How to know if it is a good day to fly a drone [Unexplored aspects]

Sometimes, the stars align and I have a fantastic time when I am flying my drone. However, no matter how good the weather is, I do not have a good day flying my drone. Over the years of owning a drone, I have learnt that having a good day of drone flying relies on much more than the weather or how prepared I feel.

It is a good day to fly a drone if the predicted weather has low wind and gusts forecast and no extreme weather events are predicted. Having plenty of time and being well prepared is another important aspect of having a good day flying a drone.

In this article, I will talk about all aspects of flying a drone which will help me determine whether or not it is a good day to fly a drone. It is not as simple as looking at the weather and simply using the data provided. I often need to look a little bit deeper into my plans and how I am feeling on the day to determine whether or not it is a good day to fly a drone.

The weather

The weather is one of the most important aspects determining whether it is a good day to fly a drone. It is one of the first places that I look at, and the most important components of determining whether or not it is a good day to fly a drone include:

  • The wind – having a low wind is paramount in a safe flight.
  • Maximum gusts are particularly hard for drones to overcome and are often much higher than the average wind speed.
  • Rain – I make sure that my drone does not come into contact with any rain, and planning for a clear spot throughout the day is very important.
  • UV index – flying a drone often (if not always) involved standing outside. Living in a sunny country means you have to protect yourself against harsh UV rays.

Low wind

The first thing I check before heading out for my drone flight is the wind speed. The wind speed I am looking for is typically between 8 m/s and 10.5 m/s which is suitable for my current model of drones.

Having a low wind speed means that the drone battery will last longer, the camera footage will be smooth, and you will be able to fly much more securely because you can control the drone more accurately.

Anything above a force seven wind which is approximately 17 to 20 m/s (38 – 45 mph), is far too high to be flying a drone. As a rule of thumb, for commercially available drones such as the DJI Mavic series and the phantom series, you shouldn’t fly in winds greater than two-thirds of the maximum flight speed of your model of drone.

If you want to know more about safe windspeed for drones check out my other article, where I go through all of the issues related to flying a drone in high winds and how you can do it safely.

What is a Safe Wind Speed For DJI Drones?

No rain

I make sure that I do not ever fly my drone in the rain to help it. I have been caught out once before, and I was very careful to make sure my drone was dry and safe before turning it back on.

Even the lightest of rain can cause an issue with your drone. As the propellers spin, the rain droplets can get flicked into the grill (an open body part for heat to escape). Also, water can creep into small areas of the drone, and its high surface tension means that it is very difficult to remove.

Any amount of moisture trapped in your drone can cause significant issues and electronic shorts.

Ensure that the rain radar is completely clear of light and heavy rain and delay your flight if there is even the smallest chance of a rain event.

No snow

Snow can seem like a benign weather condition to fly your drone. Flying a drone in active snow can produce some amazing footage. However, it would be best to consider what happens when snow builds upon the surface of the drone and heats up.

Drones are a particularly warm piece of technology after a short flight. The snow which lands on the drone can easily become water as the hot components of the drone melt it.

It is generally not advisable to fly your drone in the snow because the snow can settle on the hot electronics of the drone or the warm body of the drone and melt, making its way into the electronic components.

Suppose you want to fly in the snow. In that case, I recommend flying in short bursts and returning within 10 minutes so that the drone motors and electronics do not heat up enough to cause a significant amount of melting from the heat generated.

It would help if you also wiped off any snow or moisture accumulated on the drone throughout the flight.

UV index

I live in Australia, and the UV index is an important aspect of my drone flight.

Is it a good day to fly a drone? - UV index

Flying my drone in a hot and sunny climate means being very sun safe and cautious when there is a high UV index forecast.

The UV index is a forecast of the expected risk of overexposure to UV radiation from the sun.

The UV index is often accompanied by recommendations for some protection and is a useful tool for planning sun-safe drone flight.

The UV index predicts the level of solar UV radiation on a scale of 0 to 11 or more. If you live in a particularly sunny part of the world, you may get a special UV Alert if the UV index is forecasted to be higher than normal.

A high UV index isn’t necessarily something that would cause me to cancel my drone flight, but it needs to factor into my decision about the level of some protection I take into the field. A high UV index and a temperature over 35° C is often when I decide it is too hot and uncomfortable to fly my drone outdoors. I have two batteries which can easily provide me with 45 minutes of flight time. This battery length is more than enough time to cause significant sunburn.

No extreme temperature

There is no point in being ridiculously cold all hot while flying your drone. Some of my best shots have been captured at moderate temperatures, and I steer clear of extreme temperatures of both hot and cold.

Not only will any extreme temperatures be uncomfortable for you, but they will also damage your drone and the lifetime of the lithium polymer battery.

Many drone components are extremely sensitive to temperature extremes and need to be kept away from them to ensure a nice long lifetime.

