How Does Weather Affect Drones? (Explained for Beginners)


Weather is a major factor that affects a drone once it is launched. This is why drone pilots need to take the weather conditions seriously. Unlike licensed airplane pilots who have a lot of training in understanding weather, you might not understand every detail about the weather. However, there are some basic weather conditions that you can and should understand and know how they will affect your drone.

All kinds of weather conditions, including extreme heat and cold temperatures, as well as wind, rain, and snow, have an impact on the safety and advisability of flying your drone. It’s generally a good idea to avoid flying in extreme conditions or in poor weather. 

In this detailed article, we shall take you through basic conditions that you should pay attention to the next time you launch your drone.

Does hot weather affect drones?

Flying your drone during extremely hot weather is not advisable because the heat can have some adverse effects on various parts of your drone. If you are in an area where the weather is extremely hot, you must be careful. When a drone is flown in hot weather, the hot air is less dense, making it harder for the drone propellers to create lift. The drone batteries can overheat as it struggles to create lift. 

As a result, your flight time will be shortened. Besides the time issue, the overheating may damage the wired connections or electronics. Additionally, if the battery gets too hot, your drone might catch fire or explode, thus causing severe damage and loss. 

To avoid this, don’t fly in extreme heat. Also, you should give your drone a longer time to cool down between flights and before charging the battery. 

The color of your drone is another issue that affects drones when it’s extremely hot. If your drone has a dark color like black or grey, it will heat up even faster. This is why it is advisable to go for white-colored drones that won’t absorb heat as quickly, especially if your flight area is hot most of the time.

What to do if you want longer flights during hot weather

If you want to have an extended flight during hot conditions, take the time to make early and detailed preparation. Even though the time will still be shorter, the following tips will help get the most out of the time and safeguard your battery.

  • Keep the drone on the move and avoid hovering. 
  • Ensure your battery is fully charged before flying
  • Keep checking on the voltage of the battery
  • Observe the temperatures of the battery
  • Ensure the batteries remain cool until it’s time to fly your drone

Helpful Tip: To keep both your drone and its battery cooler, do the following:

  • Confirm that the compass calibration is up to date
  • Set the home point before a flight
  • Set into the return to home altitude.
  • Check the battery charge
  • Check the settings of your camera

These tips might look simple, but they will help the drone remain stable and safe. Then you won’t have to worry about what might happen. However, if the temperatures are extremely hot, you should stay at home and avoid exposing your drone to risks.

Does rain affect drones?

This is a common question, and the simple answer is that it depends on the type of your drone. Some are waterproof, and therefore you might not have to worry much. But in general, it is advisable to keep your UAV dry.  This is mostly because of the motor and electrical parts. Before flying your drone in rainy weather, you need to understand the potential effects on your drone.

Your drone is at risk of crashing if you fly it in rainy weather. Due to the rainwater, there is a high chance of a short circuit occurring in its electrical components. In some cases, short-circuits can happen even when the drone lands in wet grass.

The design of your drone is another consideration since it dictates its sensitivity to water. For instance, if the air vents of your drone are large, the rainwater will easily find access to the electric motor. If this happens, the bigger effect will be on the drone’s receiver because the signal will be interfered with, causing the drone to be uncontrollable. This might result to signal loss or collision.

The situation can be even worse if the rainwater directly gets to the power distribution board, causing a short circuit. A short circuit will cause further damage by burning the circuit’s board’s components or melting the cables.

Most of the time, rainy weather comes with strong winds, and this also is another challenge. You can easily lose control of your drone in windy conditions. Also, if the rainwater is too heavy, its weight might cause your device to stall.  

As mentioned earlier, some drones are designed to be water-resistant. Most of these are commercial ones. Even if you have one of these weather-resistant drones, make sure you understand what its weather rating means and what conditions it can handle.

Important tips when flying drones in rainy weather

Even though many challenges come with rainy weather, you can still fly your drone and enjoy it if you are well prepared. Here are things you can do to be safe:

1. Always fully charge the batteries

When it’s cold, drones’ batteries perform less well, meaning they won’t last as long as normal. To avoid this, charge the battery fully so that you can get the best out of the intended flight duration. This is a golden secret for flying drones in rainy weather.

