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Flying your Drone in Cold Weather – Best Practices

Jun 3, 2021 | 0 comments

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Flying your drone in cold weather during extreme winter conditions can be difficult. Low temperatures can affect flight performance, and the weather can be unpredictable. During your flight, you could experience rain, fog, or snow. So how can you make sure you have an enjoyable flight and take some awesome photos during the wintertime? Although it’s generally not a good idea to fly your drone on extremely cold days, we know that many drone pilots won’t go inside the moment they see snow. In the case of topographical surveys, simply waiting for a calmer day might not be a better option. While using your drone in the winter, these tips will ensure that it is safe and that your camera settings are correct.

When flying your drone in cold weather, pay attention to its battery life

The most inconvenient thing about flying a drone in cold weather is the effect the low temperatures have on your drone’s batteries.

Almost all DJI drones use Lithium Polymer (LiPo) batteries. Batteries can be negatively impacted by cold temperatures, decreasing their chemical activity. As a result, your drone will lose power faster; in some cases, up to 50% faster. It is even possible that your drone might even cease to function mid-flight in very cold conditions.

Essential Precautions to Take Before You Fly Your Drone in Cold Weather

  • Check the weather conditions before flying your drone. Strong winds, rain, and snow should be avoided.
  • You should not fly if the temperature is below 0°C (32°F).
  • Avoid contact with the snow. Motors can be damaged by moisture. You should use a landing pad when taking off and landing your drone.
  • It is important to ensure a strong GPS signal.
  • Fly your drone in a perpendicular direction to the wind. In any case, you can also fly upwind first, then return back downwind.
  • Pay more attention to your drone when it is flying with the wind than usual. It should be brought home as soon as you notice it isn’t staying level.
  • Takeoffs and touchdowns should be handled with care. Even though winds are stronger at higher altitudes, your drone can be thrown off course more easily as it takes off or decelerates.
  • Make sure your batteries are fully charged.
  • Get your battery heated up to 20°C (68°F). It is possible to check the battery temperature in DJI GO. If available for your drone’s battery, consider getting a battery heater.
  • To warm up the battery, hover your drone for about a minute.
  • Make sure you gently push the controls to prevent any drops in battery voltage.
  • Cold temperatures cause batteries to drain faster. During the flight, keep an eye on your drone’s battery.

Dealing with Darker Skies when Flying your Drone in Winter

Overcast skies and snow can mess with your drone’s camera settings, resulting in underexposed pictures. Increasing the white balance of your camera and decreasing your shutter speed will counteract this effect.

Managing exposure and white balance in the camera settings

A snowy picture is best captured by manually setting the camera’s exposure and white balance. When using the auto mode, you can end up with dark images. Due to the bright light of the snow, the camera can sometimes underexpose photos. By adding additional stops, your photos will have a slight overexposure but will be compensated appropriately for snow shots. For the snowy landscape, you will also need to adjust the white balance accordingly. The snow might otherwise appear grey.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind:
The ISO should be monitored as the day becomes darker. Your drone’s camera may produce too much grain in your photos if the ISO is increased above the recommended range.
When flying, try to fly under direct sunlight (unless you’re flying over reflective surfaces), to reduce the chances of shadows distorted your images.
Reduce your drone’s speed by 1-2 mph to reduce the likelihood of motion blur.
Following FAA regulations, drones cannot be flown before sunrise or after sunset. Make sure you adjust your flight schedule according to daylight changes throughout the season.

Keeping Drone Stored the Right Way

A drone’s performance might be affected if it has been inactive for a while. It is vital to keep it in good condition to ensure a safe flight.

Battery health can be maintained by fully charging and discharging the battery every three months.
Store your drone with the propellers removed and the gimbal attached.
You should keep your drone somewhere dry, non-magnetic at around 25°C (77°F).

