5 Tips for Flying Your Drone in Winter
Flying your drone in winter can be challenging for even highly experienced drone pilots. Colder temperatures and poor weather conditions can affect a drone and its batteries and in the worst-case scenario, lead to a crash.
Here are our top tips for flying your drone safely in the colder months!
1. Preparation is Key
Preparation is always important, but even more so in the winter months. Planning your flight route prior to flying ensures you capture everything you need and that you are not affected by the cold weather reducing your drone’s flight time.
It is best practice to fly your drone in daylight so its surroundings can easily be seen (it is worth bearing in mind that it gets dark quickly during winter). Furthermore, avoid flying in potentially hazardous areas such as above water in case the weather suddenly deteriorates and you are forced to land immediately.
Being prepared will help prevent any unfortunate incidents occurring due to adverse weather.
2. Maintain Your Batteries
Cold temperatures experienced during the winter months can have a negative impact on your drone. These can interfere with batteries and cause accidents. Therefore, it is vital that you regularly monitor the condition of your drone’s battery.
Before flying, you should ensure that your batteries are fully charged. Given cold temperatures put a lot of strain on a drone and can reduce a drone’s flight time, it is important to be as prepared as possible.
When transporting your drone, focus your efforts on ensuring the batteries don’t get too cold. Insulated cases are a good solution to help your drone and batteries maintain heat. Once you have arrived, holding the batteries in your pocket can transfer body-heat to the batteries.
We advise that your batteries be at room temperature (between 15-20°C) before flying. Furthermore, we strongly recommend that you hover your drone for a couple of minutes prior to commencing your flight to give the battery time to heat up. During your flight, closely monitor your drone and its batteries to ensure everything is operating smoothly.
Some drone models even have self-heating batteries which eliminate the opportunity for problems to arise. For example, the DJI Inspire 2‘s self-heating technologies allows this drone to perform efficiently in low temperatures, providing users with peace of mind.
3. Monitor the Weather
Of course, the weather over the winter months often presents a significant challenge for drone pilots. Fog, rain and snow contain moisture which can cause damage to your UAV. It is important to regularly check weather reports before conducting your drone flight to be prepared for any sudden weather changes.
For best practice, use a launchpad for take-off and landing to ensure your drone does not encounter snow. If your drone does come into contact with airborne moisture, land it as soon as it is safe to do so. Once your drone has landed, thoroughly inspect it for moisture and to ensure no damage has been caused, then carefully wipe your drone until it is completely dry.
Moreover, it is important that the drone operator is also well wrapped up to ensure they maintain complete control and hand dexterity when flying.
4. Be Cautious of Propeller Icing
When flying in cold temperatures, you must be aware of the possibility of propeller icing. Propeller icing involves a build-up of ice around a drone’s propellers while the drone is flying which can cause damage to the propellers and can even result in the drone crashing.
Icing is caused by a combination of moisture in the air and cold temperatures and can occur in temperatures above 0°C given the fast-moving propellers lower the temperature.
Before take-off, check your drone’s propellers to ensure there is no existing damage as the cold weather will put them under more strain and they may not be able to cope. If you think icing is occurring during your flight, land your drone immediately and wipe it dry to prevent further damage.
5. Consider Your Drone’s Capabilities
All drones vary in capability and some drones are better equipped to perform efficiently in colder weather. Drones have differing flight times, IP ratings and operating temperatures which must be considered before deciding whether your drone is suitable to fly in cold weather.
Drones should have IP ratings of at least IP43 to be capable of dealing with the rain or snow. Furthermore, operating temperatures determine the minimum and maximum temperature a drone can operate in. Some of the best drones for dealing with the winter weather include:
DJI Matrice 300 RTK
Operating Temperature (°C): -20 to 50
Wind Resistance (m/s): 15
IP Rating: IP45
Maximum Flight Time: 55 minutes
With an IP45 rating, the DJI M300 RTK is DJI’s most weatherproof drone available. Its ability to operate in temperatures as low as -20°C combined with its self-heating battery makes this one of the most efficient drones on the market for the winter. . The M300 RTK’s ability to handle wind speeds of up to 15m/s means this drone offers unparalleled stability in even the most difficult conditions. With up to 55 minutes of flight time, its reliability and superior performance makes this drone perfect for those conducting drone operations such as industrial inspections during the colder months.
DJI Inspire 2
Operating Temperature (°C): -20 to 40
Wind Resistance (m/s): 10
IP Rating: N/A
Maximum Flight Time: 27 minutes
The Inspire 2 is one of the few drones available on the market that can operate in temperatures below -10°C. As mentioned earlier, its self-heating batteries reduces the time required to hover the drone to heat up the battery and therefore doesn’t eat into its 27 minutes of flight time. This self-heating technology results in increased reliability. Admittedly, this drone lacks an IP rating therefore is not suitable for dealing with snow and rain but nonetheless remains a great choice for very cold temperatures.
DJI Mavic 3
Operating Temperature (°C): -10 to 40
Wind Resistance (m/s): 12
IP Rating: N/A
Maximum Flight Time: 46 minutes
DJI’s latest release, the Mavic 3, is another contender for the best performing drones in the winter months. With a flight time of up to 46 minutes and its ability to operate in temperatures as low as -10°C, users can capture the perfect shots without worrying about this drone’s ability. With its extreme-precision positioning technology and its ability to withstand winds of up to 12m/s, this drone ensures users enjoy stability in challenging weather conditions. Again, this drone has no IP rating, but its long flight time and omnidirectional obstacle sensing makes up for this.
You can capture great shots in winter using drones, but you must be sensible when doing so. Manage your drone’s batteries, prepare for your flight before-hand, monitor the weather and know your drone’s limits. By following our top tips, you will be able to fly your drone safely during the colder months.
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