Top 15 Tips for flying Drones in Winter Snow.
#1 Drone Battery Management
Todays Smart drone batteries are far removed from the lipo-battery headaches of the past when drone flyers had to deal with battery swell, trickle charges and exploding batteries.
Safer, smarter and able to tell you how much power is in the bag. But has that meant todays flyers are lulled into a false sense of security? Todays batteries, according to manufactures like DJI, can operate at temperatures from 40 down to -10 degrees C.
Unfortunately for drone flyers, at the extremes of the operating temperature range, the published flight times of 27 to 31mins will be a little off the mark.
Physics will tell you cold temperature increases the internal resistance and lowers the capacity the LiPo battery. A drone battery that provides 100 percent capacity at 27°C (80°F) will typically deliver only 50 percent at –18°C (0°F).
In cold weather drone flyers need to make some changes to beat the science.
- Normally, low battery warnings kick in at around 30%. Go into your APP settings and change them to 50%.
- Take more batteries. Combat the shorter flight times, so you don’t have to cut your flying session short.
#2 Set the Camera White Balance
Want to grab those amazing aerial images of snow covered landscapes? then you need to sort that white balance out to avoid a editing disaster.
White balance is one of those camera settings most flyers leave on auto, but when flying in snow, do so at your peril!
Normally the internal technology squeezed into drone cameras do a plausible job of setting the white balance, requiring minimal adjustment in post editing. But snow is not always white.
To avoid a wasted day of winter flying
- Open up the camera settings, and change your white balance to auto.
- Fill the camera frame with snow.
- Adjust the white balance K value up & down until get the shade of white you think the snow is. Make sure the snow looks like snow, not a grey mush.
#3 Keep Batteries Warm
As we now know, cold weather will shorten the flight time of a LiPo drone battery. Equally as frustrating, will be the warm up time you will have to wait when you change batteries in cold temperatures.
The secret is to keep the spare batteries warm. Keeping batteries warm before swapping out spent ones will reduce the time your drone has to sit, draining power, waiting for the intelligent battery to get to the safe operating temperature.
Keep your spare batteries next to your body, in an inside pocket, tobenifit from your orebody temperature. You can also help the cause by using Disposable pocket warmers. They can last unto 8 hours and will reach a 50°C temperature.
Using them against you iPhone or tablet when flying to prevent cold weather switch off’s mid flight.
If flying commercially, it may be worth investing in a hot/cold box to help battery management.
Robust, usually on wheels and normally used for picnics these boxes can keep batteries cool in summer months, then become a handy winter warmer when the weather turns.
#4 Drone Flying Gloves
Let’s face it, flying drones, UAV’s unmanned air systems is not the most energetic pastime in the world. It involves a lot of standing still looking up in the sky.
In cold winter weather standing still for twenty minutes is enough to freeze the brass whatnots off a monkey, let alone the fingers of a remote pilot.
We all know that gloves will keep you warm, but not all gloves are good for flying drones.
Make sure that what ever you go for drone flying gloves are:
- Wind proof
- Water proof
- Lightweight enough to operate control sticks
- Have smart screen tabs for use on iPhones, iPads and other touchscreen devices.
Check out these gloves, designed for cycling, good value for money but are amazingly good for flying drones. A bonus that normal ski gloves can slide over them for ultimate comfort when not flying!
#5 Battery USB Adapter
If you purchased one of the DJI Flymore, you would have come across the battery USB adapter.
Hardly used, until I found how useful this little device is when flying drone in sub-zero conditions.
Utilise the used smart batteries as energy banks to keep iPhones/iPads etc fully charged and warm. The 30% left on your used Drone battery will easily fully-charge a flat iPhone
#6 Drone Landing
Now most of the time I use a car mat or even the Manfrotto drone backpack to launch my drone. But sometimes you need to level out the terrain.
A drone launch pad is the answer. It will give you a large surface area on which to launch, while keeping the cold wet snow away for the sensitive gimbal & camera.
It might be one of the hardest words in the English language to say, but an Anemometer will save you a small fortuning when flying in the cold & snow.
Wind. It’s all around us, but how strong is it? Is to safe to fly? And that’s why you need an Anemometer.
