With winter gradually setting in, and temperatures dipping across the country, most pilots will witness a lull in business activity. Sure, you can grab some cool shots when you are flying in the snow. But, flying in the cold is fraught with risk, and there are strict Do’s and Don’ts that you need to observe. Or, you will end up losing your drone.
In this blog post, I attempt to answer some commonly asked questions pertaining to flying in cold weather.
Part 107 rules do not prohibit you from flying in cold weather. But as a drone pilot flying in winter, you need to be certain that you do not flout the following Part 107 requirements –
In cold weather, and particularly when it is snowing, drone pilots will experience reduced visibility. Moreover, as temperatures lower, clouds will form at lower heights. So, you need to be particularly careful of abiding with the above two requirements.
Great question. Remember – you will experience reduced flight performance when flying in cold weather.
Firstly, formation of icing on your props is always a problem. When boarding a flight, do you remember the ground crew spraying de-icing fluid on the wings and the tail of an airplane? Formation of ice alters the shape of the wing and tail – which are carefully engineered for optimum lift and smooth flight. And this engineering principle is the same for drone props too. Any icing on your props will result in reduced lift. In fact, at 40 degrees F, there is a high chance of your props becoming brittle and cracking up.
Another issue with flying in cold weather is reduced battery performance and flying time. In extremely cold conditions, the chemical reaction via which your drone battery generates charge slows down tremendously. Battery voltage is prone to a steep drop off – So avoid ramming up your elevation when you are flying when it is cold out.
DJI recommends a minimum battery temperature of 77 degrees F.
Unless you are flying an Inspire 2 (which comes with self-heating batteries), you need to ensure that your drone batteries remain warm enough. Turning on the defroster in your car is a good way of doing so. The soon to be launched, DJI Mavic 2 E is the smallest drone that comes with self-heating batteries.
Remember to have your battery voltage on the remote screen along with the rest of your flight telemetry – so that you can monitor any drops closely. Hovering around a bit will also help you warm up your connections.
A good way of ascertaining this is by measuring Dew point spread. If the difference between dew point and the outside temperature is less than 5 degrees, there is a high probability of your props icing up – and your drone crashing.
Some creative pilots have also questioned whether it is possible to spray your drone with NeverWet in order to fly in cold question. Valid question. But unfortunately, no. When you attempt to fly in summer, your internal electricals will fry up since NeverWet will act as an insulator.
There are some tips and tricks that can help you capture some awesome footage when it is snowing. Firstly, we recommend flying in reverse. This will prevent the snow from getting into the camera. Moreover, snow appearance is exaggerated because of your drone’s prop wash – which looks really cool (pun unintended).
Also, snow tends to reflect a lot of light – which can mess up your photos and videos. Using a ND filter will help you counter this.
Unless, you are an experienced drone pilot taking up projects outside the country, you will witness a slowdown as the cold weather sets in. Use this downtime wisely. Firstly, you can attend Thanksgiving and Christmas parties to meet new prospects. You can also study different workflow management tools like Airdata.
This is a great time to brush up on your education too. Drone U has 34 awesome online courses that are jam-packed with some great information – to help you deliver better value to your clients.
Self-Heating Batteries are extremely important. The Mavic 2 E is the smallest drone that comes with self-heating batteries.
Transmitter Gloves allow you to operate your remote whilst keeping your fingers, hands and remote completely enclosed. Click HERE.
ND Filters to deal with light reflecting off the snow.
Battery Case like the one by GPC will help ensure that your batteries are properly insulted.
Battery Warmer is another way of keeping your drone batteries protected.
Landing Pad will help you reduce the effect of prop wash. Get your Landing Pad HERE.
Ziploc Bag which is large enough to fit your drone will come in handy for drying your drone. Drying your drone in a Ziploc bag will allow condensation build up on the bag and not on the drone electricals.
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