Top Tips for Flying Drones in Cold Weather
Here in the UK, winter has arrived and temperatures are starting to drop. If you find yourself wanting to go out flying in the cold or if you take your drone to colder climates, you will find that it may not perform as usual. But this is no reason to stop you from getting up in the air.
I share with you the side effects that your quadcopter may face and also how to minimise them with some top tips to counteract these effects.
Reduced Flight Times
The main difference you’ll notice with flying quadcopters in cold conditions will be shorter flight times. This is due to the slowing down of chemical activity within the LiPo battery.
To avoid this, try keeping your LiPo batteries warm for as long as you can before take off. There are a load of ways you can go about doing this so here are just a few…
- Place the batteries above your car heater
- Keep the batteries in a pocket close to your body
- Use a portable heat source ( hand warmers, hot water bottle etc.)
- Wrap them in RC car tyre warmers
Once you are in flight, the fact that the battery is being used should slow down the time that it takes to get cold again. If you’re battery is exposed, like with most small quadcopters, you can try insulating the battery to help maintain it’s warmth and stop the cold air from getting to it so fast.
If you fly a DJI Inspire you can get the DJI Inspire Battery Heater that heats your battery to its optimum operating temperature. You can also get the battery insulation stickers to help keep the battery warm during flight.
If you have an on screen display or telemetry that reads your flight battery level, I would advise you keep a close eye on this so that you don’t have any nasty surprises.
Minimum Operating Temperatures of UAV Equipment
So we’ve covered the effects of the cold on LiPo batteries but you should also consider the minimum operating temperature of your other devices that you use to fly your drone. E.g. Your controller, phone, tablet etc. They may also suffer from reduced battery life when cold or may simply not work. You can usually find this info in the user manual or manufacturers website.
You may also find that your quadcopters IMU’s (Inertial Measurement Unit) or flight controller may have to get up to operating temperature before taking off. This can usually be done by just turning on the aircraft and leaving it for a few minutes.
Keep Your Self Warm
It may sounds obvious, but as a drone pilot, or drone camera operator; wrap up warm. If you are cold, it’s likely that you won’t be able to focus properly or your hands are too cold to accurately control the drone. The last thing you want is to have numb fingers while flying.
I would advise wearing some gloves that either have enough flexibility to accurately control your stick inputs, or use finger-less gloves which cover your hands but leave your fingers open to use as normal.
You can also get a transmitter glove that protects your hands and controller from the cold when operating. This can also be helpful when working in sandy environments to keep the sand getting into your controller.
Condensation On The Lens
If you are flying a quadcopter equipped with a camera, just be aware that you may get some condensation forming on the lens if you suddenly take the drone from the cold outside into a warm environment. You may also notice this affect on some metal components.
Final Word for Flying Your Drone in the Cold
Following and knowing these points have helped me when flying in cold climates such as Iceland where the temperature was below freezing and the wind chill made it feel even colder. If you have any of your own tips or tricks for flying in the cold, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.
If you are new to professional filming then you may be interested in looking at my guide to filming for professional aerial productions.