundreds of charge cycles without significant degradation.
  • Availability: They are widely available and used across various electronic devices and tools.

Interested in long-range flying? Check out these tips: https://oscarliang.com/long-range-fpv-flying-mini-quad/

The Contenders

To find the best, I tested a variety of 18650 batteries from reputable brands, considering different specifications for a well-rounded review.

Price* / Weight** Per Cell Product Page
Sony VTC5A 2500mAh
18650 Li Ion Battery Fpv Sony Vtc5a 2500mah
$8.99 / 48.3g AE: https://s.click.aliexpress.com/e/_Dch2E5F
GF: https://oscarliang.com/product-kttw
Sony VTC6 3000mAh
18650 Li Ion Battery Fpv Sony Vtc6 3000mah
$12.50 / 46.9g AE: https://s.click.aliexpress.com/e/_DdTpbXb
GF: https://oscarliang.com/product-0owd
Molicel P30B 3000mAh
18650 Li Ion Battery Fpv Molicel P30b 3000mah
$10.50 / 45.5g AE: https://s.click.aliexpress.com/e/_Dmp0uVT
Molicel P28A 2800mah
18650 Li Ion Battery Fpv Molicel P28a 2800mah
$9.50 / 45.3g AE: https://s.click.aliexpress.com/e/_De9xMd7
RDQ: https://oscarliang.com/product-6ohi
GF: https://oscarliang.com/product-u8yp
Molicel M35A 3500mah
18650 Li Ion Battery Fpv Molicel M35a 3500mah
$8.99 / 46.7g AE: https://s.click.aliexpress.com/e/_DcGMxEh
Sanyo NCR18650GA 3500mah
18650 Li Ion Battery Fpv Sanyo Ncr18650ga 3500mah
$8.99 / 47.2g AE: https://s.click.aliexpress.com/e/_DCRVMQl
RDQ: https://oscarliang.com/product-vknc
Radiomaster 3200mah
18650 Li Ion Battery Fpv Radiomaster 3500mah
$11.99 / 46.2g RM: https://oscarliang.com/product-ykiv
AE: https://s.click.aliexpress.com/e/_DdrOSo1
Radiomaster 2500mah
18650 Li Ion Battery Fpv Radiomaster 2500mah
$8.99 / 45.2g RM: https://oscarliang.com/product-ykiv
AE: https://s.click.aliexpress.com/e/_DdrOSo1

* Price according to my local reseller at the time of publishing.

** Weight is measured by myself

Testing Methodology

To determine the best batteries, I focused on two key performance indicators:

  • Capacity: Measured by discharging batteries at a slow rate (2A) from 4.2V per cell down to 2.9V to accurately gauge their energy storage capabilities.
  • Voltage Sag: Assessed by discharging at a faster rate (12A) from 4.2V per cell to 2.9V to evaluate their performance under load throughout the discharge cycle.

In case you are curious what testing equipment I used, it was the SkyRC BD350 discharger.

Results and Recommendations

When evaluating the discharge rate, the Molicel P30B and P28A stood out for delivering consistent power, especially under heavy load, making them ideal for high-demand long range FPV flying. The Sony VTC5A and VTC6 were close contenders, performing admirably as well.

18650 Li Ion Battery Fpv Long Range Flying Equipment 2024 Testing Result

In terms of true capacity, the Molicel M35A and Sanyo NCR18650GA led the pack, offering the highest mAh at approximately 3260mAh. Here’s a detailed breakdown of advertised versus measured capacities:

Advertised Capacity Measured mAh (Cutoff 2.9V)
Sony VTC5A 2500mAh 2415mAh
Sony VTC6 3000mAh 2939mAh
Molicel P30B 3000mAh 2851mAh
Molicel P28A 2800mah 2627mAh
Molicel M35A 3500mah 3263mAh
Sanyo NCR18650GA 3500mah 3265mAh
Radiomaster 3200mah 3058mAh
Radiomaster 2500mah 2583mAh

Based on our testing, here are our top recommendations for different FPV needs.

18650 Li Ion Battery Fpv Molicel P30b 3000mah

For long range FPV flights, the Molicel P30B emerges as the top choice for its exceptional capacity and discharge performance, minimizing voltage sag. The VTC6 and P28A are excellent alternatives, with the VTC6 slightly edging out in flight time and the P28A providing a bit more punch.

Top choices:

Second choices:

18650 Li Ion Battery Fpv Sanyo Ncr18650ga 3500mah

For low current applications like powering FPV goggles and radios, the Molicel M35A and Sanyo NCR18650GA are my go-to options. The Radiomaster 3200mAh and VTC6 are also worthy considerations.

Top choices:

Second choices:

Building Your Own Pack

You can build your own battery packs using singular 18650 cells following this guide: https://oscarliang.com/li-ion-battery-long-range/.

While I’ve tested various pre-made 6S Li-ion packs from reputable vendors, none matched the performance of Molicel cells (I guess they are not using the best cells to maximize profit). Therefore assembling your own Li-ion battery pack using top-quality cells, ensures the best possible performance, sometimes even cheaper.

