Posted on March 13, 2017
Below are some of my favorite drone tips for flying in cold weather.
Whether you live in the northern hemisphere, or you’re taking your drone to an icy cold climate like Iceland, there are some important things you need to know to get the most out of your drone flying experience when it comes to cold temperatures.
Some questions I answer below include:
- Can I fly my drone in cold weather?
- DJI drone battery temperature warning (warm battery before flying)
- What issues can arise from flying my drone in cold weather?
- Why do my drone batteries lose capacity so quickly?
- How do I keep my drone batteries warm?
- What are some best practices for flying a drone in cold weather?
- What are some good accessories I should consider getting?
- What temperatures can I fly my drone in?
If you’re thinking these drone flying tips are just for people who are flying in the winter where there is snow, then you’re wrong ;)
You’ll likely experience issues whenever you’re in weather near/below 32 °F (0 °C) depending on the circumstances, so no, these tips aren’t just for situations when it snows.
I’ve personally flown in temperatures quite a bit lower than 32 °F (0 °C) with my DJI Phantom 4, like during my trip to Iceland, but most of the standard drones are designed to operate best in the 32 °F to 104 °F (0 °C to 40 °C) temperature range.
As always review your drone’s manual to see what the exact temperature range is for your drone. Here are some quick links to the recommend temperature ranges for the most popular drones based on the readers of this blog.
- DJI Phantom 4 manual 32 °F to 104 °F (0 °C to 40 °C)
- Yuneec Typhoon 32 °F to 104 °F (0 °C to 40 °C)
- DJI Mavic Pro manual = 32 °F to 104 °F (0 °C to 40 °C)
- DJI Inspire Pro = 14 °F to 104 °F (-10 °C to 40 °C)
I recently experienced some cold weather in upstate New York that affected my DJI Inspire and DJI Phantom’s flights during the month of September and there wasn’t even a single flake of snow around.
This presented some problems for me and my crew because we had a shotlist that we needed to tackle and the cold weather was putting a damper on things.
Luckily, we had some tricks up our sleeves to combat the cold weather and everything ended up working out.
Curious to hear more? Check out my video tutorial below or read my written tutorial after the jump.
Now let’s get right to it!
Shorter flight time
I want to start things off by making sure you know that you’re going to get a much shorter flight time because the cold weather affects the chemical charge of LiPo batteries which most drones use.
That means that if you are typically use to getting 25 minutes of flight time out of your drone battery, you might only get 15 minutes of flight time when flying your drone in cold weather.
So it’s a good idea that you fully charge your batteries to a hundred percent and fly within 24 hours and follow the next tip below.
Keep your battery warm
Do everything you can to keep your drone batteries warm because batteries do not like cold weather.
For optimal battery performance, DJI recommends you keep the battery temperature above 68ºF (20°C).
This is because cold weather slows the chemical reactions inside the drone battery which then limits the battery’s capacity.
The bigger drone manufactures like DJI will likely have a battery temperature warning built into their app so when the battery is too cold you’ll get a pop up that says something like:
Battery Temperature Below 15ºC (59F). Warm battery to above 25ºC (77F) before flying.
If you see this warning it means that the drone won’t even take off and that you’re going to have to warm up the battery before you can even fly.
That is why you have to do everything you can to keep your battery warm at all times, so that you do not get this warning.
Tips to keep drone batteries warm
- When you are driving in a cold situation, keep your drone gear in the back seat of your car where it’s warmer because of the car’s heater, opposed to keeping your drone gear inside of the trunk.
- When you have to get out of your car keep it wrapped up in something like a scarf, a sweater, a towel or even gloves since batteries are at their maximum capacity when it is not cold.Don’t make the mistake of leaving the batteries out in the cold weather.That’s why when I am outside I keep all my drone batteries really close to my body inside my heavy winter jacket (this is the one I own) because body heat does an amazing job keeping your batteries protected from the cold temperatures.
- Get some hand warmers not to just keep your hands warm but also to keep them near your batteries.Now be careful to not place hand warmers directly on a battery since they do emit heat.Instead try putting the batteries in some cheap gloves and then keep the hand warmers near them inside a jacket pocket.
- You can also try keeping your batteries in an insulation bag to help deflect the cold air and for added protection keep that insulation bag close to your body inside a jacket pocket.
- Another option is to get a battery heater if you have an older DJI Phantom drone or DJI Inspire (sorry there is no support for a Mavic Pro or Phantom 4 at the time of this writing).Battery heaters are great because they can quickly heat up a cold battery in just a few minutes but you need to make sure you follow the directions and don’t leave your battery in the heater for too long.Also keep in mind the battery heaters do use some of the battery’s power to raise the temperature to it’s optimal operating range.
- If you fly a DJI Inspire, you can look into getting some drone battery insulation stickers (sorry there is no support for a Mavic Pro or Phantom at the time of this writing).These do a good job helping fend off the cold air during your flight by helping slow down the depletion of your Inspire’s battery.