2. Proper battery storage during winter

During winter, the temperatures are low, and therefore it is wise to keep the batteries in favorable conditions when not in use. Make sure your batteries are not stored in a cold place to reduce the problems that come with winter including high charge loss. Ideally, storing the batteries at 25 degrees’ room temperature will keep them in perfect shape for rainy or snowy weather flights.

3. Monitor the voltage of the batteries

This is another helpful tip when flying your drone in rainy weather. Paying close attention to the battery voltage will prevent quick draining of the batteries since the discharge will be limited. Most drone apps have a battery monitoring feature that helps in rainy weather. 

For instance, if the battery’s voltage goes down to 3.1 volts, it might not have enough return home charge. Using a drone app to monitor the batteries is the most reliable way since the app has indicators that will show the battery’s status.

4. Ensure the batteries remain warm

This tip might seem simple but should not be overlooked. During winter, the temperature of the drone goes down, and therefore you have the responsibility of keeping the batteries warm. This will ensure that the cold weather impact will not affect them, and also you reduce the chance of the battery running out midflight.

Does wind affect drones?

Flying your drone in windy weather conditions can be dangerous. However, you can still fly it depending on your drone mode and the wind speed. The general rule of flying drones in such conditions is that the wind speed should not be more than two-thirds of the maximum speed of your drone.

Hovering is one challenge that comes with flying drones in windy weather. The drone flies against the direction of the wind as it tries to compensate for it. Due to its horizontal tilt, it will appear to be moving forward, but instead, it hovers. Also, due to the high demand for more electric power by the propellers and motor, you will notice some loud sounds. This is because when the drone is flying in strong winds, its power consumption is high.

Another thing that is bound to happen is turbulence. It will cause unexpected movements, and therefore, you must be careful as the drone flies. During turbulence, the drone will have a high demand for electric power; therefore, you should plan on shorter flight times.

Helpful tips when flying a drone in windy weather

1. Avoid high winds

It is wise not to fly your drone in wind speeds that exceed 10-15 mph for beginners. However, you can move to 20 mph once you become more experienced. For instance, if your drone is moving at a speed of 60mph, it should be able to withstand wind speeds of 32 mph.

2. Monitor the batteries

When flying in windy conditions, you always should monitor the battery life. As the drone flies back, it will use more charge than when the weather conditions are calm.

3. Stabilize the drone first before taking pictures

Once you launch the drone, do not be in a rush to take pictures, but stabilize your drone first. If the wind is causing the drone to be wobbly, your photos will be of poor quality, which might cost you if they were for commercial use.

4. Block the wind when the drone is taking off

Launching your drone in windy weather is the trickiest part. This is the most likely time for your drone to crash, which might damage the propellers or other drone components. Nevertheless, you can prevent this by standing in front of the drone when it’s take-off time. 

Another trick is launching your drone from an area that blocks wind, maybe tall buildings. Remember to stand behind the drone and avoid being too close.

As mentioned earlier, when drones fly in high winds, they produce louder sounds than usual, so you should not be surprised if it sounds like the motors are working a bit harder than usual. 

5. Set the control signals

Drones overreact when being flown in the same direction as the wind. To avoid this, ensure your flight control signals are smooth and observe the reaction of the drone. You will notice that it will move faster than normal, and this tells you that you should be ready for stopping to take longer.

How to measure wind speed before flying your drone?

You can estimate the wind using the following devices.

  • Wind App – A good example of this type of app is UAV forecast. This is an app that shows the present wind speed. Every drone pilot needs to have this app because it will help you plan your flight well.
  • Beaufort scale – This is a descriptive table that estimates the wind depending on the condition of a large water body. A drone pilot can therefore use the scale to observe the condition of the ocean and establish whether it’s safe to fly.
  • Anemometer – An anemometer is a device that measures the wind direction, pressure, and speed.

The wind definitely affects drones, but they can still fly even when the weather is bad, provided the discussed tips are observed.

