There are many types of bad weather for a drone. Drones are relatively sensitive electronic tools and instruments that can be easily damaged in bad weather. The bad weather may include rain and storms, high winds, fog, snow, and high temperatures.
A drones weakness in bad weather includes not being able to buffer effectively against vertical updraughts and high susceptibility to damage through the ingress of water and the accumulation of heat throughout its flight.
In this article, we’re going to go over all of the weaknesses that a drone has against bad weather and how you can ensure your drone flies safely and returns without damage.
Bad weather for a drone
When we think of bad weather for a drone, we often think about rain and high winds, but fog and extreme fluctuations in temperature can also cause warning messages to appear on your drone live video stream. This type of weather can also irreversibly damage the drone’s electronics and other sensitive sensing components.
Here is a quick summary of the types of weather that are considered bad to fly your drone in.
- Rain/storms – water is a drones kryptonite. The high number of entry points for water to seep into the drone means that even the lightest of rainfalls can cause damage to the electronics and internal components of a drone. The drone’s body typically has thence to dissipate heat during flight, and these act as a weak spot for water to enter.
- High winds – your drone can fly at wind speeds of up to 2/3 of its maximum top speed. Your drone will struggle to stay stationary and fly upwind in winds any higher than this.
- Fog – fog is a particularly dangerous weather condition to be flying your drone in as you will not be able to keep the line of sight required for staying legal. The drone also relies on you to see obstructions clearly to avoid them. Flying in fog will require you to rely on the GPS and compass sensors much more than if you could see the drone.
- Snow – flying in the snow is particularly dangerous as the snow will settle on the drone’s body. The heat generated from the electronics and motors could easily melt the snow and cause it to flow into the drone’s body and short-circuit vital components. Even the lightest of snowfalls can have serious consequences for the integrity of your drone.
- High temperatures – even a particularly nice day can be particularly dangerous for a drone. The drone could overheat if you live in a hot and sunny climate. I have had high heat warnings from my drone while flying in temperatures above 35° C. Drones generate a lot of heat while flying, and dissipation of this heat effectively is required to ensure your drone and the lithium polymer battery remains safe.
These are the weather conditions that are particularly damaging to a drone. However, a few particular instances need to be taken very seriously should you encounter them on a bad weather day.
Updraughts are particularly damaging for drone stability.
Strong winds can easily move a drone from side to side. However, the drone has plenty of power to return it to its fixed GPS location when moved from side to side. Simply spooling up one side of the drone’s motors will quickly overcome any sideways motion.
Updraughts can move a drone much more because of the vertical acceleration limitations on many drones.
The vertical acceleration is often much lower than the forward acceleration. The lower speed vertically makes the drone much more susceptible to being thrown off course vertically.
The combination of strong wind with geological features and walls can create a surprisingly strong updraught. You will find updraughts near a cliff and rock faces, particularly common near the ocean.
Rain can easily cause shorting and issues with your drone.
Rainwater often contains lots of minerals that allow it to be conductive. If a drone comes into contact with water, it can easily seep into the internal components and cause significant shorting and damage.
If you want to know more about how to fix a drone once it comes into contact with water, check out my other article by clicking here. I go through the most important steps for saving your drone.
Stability in wind
The wind resistance level of your drone will dictate the strongest winds that you can fly in. Manufacturers will often quote the ring resistance in terms of a level. One of the most common wind resistance levels is level 5.
A level 5 wind resistance means you can fly your drone at wind gusts of up to 24 mph or 10.7 m/s. Flying a drone in winds higher than this will result in a more dangerous flight.
The only way to overcome a level V wind resistance is to purchase a drone with much stronger motors that can fight against stronger winds.
Here are three drones with levels six through eight when resistance.
- Mavic 3 – Level 6
- Parrot Anafi – Level 7
- Autel Evo 2 Pro – Level 8
If you want to know more about the best drone for high winds, check out my other article, click here, where I go through all of the drones that have very high wind resistance and makes it perfect for people requiring high-quality footage in particularly challenging weather conditions.
Poor visibility can also cause significant issues with your drone flight.
Many jurisdictions and regulations require that you maintain a visual line of sight at all times to your drone. Flying in fog or other low visibility environments means that you cannot see your drone at relatively close distances.
Seeing completely around your drone is important for ensuring the safety of your drone and others. I never fly my drone on a day with poor visibility.
There are plenty of ways for improving the contrast of your drone against the backdrop of the sky by adding lights, decals, and reflective tapes. If you want to know more about making your drone more visible, check out my other article – click here – where I go through everything you need to know about increasing the contrast of your drone with the environment you typically fly in.
Even if the day is free of wind and rain, a beautiful day can still be very damaging to your drone if high temperatures are predicted.
I am always amazed at how quickly my drone heats up during flight. The quick discharge rate of the battery and the fast rotational speeds of the motors all contribute to an overheating risk.
That is why there are a lot of grills and gaps in the shell of the drone. As the drone flies forward, it forces air over the internal electronic components, which helps dissipate the heat. Particularly powerful drones also have sinks that maximise the surface area of the components which heat the most.
If the air temperature is particularly high, the heat dissipation from the internal components is much less efficient. Having your drone in constant motion helps with the airflow and increases the amount of heat generated. Hovering on a very hot day can quickly heat your drone and cause high heat warnings to appear on your display.
Now that you know all of the most damaging aspects of flying your drone in bad weather, here are some extra tips to ensure you remain safe.
How to fly your drone in bad weather
Fly a more powerful drone
If you want to fly your drone in strong winds, you should consider purchasing a more powerful drone.
Small drones often come with very limited power as it is not required to lift the drone’s weight. Choosing a drone with high wind resistance will enable you to fly securely and safely in even the strongest winds.
Consider rescheduling your flight
Flying your drone in bad weather means that you should seriously consider rescheduling your flight mission. I have found that it is very rare that a drone flight needs to occur. Events and other time-sensitive missions can often be pushed later or earlier in the day.
Planning and the forecast will help you decide the best day for flying your drone.
Avoid rain at all costs
No matter what the flight mission. I never fly in the rain.
Rain, no matter how light, should be avoided as it can quickly damage your drone and cause internal electronic shorting, which is irreparable and will require the replacement of your entire drone.
Turn off restrictive modes
Before sending your drone out into a high wind situation, you should turn off any modes that restrict the drone’s top speed and acceleration.
Beginner mode on some drones can easily be switched off, giving you full control of the drone. Some drones also have a sports mode that can further increase the drone’s top speed.
You will respond to any wind gusts quickly, but the limitation means that the camera footage is not likely to be as smooth because the gimbal cannot smooth out the jerky movements.
Land if it starts to get dangerous
The great thing about modern drones is that they will tell you when uncomfortable. For example, the DJI range of drones will tell you to land immediately if they feel like the drone is unstable enough and could be dangerous.
If your drone makes repeated warning signs on the app, you should take it seriously. I have pushed past a few warning signs without many issues, but if your drone is regularly pumping them out and you are starting to feel the drone is becoming unsafe and unable to be controlled, you should land as soon as possible.
It is much better to land if your drone tells you to and rearrange the flight rather than pushing through and potentially losing many thousands of dollars worth of drone and high definition footage.
The final word
This article has been over everything you need to know about the weaknesses in flying your drone in bad weather.
Planning will help you overcome many of the issues related to flying your drone in bad weather, and delaying your flight or postponing it until a better day is always the better option.