Conclusion

Choosing the right 18650 Li-ion battery requires weighing several performance factors. I hope our comparison and testing helped you decide which 18650 cells to get. Happy flying!

Charging 18650 Batteries

Modern LiPo chargers typically support Li-Ion battery type; simply connect them as you would a LiPo battery. For charger recommendations, check out: https://oscarliang.com/choose-lipo-battery-charger-power-supply/

Hglrc Thor Pro 6 Port Parallel Charging Board Xt60 & Xt30 Lipo Charger Batteries Li Ion

Edit History

  • Feb 2018: Article creation.
  • Mar 2024: Update with the latest test results on new market-available 18650 cells.

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28 comments

Brent 21st March 2024 - 1:58 pm

Are the links to AliExpress supposed to take you to an actual product listing? All it does for me is take me to a search page that almost never shows the actual product.

Reply
Oscar 21st March 2024 - 3:36 pm

The result very much depends on your location, whether they ship batteries to your country or not. For some countries they just show random results if the actual products don’t ship to your location.

Reply
Gilbert Karwick 18th March 2024 - 7:10 am

Excellent article, well written.
I appreciate that this article was a quick read and got to the results without having to read a bunch of “filler text.”
I also appreciate the links.
Thank you

Reply
Greg 16th March 2024 - 12:55 pm

The P35A still lasted longer during 12A draw?

Reply
Joel 29th December 2023 - 10:08 pm

Hey I am going to make this using the holder and a 3 pin jst connector so I can power my radiomaster zorro controller. So when I get the holder it’s only going to have a 2 pin connector on it right, so that means I need to remove that, and add another wire along the other end of the battery holder like in your picture right? I don’t really understand how that works. One wire is doing positive, one wire is negative, but then the middle wire in the connector is going to have both negative and positive? and you just tape that third wire somewhere along the outside of the battery holder?

Reply
Irvin 16th May 2023 - 7:29 pm

Hi Oscar,

What’s your recommendation for using 18650 batteries with the DJI Goggles v2? I have the DJI Goggles v2 with the BDI Analog adapter and wanted to know if using 18650 batteries would be a good option, since I have a couple laying around. Do you still recommend 18650 batteries for someone starting out or do you recommend a cable that can regulate the voltage?

Thanks!

Reply
Oscar 16th May 2023 - 7:52 pm

I made a 4S 18650 pack to power it: https://oscarliang.com/li-ion-battery-long-range/

Reply
Greg 16th March 2024 - 12:57 pm

I use Li-ion packs all the time on my dji goggles v2. Only thing is I get beeping battery warning when it gets under 14v it can easily go to 12v safetly

Reply
W@ 16th August 2021 - 6:59 pm

Thank you, very useful. I have some experience with the “Panasonic”. I wonder “how” you charge. My charger do it up to about 4.2v, batt will be soon only 4.1v. 3.1v is close to zero. I want also find the balance between used capacity and lifetime. The complete discharge I fear more then the upper end. Get some Panasonic with real 3200, 3300 usable C. Drain moderate, around 0.3 C. Sample nominal 12v LED tube lamp 60cm. “Mystyle” emergency lamps. (3 batt, 3 hours. More power failure? Click next batt pack in.)

Reply
Chris Barth 31st March 2021 - 11:11 pm

To all the naysayers….soldering directly to lion cells is possible and can be done safely. It’s takes the combination of soldering experience and the right equipment. I would never recommend it to anybody with little soldering experience. Soldering is something that can be taught but there aren’t many classes that teach soldering. Most learn from experience, over time you will realize what works and what doesn’t. My biggest ah ha soldering moments were discovering rosin flux, makes a huge difference. Another was buying a proper temp regulated soldering iron. I now recommend the TS 100 for general soldering. For soldering 18650/27000 cells I recommend a large soldering iron. The thermal mass and high temperatures of an iron starting at something like 80W will make the time spent soldering the cell very fast. Less time on the cell = less potentially damaging heat transferred into the cell. With skill/experience and a proper tools a perfect solder connection can be achieved in under a second. Personally, I feel a properly soldered connection will be superior and have less resistance to the spot welding that seems to be the standard probably because it’s easier to automate and is faster and safer when done manually by semiskilled assembly line workers.

Reply
Chris S 19th March 2021 - 3:42 am

I’ve run into something strange with 18650s and FPV equipment. In my case I ordered some Skyzone Cobra box goggles, but the 18650’s I ordered from amazon didn’t fit into the battery bay. It appears there are different lengths of 18650s out there, and the skyzones require the smaller variant.

I wasn’t able to use the batteries, and I finally found a set that fit in size (Sony VTC4), but the process was frustrating.

Have you run into much equipment which requires the smaller / larger configurations exclusively? I’m curious if there’s an easy way to tell which variation is required, or how to spot the difference when shopping online.