Here are some useful apps that I have used to determine the weather and wind patterns.

Useful apps for drone pilots

Checking the weather before a drone flight is very important, and many weather apps can range from free to very expensive. These are great for deciding whether or not you need to cancel your drone flight and give you real-time data on your potential takeoff location.

Is it a good day to fly a drone? windy.com
From windy.com

Some of the best weather apps for drone pilots include:

  • Windy.com – this wind app makes it very intuitive to determine whether or not it is safe to fly your drone. The overlay of colours and particles makes it perfect for understanding the wind direction and intensity.
  • Radarscope – this wind app is available on the Google Play and Apple store. The attractive and easy to read pictures means that it is very quick to determine whether or not you need to cancel your flight.
  • MyRadar Weather Radar – this weather app has over 50 million downloads. It has proven itself to be one of the most powerful and accurate radars and weather prediction apps on the market. You can visualise temperatures, get weather alerts, look at rain forecasts, and have many aviation features that drone pilots may be interested in.

Checking the weather before you head out should become routine and a habit.

You have enough time

One of the less talked about components of determining whether or not a day is a good day for flying a drone is if you have enough time to enjoy the flight.

I like my drone flights to be relaxed and carefree. If I travel with other people, I often feel rushed because watching someone fly a drone is very boring. While planning my day, I will ensure that I have an uninterrupted block of at least 30 minutes to fly my drone.

Sneaking away from group trips is much easier than asking people to wait.

Making sure that you are not rushed or stressed during your flight means that you will enjoy it much more. A stress-free drone flight is infinitely more enjoyable, and you get the opportunity to fully explore the area and use your drone to capture all of the footage and videos you want.

I often make sure that I have an hour for drone exploration. The hour considers my flight times and unpacking and packing up my drone.

The extra time is sometimes used to change location if a public member approaches me and asks me not to fly in a particular area. Even if I feel they are wrong, I move on to not cause any further issues and respect their request.

All your gear is in working order

I have a much better day flying my drone if I know that my gear is prepared and in good condition.

I always have a grab and go back of drone gear ready, which makes me confident that I have propellers, batteries, and a drone all in good condition. If I have not flown for a while, I will make sure that the drone batteries are in good condition and check their health by looking at the DJI GO4 app.

If you want to check your DJI battery health, check out the video below, where I go through everything you need to know.

The batteries tend to be the hardest to check.

Besides the battery, you can also make sure that the propellers are completely free of any defects or stress fractures and that the arms and body of the drone are free of any damage.

Trusting your kit and being confident that there are no issues with it can and will make your drone flying adventure much more carefree and fun.

You have a (rough) plan

I know if I will have a good day flying my drone if I have a rough plan of what I want to capture and do.

I rarely plan out every tiny detail of my flight, but the more planning I do, the better my drone flight becomes.

Sometimes my plan is as simple as “explore around the takeoff location”. Other times I know exactly the shots I want to take, and I have a complete mission objective list in my mind.

Having a quick think about what you want to achieve before taking off will turn your okay flight into a good and great one.

You are feeling patient

Lastly, I have a much better day and drone flight if I feel patient and well within myself. Some days I lack the patience to deal with issues while flying my drone.

Taking a moment in the day before my drone flight to check in with myself and do some simple meditation exercises helps me know if it will be a good day to fly my drone.

Understanding your stressors and trigger points for stress and anxiety goes a long way in ensuring that you will have a good day flying your drone.

Simple breathing exercises will cause you to be patient and careful while flying your drone. The more patients and care you bring to a drone flight, the better it will go.

Take snacks

Taking a few snacks with you on your flight mission helps a lot. I feel less patient when I am hungry and prone to making mistakes.

Is it a good day to fly a drone?

While flying, I often take a banana, nut bar, and water with me.

It is amazing how much better I feel if I eat a snack while setting up my drone. Not worrying about my stomach means that I can fully immerse myself in the flight experience, and often results in better drone footage and outcomes.

Summary

In this article, I have been over everything you need to consider if you want to know if today is a good day for flying your drone. In my experience, having a good flight primarily relies on the weather and your state of mind and the ability to set aside at least 30 minutes to 1 hour to enjoy your flight fully.

Download the weather applications until you find one that is most intuitive to you. Checking the weather on the morning of your flight will help you avoid adverse weather conditions and strong winds that can very quickly blow your drone off course.

Planning always results in better performance, and drone flights are no different.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton is a writer and YouTuber with a PhD in science. His drone footage has been featured on TV and he has written and/or produced videos for Science Alert, COSMOS magazine, and Australia's Science Channel among others. He has been a drone pilot for many years and has flown many types of drones. His favourite is still the DJI Mavic Air for the portability and functionality packed into a small and portable drone!