Does cold weather affect drones (what happens to drones in winter)?

The winter is here, and you are contemplating getting out and flying your drone. But there is one problem: You are not sure if it will be safe. Well, it depends on how cold it is. It is not safe to fly your drone in extremely cold conditions. Cold weather affects drones in various ways, but especially the cold temperatures and heavy winter winds can harm drones.

Drones batteries are the most affected by cold weather. Most drones have LiPo batteries whose functionality is affected by the cold. When the weather is cold, the batteries become cold, and this reduces their chemical activity. As a result, the flight time is reduced, not to mention the threat of sensor, power, and system failure.

Visibility is another challenge that comes up in winter weather. I’m sure you are already aware that it is risky to fly your drone when there is low visibility. Usually, winter comes with visibility issues due to fog, mist, or snowfall. You should therefore check on the visibility conditions. If visibility is poor, then you should not fly your drone.

The performance of the camera is also affected by winter. Snow makes it difficult for you to see some shots. This is because it makes the exposure system of the camera blurry. You will have to make adjustments to the white balance settings if you want better quality images in such a situation.

Helpful tips when flying drones in cold weather

It is a good idea to understand how to handle the challenges of flying your drone in cold weather. Here are some helpful tips:

1. Store the battery properly

Storing your battery well will determine its survival in cold weather. It is best to store them in a dry and cold area. Room temperature is suitable for LiPo batteries. 

Another thing is that you should avoid charging the drone battery when it is too warm or too cold. Also, do not store the battery for too long without using it. Additionally, keeping loose batteries together might cause a short circuit in case their terminals touch each other and therefore it should be avoided.

2. Avoid longer flights 

Drone batteries drain faster during cold weather, as we mentioned earlier. You should therefore plan ahead and keep your flights shorter. This way, you will be precise in your shots, and get the drone down without experiencing a battery failure.

3. Warm the batteries

Warming your drone’s batteries before flying is ideal. Ensure the temperature gets to about 70 degrees F before launching your drone. There are many types of battery heaters in the market to choose from. 

Alternatively, you can use hand warmers in case a battery heater is not available. However, it would be best if you avoid direct contact between the warmers and the batteries. You can also wrap them using a scarf to protect them from the heat being released by the warmers. 

See other suggestions for warming your batteries below.

4. Personal care

It doesn’t always have to be about the drone. You are also part of the drone’s flight, and that’s why you should take care of yourself. If your thumbs are frozen, the flight might be at risk. Therefore, if it’s really cold, it’s a good idea to wear gloves whenever it’s flight time. They will keep your hands warm during the winter and safeguard the flying sensitivity. 

How to keep drone batteries warm in cold weather?

  • Wrap them up – You can use a towel, scarf, or gloves to wrap the batteries or anything that insulates to keep them warm.
  • Buy self-warming batteries – Many types of drones come with self-heating batteries. However, the function makes them highly-priced.
  • Invest in battery heaters and Stickers –These are devices that are made to provide warmth to drone batteries. Nevertheless, you should check their compatibility with your drone before purchasing.
  • Hand warmers – Every drone owner who lives in colder areas should invest in these. They come in handy in heating drone batteries to the right temperatures. However, you should avoid directly placing them on the surface of the battery because they could get a bit too warm.

Conclusion

The weather has a great impact on drones because they affect a drone’s functionality and safety. Hot weather causes high consumption of electric power as well as possible damage to wiring cables. On the other hand, if you fly your drone in cold weather, the batteries will drain very fast, thus affecting your flight time. You will also not be able to see the environment well due to snow. 

Additionally, flying your drone when it is raining might cause short-circuiting in the electrical parts. Conclusively, flying drones is possible in all-weather conditions, provided the pilot prepares in advance. We hope this article has been timely and helpful for all things concerning drones and weather conditions.

Elizabeth Ciobanu

Editor-in-Chief. Elizabeth is a full-time (homeschooling!) mom of four, and serial entrepreneur in a variety of enterprises, one of which is producing content for Droneblog. If free time existed, she would love to spend more time on hobbies such as flying a drone.

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