I live in Australia, and flying my drone in high heat is something that I have done quite often. The hottest temperature that I have flown my drone in was 43° C, and many warnings popped up on my display to warn me of the issues my drone may face.
You should not fly your drone in temperatures greater than 40° C. Most manufacturers have a safe temperature range for flying your drone. This range is typically between 0° C and 40° C. Flying your drone in high temperatures risks damaging the battery and internal components.
Just like flying your drone in cold weather, flying your drone at a temperature that is too hot can irreversibly damage your drone and cause you headaches that you can easily avoid. If you want to know about the other end of the spectrum, check out my other article where I share with you how cold is too cold for a drone – click here.
Drones can become hot for two reasons. They can be affected by external heat sources such as air temperature. Drones can also generate a lot of heat during the flight, which can also heat the drone to an extreme temperature.
Sources of temperature
The combination of external air temperature and the heat generated by a drone flight can catch you by surprise. Even if the air temperature is relatively low and comfortable, the extra self-generated heat can easily push a drone above the 40° C temperature limit for operation.
External heat can come from radiative and direct radiation sources.
The air temperature is easy to discover on whether apps will be greater than 35° C on a given day. I recommend that you delay your flight if it is possible. Your drone can easily heat up to above the safe operating temperature during a 20-minute flight.
Another important aspect to remember is that the drone can become hot from direct radiation from the sun.
Most of the time, flying a drone is in 100% sun exposure.
Some rays carry a large amount of heat energy directly to a surface. The external components can be black, which has a much higher heat absorption capacity because it absorbs a greater wavelength of electromagnetic radiation.
If you regularly fly your drone in a hot and humid environment, it is better to purchase a white drone to reflect the energy of direct radiation from the sun.
Humidity can also cause significant heat exchange as water has a very high heat capacity which means that the airflow through the drone’s body is less effective at carrying away the heat generated during flight.
Drones generate a fair amount of heat during flight. To combat heat buildup, drones allow airflow over the most energy-intensive components. Most drones have air holes throughout the entire frame, and the cooling down mechanism relies on airflow over the surface of the heat exchange fins.
Unfortunately, if you are doing a mission that requires you to stay still for a large amount of time, the heat can quickly build up.
Flying forward continuously will ensure that there is adequate airflow over all of the crucial components of the drone, and it will quickly dissipate any heat that has built up.
Most drone manufacturers will provide a safe operating temperature range for their drones, and some of the most common drones are shown in the table below.
|DJI mini SE||0° to 40°C (32° to 104°F)|
|DJI Mavic Air 2||-10° to 40°C (14° to 104°F)|
|DJI mini 2||0° to 40°C (32° to 104°F)|
|DJI Mavic air 2S||0° to 40°C (32° to 104°F)|
|DJI Mavic 3||-10° to 40° C (14° to 104° F)|
|Evo Nano||0° to 40°C (32° to 104°F)|
|Evo 2 Pro||-10° to 40° C (14° to 104° F)|
|Parrot Ananfi||+40°C (humid heat)|
+50°C (dry heat)
You’ll notice that the Parrot Anafi has a dry and humid heat maximum temperature range. The dry heat is much less damaging to a drone, and it allows the heat to dissipate quicker than humid air.
Luckily, in Adelaide, where I live, it is typically a very dry heat which means that I can fly my DJI Mavic Air drone in much hotter conditions than if I lived on the east coast of Australia.
Issues flying in Hot weather
You need to be aware of many issues while flying your drone in hot weather. Your drone has several very important components that keep it safely flying in the air.
The electronic components are typically fixed onto printed circuit boards with their maximum temperature range. Your drone remote will likely use a smart device for streaming and viewing the first-person video during the flight. The smartphone will also have a maximum operating temperature, and they have been known to switch off once the temperature gets too warm.
Circuit board issues
all manufacturers will have a data sheet that will list the maximum and minimum operating temperature for their parts.
It is sometimes listed as commercial, industrial, and military versions, and drone manufacturers often report the safe operating temperature range in their spec sheets.
Because a drone comprises many individual components working together, the drone manufacturer will often quote the lowest temperature in its spec sheet.
Many silicon power semiconductors can go up to 175°C, and silicon carbide semiconductors can go much higher may be up to 200° see in some circumstances.
The safe operating temperature of the circuit boards means that the silicon can act as a conductor, and at too high a temperature will stop working efficiently as an electron exchange medium.
The hotter your drone gets, the worse it is at operating effectively.
Running your printed circuit board at high temperatures for a long time can easily cause the electrochemical migration of components and materials used for the circuit board. Even if your drone can operate at high temperatures, you should minimise the amount of time it is exposed to high environmental and running temperatures so that it has a long operational life.
Lithium polymer batteries are a very important innovation for drones and have allowed much longer flight time due to their lightweight and high energy capacity.
