Winter is coming! This is not the oft-repeated dialogue from the cult television show Game of Thrones only since the winter seasons will soon be upon us. For a number of regions in the northern hemisphere, people are getting geared up for frigid temperatures. You can still fly your drone when the weather is cold but there are certain factors that render flying a drone in cold a huge challenge as compared to normal weather conditions.
Before you embark on that mind-blowing journey with your drone to capture the stunning winter landscapes, here’s how cold weather may impact your flight experience and the steps you can take to mitigate the negative impact of cold weather on your drone.
Challenges Put Up by Cold Weather
Reduced flight duration is one of the biggest difference that you will experience while flying your drone in cold weather. LiPo batteries are employed by majority of the quadcopters these days. The frigid temperatures slow down the chemical reactions within a LiPo battery; thereby reducing the battery’s capacity. A completely charged up drone battery that generally offers a flight duration of 20 to 25 minutes may only offer 10 to 15 minutes of flight time in frigid temperatures. In some severe situations, you might come across sharp decline in battery capacity or may even face battery failure.
Cold weather also tends to negatively influence the sensors which results in your drone veering off in the wrong direction or not responding to your commands appropriately. It could be doubly difficult to operate the controls with cold hands and fingers which can further disturb a smooth flight.
How to fly safely in cold weather?
Here are a few tips and tricks you can use to ensure that you get the most out of your drone in cold weather:
Go through the instructions manual
Most of the popular drones are engineered to be operated from 32o F to 104o F; thereby allowing a pilot to fly safely in varying temperatures. If you are flying at high elevation or in regions with harsh weather conditions, you might not be able to comply with the suggested temperature ranges which could be risky for your drone. Ensure that you sift through your instructions manual to discover the optimum conditions for enhanced working of your drone, gimbal and battery.
- Keep the batteries warm: If you are going to stay outside for prolonged time periods, ensure that you keep the batteries warm. For instance, do not simply place the batteries in your carrying case rather wrap them up in a scarf or some other warm piece of cloth. You can even employ hand warmers to keep the batteries warm. While driving to a far flung area, keep the batteries in your vehicle’s cabin instead of the trunk. These precautionary measures will help boost your flight duration and reduce the probability of temperature related errors with batteries.
- Hover after takeoff: After launching your drone into the air, bring it to a height of about 10 to 12 feet and let if hover for about a minute or until the battery’s temperature reaches 59o You can check the battery’s temperature in a number of drones either via the drone’s app or on the radio transmitter. As the drone hovers, the batteries and the motors warm up and also offers you the opportunity to determine if the drone is flying steadily and without any hitch. As a matter of fact, it is always a good idea to let your drone hover for some time at low elevation after takeoff even when the weather is favorable.
- Make sure batteries are charged up: Some drone batteries are equipped with technology that tends to discharge them after certain period of inactivity. This is a maintenance related feature that assists in prolonging a battery’s lifespan. However, if you have been away and not able to fly, you can quite comfortably forget that your batteries are not charged. Before you start to fly your drone, ensure that the batteries have been charged to the optimum levels.
- Reduce heavy control inputs: Flying your drone at high speeds makes the current drawn from the battery large and may result in an abrupt voltage drop. During the initial few minutes of your flight, avoid full throttle and reduce heavy control inputs.
- Do not drain off your battery: When the weather is normal, you often would try to get the maximum flight duration even if the battery runs low on juice. But in frigid temperatures, completely draining off the battery can be dangerous. Fly until there is 30 to 40% juice left in the battery and then get your drone to land. Always take additional batteries with you for extra flight timings.
- Carry a portable charger with you: Many drones broadcast a real time video to a mobile device on the controller. Keep in mind that the batteries in this device are also impacted by cold weather. Keep a portable charger with you to power up your mobile device.
No Flying in Precipitation
Most of the drones are not waterproof and snowfall or rain or precipitation of any kind can damage the camera, gimbal, motor or any other electronic component of the drone. In case of a sudden rain or snowfall, bring your drone back to the ground as soon as possible. Get the propellers and drone’s body dried up. Remember that residue moisture in the gimbal pads can freeze which can adversely affect the quality of your aerial video footage.
You can fly your drone in cold weather but it will take extra effort before flight and some precautionary measures during the flight. You might get reduced flight duration but if you take care of your batteries, you can still get the most out of your drone in cold weather.