Before the flight
Now before you get into a full flight, it is recommended that you hover your drone for about a minute or so to make sure that everything is working right and that it’s not too cold to fly.
This can also be a helpful way to warm up the battery and get the juices flowing so to speak.
Skipping this step could put you right on the line where your voltage could suddenly drop mid-flight and the drone could think that it’s out of battery power and fall from the sky.
Not to scare you but here is an example of a drone having a voltage issue and falling from the sky… see the 2:00 mark in the following video:
Keep an eye on the voltage
Some of the higher end drones like the DJI drones have apps like the DJI Go app, which is super helpful in determining the current state and condition of your battery.
Inside the DJI Go app you can go in and see the temperature of your battery but clicking the battery icon.
I highly recommend you show the drone battery’s voltage on your smart-device so that you can monitor that throughout your flight.
It’s recommended that you do not fly if the battery’s voltage drops below 3.2 volts beause that means there isn’t much capacity left inside the drone’s battery. So keep an eye on this indicator.
The voltage indicators are thankfully super easy to understand. When you see green that means you’re good; when you see yellow that means caution and when you see red that means that you should land.
A good rule of thumb to follow is once your drone’s battery hits 3.6 volts, start to bring your drone back.
If you let it go lower and you’re still flying, you are taking a big risk and you could see your drone not have enough juice to come back or it could even drop out of the sky due to a loss in power.
It is highly recommended that you get some gloves with touchscreen technology so that you can touch your screen without having to use your bare fingers.
Keep your smart device warm
Make sure to fully charge your phone or smart tablet and put some some hand warmers next to it and then keep them inside your jacket pockets to protect them from the cold weather.
Just like your drone batteries, the battery inside your smart device will quickly lose power when exposed to cold weather.
That’s why I like to keep my iPad in the Inateck 2 in 1 felt case to help make sure it stays warm and holds it’s charge.
Hot tip: try using a rubber band and attaching a hand warmer to the back of your smart device to help prevent it from losing it’s charge so fast.
Keep your smart device charged
It’s also a good idea to keep your smart device charging inbetween flights so that you don’t encounter a mid-flight shutdown due to a lost in power.
Not only would you lose the drone’s live feed but also the telemetry info which helps you keep an eye on the drone battery’s voltage.
I recommend you get a portable power bank like iMuto 20000mAh High because it features Quick Charge 3.0 Technology and has 2 ports so you could can keep your tablet and phone charging at the same time.
Save your drone from moisture
The next thing that you should guard against is moisture.
The best thing would be to use a drone landing pad like the one above or piece of cardboard for your drone but you can also use a hard-shell case to prevent any moisture from being kicked up during takeoff.
You could also try finding some snow/water risers like these but I personally have not had any experience with them.
Do everything you can to keep moisture away from the components of your drone.
If it’s lightly snowing or lightly drizzling and you’re waiting for it to pass, keep your drone covered inside your car under a tree or use an umbrella and wait until it’s free and clear to start flying.
Now if it starts to rain or drizzle when you are already flying it’s a good idea to bring your drone back until the weather passes but you can still capture some epic footage if you fly backwards.
This will help prevent the camera from getting any elements which would ruin your shot.
Next, stay clear of clouds! Not only because you want to keep your drone within line-of-sight but also because clouds carry moisture and moisture can be bad for your drone’s electrical parts.
Check for air density
If you’re out flying and it’s a warm day, the air is going to be thinner and the props will have to work harder to move your drone through the air.
But if you’re out flying and it’s a cold day the air is going to be much more dense so this will change the flight characteristics of your drone.
This means that the performance will probably be different than what you’re use to.
Often times when I’ve flown in really dense air my drone felt like it was in Sport Mode even though it wasn’t.
So that just means that the sticks felt super sensitive and the drone seemed to overreact for each stick input.
Go easy on your sticks
Keep in mind that when you push your throttle full speed, it will require more current from the battery which could then give you a sudden drop in voltage.
As mentioned above, in some instances the drone could think it’s losing power and as a result it could fall from the sky, so generally speaking it’s a good idea to go easy on your sticks and resist the temptation to have your drone constantly whipping around.
Get a drone sweater
Lastly, and no this isn’t a joke, seriously, you could always get your aircraft a drone sweater.
Since most drones are made of heavy plastic coatings they can only do so much to help conserve heat.
So if you are looking for that extra bit of protection then a custom drone sweater might be perfect for you.
They even offer gift-cards if you’re looking to get a drone buddy a special gift!
Well that’s it! I hope these tips help you have an amazing time when you’re out flying your drone in cold weather. Did I miss one of your favorite tips? If so leave a comment below so I can learn something from you!
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About this site
Dirk Dallas, also known online as @dirka, is the founder and curator of From Where I Drone, a blog dedicated to inspiring and teaching drone pilots how to create better aerial photos and videos.