Lithium polymer batteries using plasticised components instead of a liquid version are much safer for use. However, they are readily affected by fluctuations in temperatures and can become damaged when exposed to high temperatures for a long time.
If you want to use your lithium polymer batteries in high-temperature environments, here are some things that you should consider:
- charging your battery needs to happen at room temperature, which is approximately 25°C
- do not charge your battery immediately after a high-temperature discharge.
- Charge in a temperature range from 5 to 45° C
- the battery should not be exposed to sunlight before and after discharge.
The human skin will start to sense pain at approximately 52° C. If it is uncomfortable for you to hold the battery or exchange it with a new one, wait a while before charging or using the battery.
There are plenty of studies, like this one from 2004, looking at innovative ways of extending the temperature range of lithium polymer batteries.
A study published in 2018 showed that ionic liquids could be used as electrolyte membranes to create medium and high-temperature lithium polymer batteries.
It always takes a while before scientific investigation and results find their way into the industry. Still, it is something that the industry is working towards solving so that the drones can fly in a higher temperature environment. It also means that the degradation of the drone battery overtime is minimised.
Phone shutting down
Many drone remote controls utilise a smart device or tablet for displaying the live video feed from the drone.
Many phone manufacturers now utilise lithium polymer batteries and have safe operating temperatures. Unlike a drone, the phone and smart device is likely to turn itself off if it senses an unsafe temperature.
Ensure that you set a return to home location so that your drone can return safely if you lose connection via your smart device.
Pilot exposure risk
operating your drone outside comes with several exposure risks. The heat and sun can quickly stress out our bodies in high temperatures.
Working in extreme heat lowers the body’s reaction time and increases the risk of other illnesses and injuries.
Wearing the appropriate protective equipment and being prepared will reduce your risk when operating your drone outside.
To minimise your risk of heat exposure, it is important that you:
- drink fluids before you become thirsty.
- Schedule frequent rest breaks in hot weather and use cold packs or wet towels to help reduce the body temperature.
- Acclimatise yourself to the outdoor work environment.
- Where reasonable loose clothing and a wide-brimmed hat with light colours.
Take plenty of water with you and utilise a personal cooling system if you find that you are particularly prone to the effects of high temperatures.
Tips for flying in hot weather
Here are a few tips for flying your drone in hot weather.
Use a monitor hood
Hot weather often comes with highly intense sunlight.
One of the most frustrating things can be the glare you get from your screen. Even with an antiglare screen for iPads and smartphones on a bright sunny day, you can still see a reflection of yourself, which can be very distracting.
Using a screen hood to shade the screen from the glaring sun is one of the best things you can do to improve your flight experience in sunny environments.
This inexpensive screen protector ensures that you can see the first person view from your drone in any condition. Manufacturers have sunscreens for nearly every smart device that you can attach to a drone controller. That makes this one of the most important accessories you should buy. It also makes a fantastic gift!
Plan a shorter flight
It would help if you considered planning a shorter flight mission in extremely hot weather conditions.
Not only should the flight plan be significantly shorter, but you should also keep the drone moving so that there is adequate airflow over the internal components of the drone and that the air vents on the frame of the drone can do their work.
Watch out for overheating warnings
many of us ignore warnings when they pop up on our drone display.
In the early stages of flying my drone, I was always very diligent in paying attention to the warnings. As time went on, I got used to which drone warnings I could ignore and which ones I needed to pay particular attention to.
High-temperature warnings are drone warnings that you should pay attention to during your flight.
A high temperature will put your drone at risk and affect the lifetime of your battery and the internal electronic components of the drone.
I have had a high-temperature warning only once or twice with my drone, but I have taken them very seriously each time, and I recommend you do the same.
Do not charge a warm battery
You mustn’t charge your drone battery when it is warm.
As we saw above, making sure your drone battery is as close to room temperature as possible will protect it from damage and ensure that you get many hours of fun and life out of each battery you purchase.
The drone battery must be allowed to cool in between uses.
Keep your drone out of the heat
When travelling with my drone, I often have it in a backpack. That backpack is sometimes left in a hot car, which can quickly heat the drone.
Ensuring that your drone is eight of the heat will protect the internal components so that you can be assured your drone will return safely after each flight.
We have been over everything you need to know about flying your drone in hot temperatures in this article.
If your predicted air temperature is greater than 40° C, I recommend that you delay your flight for as long as possible to fly in a cooler environment.
Remember that heat can also build up rapidly during your flight which can easily cause a drone to be pushed outside of its safe operating temperature range. Flying forward regularly so that the airflow over the internal drone components can help cool the internal temperature will help a lot.
If in doubt, always delay your drone flight so that you can extend the life of your drone and the lithium polymer batteries.