Flying Your Drone in Cold and Windy Weather

It is advisable to avoid flying a drone with a surface wind speed of more than 15mph unless you are an experienced pilot and comfortable with manual flight. You’re risking a crash with anything stronger. The repair or replacement of your drone can even take up to several weeks or months.

Additionally, strong winds will negatively affect battery life due to the low temperatures. Flying against the wind while battling turbulence will require your drone to work overtime. While your drone might be able to withstand the high winds, rapid battery drain puts it at risk of crashing.

Check weather forecasts at UAV Forecast, which shows wind speed at the altitude where you’ll be flying. It is also possible to use the UAV Forecast mobile app on Android and iOS.

When shooting spectacular winter scenery, you have to be aware of reduced visibility and moisture from the snow.

Condensation can cause many problems

During Winter, there is also an increase in condensation in many areas. Drones are susceptible to a number of problems when air moisture is too high. Drone propeller motors, cameras, and internal systems can become damaged by moisture over time. Additionally, condensation can lead to distorted geotags if you’re using a GPS-enabled drone.

You should keep the following things in mind:
As obvious as it may seem, flying your drone in the rain, fog or snow is a bad idea. Fog can cause a drone’s obstacle avoidance sensors to trigger, causing it to think there’s an obstacle ahead and cause it to stop mid-flight.
In difficult conditions, place a probe light on the drone’s body so you can spot it easily during the flight.

The Drone Pilot is just as Important!

Due to the excitement of shooting aerial photos during winter, it is easy to forget about ourselves. As the operator of the drone, you too must endure the wet and the cold. Invest in a good pair of gloves that won’t inhibit your ability to operate your smartphone or drone controller. Numb and frostbitten fingers are extremely uncomfortable, dangerous and painful. It is nearly impossible to use a touchscreen in such conditions.

Your mobile device can also be affected by cold weather. In the beginning, we discussed how cold temperatures could shorten the life of LiPo batteries. While taking good care of your Intelligent Flight Batteries, also make sure to keep your phone warm.

It may be best to move your flight to another day if you are concerned about the Winter weather affecting your drone or yourself. Keep an eye on the seven-day forecast so that when bad weather threatens, you can reschedule your flight.

7 Tips to Remember when Flying your Drone in Cold Weather:

  1. Turn your drone on and let it warm up for a couple of minutes before launching it.
  2. Make sure you are checking your power mid-flight more than usual. Monitoring the drone’s power consumption will let you know when it’s time to bring it back to the home base, preventing a crash.
  3. Bringing extra batteries with you is a good idea if you plan to fly the drone for a while. Changing a battery will prevent your drone from crashing, so by all means switch it and get over the lost time.
  4. While you’re not flying your drone, you should consider where you’ll store your batteries. They must be kept in warm places, avoiding cold temperatures.
  5. While flying, keep the extra batteries inside your vehicle. You can keep them warm by setting your dashboard window defroster on high and place them on your dashboard. You can also double your heating action by pointing your vehicle at the sun.
  6. It’s not just your drone’s battery that you need to be concerned about. Your controller’s batteries will also consume more power. You don’t want to leave it exposed more than it needs to be.
  7. Consider investing in a battery warmer if you’re working in particularly cold conditions.

FAQ on Flying your Drone in Cold Weather

How cold is too cold to fly a drone?

When the temperature drops below 59°F (15°C), the performance will decline. The use of LiPo batteries is not recommended below 14°F (-10°C). At these temperatures, your drone’s battery can fail suddenly without warning.

Can I fly my drone in bad weather?

If snow, hail, heavy winds, rain, or fog are forecast, do not fly. While it is not recommended to fly in temperatures below 0oC, most users have little to no issues when they do so, provided they are extra cautious.

Can I fly my Mini 2 in cold weather?

Yes although, it’s a good idea to allow your Mini 2 (and its sensors) to acclimate for 10-15 minutes before flying in cold temperatures. Keep your drone’s and your mobile’s battery warm as much as you can.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to write in our comment box below.

Fly safe and stay profitable!

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