Reply
Oscar 20th March 2021 - 7:24 pm

I think what you got is the “protected” version of 18650, aka “button top”. You should always get the “unprotected” ones aka “flat top” which is slightly shorter, and these are actually more common.
Just check the product pictures, if they have extruded terminal (the positive end), and they should also mention “protected” in the description, these are the type you should avoid.

Reply
Aaron Brown 2nd January 2020 - 9:45 am

I’m in the process of getting all the parts for my first fpv racing quadcopter and I’m getting the taranis x lite pro transmitter which takes the 18650B but my question is do I get protected or unprotected? I’ve read that protected can just cut out from spikes but they where being used in a plane not a transmitter so I’m only assuming that a transmitter wouldnt get a spike and just turn off . Also I’ll be getting fatshark goggles which also takes them but do both protected and unprotected fit in the case?

Reply
Thomas 23rd November 2019 - 2:40 pm

Hi Oscar,

i’m new to lion cells and need your suggestion here. Does it make sense to buy lion cell with protection pcb’s installed or do you prefer ones without that built in protection? I will use my isdt or hota d6 charger in combination with a charger tray and a balancer connector as you described already in your article.

Regards Thomas

Reply
Oscar 1st December 2019 - 4:18 pm

Without protection is easier to work with, and more commonly used in the hobby. All 18650 cells i personally use are without protection.

Reply
Adam Major 25th October 2019 - 10:38 am

Great article.
If someone can not calculate the pack or want to make it easier :)
I suggest install the Android app: “Battery pack calculator” (calculates: voltage, capacity, energy, discharge current, etc.) up to 9999s 9999p packs. Built-in database of 37 popular, branded batteries and the ability to define your own battery cells. play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=pl.freshdata.batterypackagecalculator

Reply
Oscar 7th September 2018 - 11:10 am

I use a 2s pack of 18650 sony vtc6 3120mAh to fly with a 5″. (the auw is 270gr, the battery 100gr). Motors 1306. About more than 20 min of soft flight. In Last flight the max power from all motor was 15a. Below 5.5v you must land or the quad “land” for you.
And i use a 2s pack 18650 panasonic 3400 for the glasses. And another for the transmitter (Taranis q7x), but in this case i need to do more tests for if there are effects in power transmitted .
Don´t like lipos, and thanks to electrical-smokers, there are powerfull 18650 models today.

Reply
Riquez 26th July 2018 - 12:19 am

You stated a constant 2.3A draw in your method. Is this comparable to real world use with goggles & receiver?
The time of 64mins seems low, im sure I use my goggles for several hours in an afternoon flying. So Im wondering if the amp draw in the test is higher than general use?

Reply
Oscar 31st July 2018 - 1:07 pm

FPV goggles draw far less current than 2.3A, under 1A I would say.

Reply
Mark 18th March 2018 - 11:32 am

For NCR18650B, the website says unprotected. What is the meaning and the risk of having unprotected li ion (use for fatshark battery)?

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Artur 20th October 2023 - 7:34 pm

Usually you can’t fit protected batteries into fpv equipment (Example: Your FatShark goggles)

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rcschim 26th February 2018 - 12:46 pm

Once again – great article here! I started to use 18650 cells in fatshark battery cage. first ones I got were horrible (only around 1000mah instead of 3000mah.
The new ones I bought are Samsungs – and they are around 2500mah wich is fine.
I will show this in a video soon since I tested the isdt C4 – which is a great charger for cells!

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voodoo614 14th February 2018 - 5:44 pm

Soldering to battery will generate a lot of hot. Especially if you don’t know what you are doing. Heat is bad for the battery. In addition, it will cause the battery to puff. Unlike the Lipo we use that is encase in slightly expendable wrap, Li-io is encased in a hard case. It can explode or cause fire.

That is why manufacturers do not solder packs together. They use spot welding.

Reply
Mister_M 14th February 2018 - 8:53 am

Can you go into detail why one should not solder directly on the battery?

Reply
Oscar 6th March 2018 - 4:53 pm

Placing a lot of heat on the battery is not good.

Reply
Oscar 12th February 2018 - 2:55 pm

I don’t think there is anything that needs to be changed. The whole purpose of this test is to find the battery that can give me the longest battery life for powering my FPV goggles, and it did.
Meaningless? Please read my post again, there is so much info you can extract from those graphs.
This test was meant to determine the best battery for my own use, I am only sharing my result because I thought someone might find it useful. Take it as a grain of salt if you don’t think it’s good enough for you.

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Harry Herring 12th February 2018 - 7:38 am

You don’t need to set the charger to li-ion, regular lipo setting works fine on 18650’s, they can handle 4.2v max no problem

Reply
Oscar 12th February 2018 - 3:02 pm

I haven’t verified this myself, but I read somewhere you get more discharge cycles out of the battery if you charge them up to lower voltage such as 4.1V vs 4.2V… The difference is 800 cycles vs 400 cycles.

Reply