The micro information centre with not only tell you a range of wind speeds, but also ambient temperature.
#8 Micro SD Cards
Until the DJI Mavic Air, Mavic 2Pro & Mavic Zoom drones turned up, Micro SD cards were the bane of every flyers life.
Many would take off, hit record only to find it was full, in the wrong format or they had forgotten to put one in before take off.
But although the new generation of drones on-board 8GB data storage will get you out of trouble, it’s no where enough and you need a decent micro sd card. But make sure you get the RIGHT one.
With new 4k cameras shoot video at 100mbs, SD cards need to have a fast write speed, so make sure you have UHS-1 speed grade 3. Check out the Sandisk V30 Pro & Extreme range.
Top tip is to get lots. You can never have enough. Micro SD’s do not like the cold, they are disposable. Go for a minimum of 32GB which get 30-40 mins of 4K footage.
If you change cards every time you change a battery, there will be less chance of losing that valuable footage if your craft goes down.
#9 SD Card Storage
You need to look after your Micro SD cards when flying. Out in the field, it will be wet, cold and probably freezing. Conditions which can damage your cards and could lose that valuable data.
Protect them with these handy waterproof, insulated and impact proof cases.
Top tip, get two. One green case for unused formatted cards, one red for used recorded images, read more HERE.
#10 Spare Drone Propellers
With out Propellers, your UAV flying endeavours will not get off the ground. In extreme cold conditions you need to look after them.
Most of us think they last for ever, but drone propellers are consumable items. They will rip, score and shatter in sub zero temperatures so make sure you take plenty of spares.
Nothing worse than hiking for hours through snow to film in a killer location, to find that you have damaged your propellers and have no spares.
#11 Keep Camera Lens Clean
Snow looks virginal and white, but we all know about keeping away from the yellow snow.
Snow contains impurities, grit, and pollutants that when it dries out can etch into your expensive camera lens.
Ideally, keep your lens away from any external influence, but not always possible, so, make sure you have a simple cleaning kit with you at all times
Cheap air blower will blow debris away, and an all-in-one lens pen is a must. Slide out brush, used in downward strokes for removing snow/dust etc, then switch to the lens pad in circular motion too remove any residual stains.
#12 ND Filters
When shooting video, drone flyers are looking to recreate that high-end cinematic look. To do that, you need to slow the shutter speed down to apply the rule of 180 degrees.
In bright condition, light reflecting from the snow, you need ND filters to reduce the amount of light hitting the camera sensor, allowing you to slow the shutter down to 1/50th of a second if shooting at 25fps.
Use the FREE PolarPro app to help nail the weather, golden hour & correct ND Filter Selection.
Want to master your camera settings? Watch more HERE.
#13 Emergency Blanket
Sometimes things can go wrong. As drone flyers our attention is focused on the craft in the sky we can be oblivious to the hazards around us.
In a winter environment things can go wrong very quickly if unaware of what lies beneath that fresh snow fall. You can become stuck very quickly and in aroma location, help can be a while away.
Be prepare, pack an emergency blanket. Small, compact and easily stored in an inside pocket it could mean the difference to making it home in one piece.
It can also be used as a waterproof cover for your expensive drone equipment, or to attract attention when in trouble.
#14 Where are you going?
Sounds basic, research the area you planing to fly. It’s not just about wether it legal to fly, but understand the risks, environment you are going to be flying. thinks to consider are..
- Where is the nearest road?
- Where to park?
- Where’s the nearest rest room?
- Is it an avalanche area?
- Cashe maps on your phone incase no signal
- TELL SOMEONE WHERE/ WHEN GOING & TIME WILL BE BACK
Make sure you have the RIGHT footwear for where you’re planning to fly. There is nothing that cuts short your flying day quicker than cold, wet, uncomfortable feet.
In snow, it’s hard to beat a pair of Sorel Boots. Yes, they seem expensive BUT can you put a price on warm, dry feet?
That was a quick rundown of Top 15 Tips for flying Drones in Winter Snow. Have you some killer tips to share? Put them in the comments.
Above all, it’s all about being prepared. Flysafe and nail those birds eye shots.