In recent years, drone manufacturers like DJI have been releasing “Pro” or “Enterprise” versions of their flagship drones that are highly resistant to extreme temperatures!
Whether you live in an area where the climate is quite harsh, or you take your drone to a freezing place like Iceland for example, there are some important things you need to know to get the most out of your drone flight experience.
If you think these drone flying tips are just for people who fly in the winter or when there is snow, think again!
Let’s get straight to the heart of the matter. Here are the instructions to follow so that your flight in low temperatures goes as well as possible!
Before the flight
Now, before taking off, it’s recommended to spin your drone for about a minute to make sure everything is working well and it’s not too cold to fly. You will have to make your usual settings anyway!
It can also be a useful way to warm up the battery.
Try if possible to make your adjustments in a temperate place if you can. Example if you are close to your vehicle, place your drone inside it or in the trunk to make your adjustments rather than placing it on the cold or even frozen ground! Of course, do your calibrations outside the vehicle and away from any metal source as quickly as possible.
Shorten your flight time
It is good here to know that you are going to have a much shorter flight time because the cold affects the chemical charge of the LiPo batteries that most drones use.
This means that while you usually approach a 25 minute flight time on your drone battery, you will only be able to get around 15 minutes of flight time when flying your drone in cold weather.
So, it is a good idea that you fully charge your batteries to one hundred percent and fly within 24 hours and carefully follow the next tip below.
I recommend as a general rule to always avoid flying on low batteries and bring your drone back to around 20-30% to avoid any issues!
If you let your batteries reach their lowest level and you are still flying, you are risking a lot and you might see your drone not have enough juice to come back or it might even fall out of the sky due to power loss in flight.
Monitor the voltage at all times!
Some of the top tier drones like DJI drones have apps like the DJI Go app, which are great for determining your current battery status.
Inside the DJI Go app, you can view and monitor your battery temperature by clicking on the battery icon.
I highly recommend setting your battery data access to a hotkey (C1 or C2) so you can monitor that data throughout your flight.
It is recommended not to fly if the battery voltage drops below 3.2 volts as it means there is not much capacity inside the drone battery. So watch this indicator.
The voltage indicators are thankfully super easy to understand. When you see green, it means you are good; When you see yellow it means caution and when you see red it means you should land.
A good rule to follow is once your drone’s battery reaches 3.6, 3.5 volts, start bringing your drone back.
Keep your battery(ies) warm
Do everything you can to keep your batteries warm because batteries don’t feel the cold and don’t like it.
For optimal battery performance, DJI recommends keeping the battery temperature above 68ºF (20°C) before use.
This is because cold weather slows the chemical reactions inside the battery and its cells, which limits the battery’s ability to fly.
Newer drones will probably have a battery temperature warning built into their app, so that when the battery is too cold, you’ll get a window that says something like:
If you see this warning, it means that the drone will not even be able to take off and that you will have to warm up the battery before you can even fly.
That’s why you should do everything possible to keep your battery warm at all times, so that you don’t get this warning.
Tips for keeping drone batteries warm
When operating in a cold environment, keep your multirotor equipment in the back seat of your car where the temperature is warmest (interior heating), unlike the interior of the trunk, for example, which is generally not heated.
When you have to get out of your car, keep your batteries in something warm like a scarf, sweater, towel, or even gloves, because Lipos are at their maximum capacity when it’s not cold.
Don’t make the mistake of starting with cold batteries!
That’s why when I’m outside in low temperature conditions I keep all my drone batteries really close to my body inside my heavy winter jacket because the body heat does an amazing job of protecting my cold batteries.
Get hand warmers to not just keep your hands warm, but also to keep them close to your batteries. Now be careful not to place hand warmers directly on a battery as they emit too much heat (the opposite effect is not good either). Try putting the batteries in cheap gloves and keeping them in a jacket pocket.
You can also try keeping your batteries in an insulated bag to help deflect cold air, and for added protection, keep this insulated bag close to your body in a jacket pocket.
If you fly an Inspire, you can find battery isolation stickers for your drone. These do a good job of helping to push out cold air during your flight helping to slow battery drain on your Inspire.
The drone for extreme conditions Matrice 200
You will likely encounter these types of issues whenever you reach weather conditions near or below 0°C depending on the circumstances, so no, these tips aren’t just for situations where it’s snowing.
I personally flew in temperatures below 0°C with my Phantom, during my trip to Iceland in 2015, but most standard drones are designed to perform best between 0°C to 40°C.
That said, don’t panic here, flying in freezing temperatures is no problem if you follow certain instructions and take care of your batteries before the flight!
That’s about it for this article. I hope these tips help you have an amazing time flying your drone in cold weather.