Lithium Polymer batteries, or “LiPo batteries”, are common rechargeable batteries used for anything from cell phones to laptops, they are also used to power most racing drones. LiPo batteries can be pose a risk when not handled properly since, if damaged, they can catch fire. The risk of a LiPo fire is not unique to drone racing; however, given the number of batteries on site, it requires special attention.
All LiPo batteries should be kept in cool, dry conditions and kept within a fire retardant container or bag. Batteries should be charged in a designated area where a professional oversees the process and is on standby to help.
Compromised LiPo Procedure
Since there’s a known risk when using LiPo batteries, it is critical that all event staff are educated on what a safe battery looks like and what a compromised battery looks like -- This is especially true for the Drone Handlers, who collect fallen drones and unplug batteries.
Additionally, it is important to have a plan in place for when a LiPo battery is compromised as well as an Emergency Action Plan, should it get out of control. This plan should be included in all safety briefings.
Below are some common ways to deal with a compromised battery, but your team should create your own Plan, Process, and Emergency Action Plan.
- The Area Manager should do a visual inspection of the battery and notify the Drone Manager.
- If the battery is deemed compromised, the Drone Manager should alert a Drone Handler, who should go to the nearest fire safety kit. (You should have fire safety kits through the course (plan, plan, plan!).)
- If the battery is just damaged, the Drone Handler should use a tool to pick up the battery and drop it in water.
- If the battery is on fire, the Area Manager should evacuate all personnel within a 100 feet radius.