Which are the tips to fly a drone in winter? Winter is one of the best time of the year to fly a drone. But, let’s face it, is one of the hardest time to do it: the weather changes quickly and low temperatures may affect the drone when airborne.
You may experience fog, rain or snow during the flight so it is essential to prevent serious drone repair issues and have your quadrocopter fly smoothly for a longer time.
Quick Check Before a Flight
As the airline pilots do a checking every time they’re about to take off, you should do the same before each flight:
- Is the drone in perfect shape?
- Are there any parts missing?
- Is the battery fully charged?
- Have you checked the camera setting?
- Are you wearing touch screen friendly warm globes?
- Do you feel comfy and warm?
- Have you gone through a quick check of the controls?
It may sound stupid but all of the above is VERY IMPORTANT. Most of the winter drone crashes after Christmas could have been avoided by fulfilling all of the above.
One of the main difference when flying a drone in cold conditions is the battery life itself.
Most of the advanced drones (prices from $500) use Lithium Polymer (LiPo) batteries. Cold temperatures can put the batteries out of their comfort zone, decreasing their chemical activity.
What to do to keep their life as long as possible?
- Only use fully charged batteries.
- Pre-heat your battery to 20°C (68°F) or more. No, you don’t need a thermometer: as long as you store the battery inside home its fine.
- Hover for about a minute to allow the battery to warm up.
- It’s better to switch down to regular speed mode. Abrupt manoeuvres help the batteries to drain off quickly.
- Batteries drain faster in cold temperatures. Always check your drone’s battery status during flight.
As a generic advice, fly a drone under -30ºC (-22ºF) it is really dangerous as the battery could last less than a minute.
And, please, fully charge the battery of your smart device – phone or tablet and keep it warm.
Ok, you should take care about your drone, but that doesn’t mean you can go out wearing flip flops! You have to be well prepared for the cold weather, too.
Your drone can be perfectly protected but if your fingers are freezing, your little (or not so little) toy could end, crashed, back to earth.
It’s a great idea to make sure you have touch-screen friendly gloves.
Reduced visibility and the moisture of snow can be the hidden dangers behind shooting spectacular winter scenery. It’s essential to take the right precautions:
- Before flying your drone, check the weather conditions. Avoid strong wind, rain, and snow. Most drones aren’t waterproof and precipitation of any kind can damage the camera and gimbal, short out a motor, or cause other malfunctions to the drone or controller.
- If you encounter rain or fog land your drone ASAP.
- Do not fly in temperatures below-30ºC (-22ºF). Most manufacturers set this to 0ºC (-32ºF). This is excessive from our point of view.
- Avoid contact with snow. Moisture can damage the motors. It’s recommended to use a landing pad for taking off and landing your drone.
- Keep a visual contact with your drone so you will be able to avoid dangerous situations.
- Always turn on the GPS mode. Having a GPS or RTH/RTL system on your drone can save you from unexpected damage or electrical failure. In case of any mistake, GPS will help you to return the drone home instead of emergency landing somewhere: most drones have clear colors which complicates finding them over the snow.
Master The Camera Settings
To capture the beauty of snow, you need to manually set camera exposure and white balance. Shooting in Auto mode can result in dark images. This is because the camera’s exposure system can sometimes underexpose snow, tricked by its brightness. By adding additional stops, you will slightly overexpose your photos but get the right compensation for snow shots. Similarly, you need to adjust the white balance accordingly to get the right color balance of the snowy landscape. Otherwise, the snow may look grey.
You can set manually your exposure. Over-expose the image by 0.3-0.7 stop and check the results. If the camera of your drone has exposure compensation feature, manually compensate the exposure at 0.3-0.7 stop.
In addition, don’t forget to check your white balance settings. If you leave them to Auto the snow on your pictures may have blue or amber colour. Set 6500k as a value and test is it ok in your particular case so you may need to increase or lower this value.
If your drone is idle for a long time, its performance might be affected. Storing it properly is key to a safe flight. Make sure to:
- Fully charge and discharge the battery once every three months to maintain battery health.
- Remove the propellers and attach the gimbal clamp when storing your drone.
- Store your drone in a dry, non-magnetic place at around 25°C (77°F).