Flying a drone presents its own set of challenges. Apart from the operational skill required to fly a drone, an experienced pilot always performs a weather forecast beforehand. Therefore, follow along with this guide to gain pointers for your next drone weather forecast. Also, get access to Flykit, a weather forecasting application.
Knowing your local wind conditions is a crucial step for creating your flight plan. Flying in winds more than what your drone can handle will result in a crash. Thus, before taking off check the maximum attainable speed of your drone.
Maximum wind speed
Either by using an anemometer or a weather tracking application, check the wind speed and its direction. Wind speeds may be listed in different units such as kt/s (knots per second), m/s (meters per second), or mph (miles per hour). If unsure, use an online speed converter to convert to your preferred unit. Only fly if the wind speed is less than your drone’s maximum speed by a comfortable margin.
For example, DJI Mavic Pro has a maximum speed of 40mph. So you can fly your drone if the wind speed is less than 35mph. However, 35mph is still quite high, and managing a drone will be extremely difficult. Thus, a manageable wind speed for a Mavic Pro would be around 25mph.
Upwind (against the wind): When you fly upwind, the drone has to exert more energy to stabilize itself and counter the oncoming wind. This depletes your drone’s battery faster compared to flying downwind. Flying upwind will also affect your drone’s response time. For instance, if the wind speed is 30mph. A DJI Mavic Pro will use 30mph of its speed to just hover against the flow and then fly forward with a speed of 10mph. This makes the controls feel sluggish with high latency.
Downwind (with the wind): While flying downwind, the drone’s speed will increase. It will consume less power but at the same time, it will be difficult to control. Drones come with GPS mode as their default mode which has a pre-defined speed limit. So if you’re flying downwind at a speed of 30mph while your drone’s speed limit is 25mph, it will use 5mph to fly against the wind to maintain that limit. At high speeds, a drone is prone to turbulence and is highly responsive to the slightest signal. You will have to be extremely cautious of every movement of the drone. For every little turbulence, you should immediately have a counter-maneuver ready. Therefore, while planning your flight path during strong winds, keep it short because flying downwind is easier than flying upwind. Fly the drone only in your line of sight and at least 50 feet away from any foliage.
Take-Off and Landing
The hardest part about flying in strong winds is take-off and landing. Strong winds can flip your drone over or prevent it from stabilizing in the air. It is advised that while take-off, place your drone in between some kind of artificial or natural cover to obstruct the wind flow. Alternatively, you can block the wind by standing in front of your drone but that may be dangerous as the drone could flip at you causing injury. Similarly, landing can blow your drone away from the target and cause it to swerve with turbulence. Therefore, land only while flying upwind.
During strong winds, it is recommended that you fly your drone closer to the ground. The higher you go the stronger the winds get. At higher altitudes, thermal winds are another powerful threat to the drone. Flying closer to the ground will also minimize any damage, in case any, incurred from an accident. However, the damage to a drone also depends on its velocity.
Flying in too hot temperatures can be hard on your drone. Whether it’s a winged UAV or a multi-rotor drone, extreme temperatures are difficult to fly in. In hot temperatures, the air gets less dense. Therefore, a drone’s motors have to exert more power to generate lift. This cuts down on your drone’s efficiency, flight time, and can even affect the internal electronics of the drone.
Another thing to keep an eye on is the battery temperature, as there is a risk of the drone’s batteries overheating. Check your drone’s optimum operating temperatures. DJI has listed the Phantom 4’s operational temperature range as 0° to 40°C. Additionally, try not to keep your drone in hover mode for long as it will tend to overheat.
Flying in cold temperatures can be a different experience. The most significant change when flying in freezing weather is battery life. Low temperatures slow down the chemical reaction in Lithium Polymer batteries. This cuts the flight time of drones by almost half.
Another impediment is the responsiveness of the drone. Cold weather affects the drone’s sensors making it less responsive. Therefore, check your drone’s user manual for optimum temperature range. Also, carry spare batteries when flying in cold weather. Try to store your batteries in an insulated container or simply wrap them up under scarves to preserve heat. It is good practice in cold weather to hover the drone for 30-60 seconds, in the beginning, to increase the battery temperature and then continue with the flight.
There are a few drones in the market that are weatherproof or can take a slight drizzle. However, a rule of thumb is if it’s rainy or snowy, do not fly your drone. Most drones don’t have weather sealing. That means you risk damaging the internal components of the drone due to moisture. Before planning your flight, always check the precipitation forecasts of your area for the entire day. Drone pilots need to check the precipitation intensity (avg. rainfall rate) and precipitation probability (chance of rain) for that day.
Humidity and Dew Point
Relative humidity (RH) and dew point are two factors apart from precipitation that can result in your drone getting wet. If explained simply, relative humidity is the ratio of how much water vapor is present in the air versus how much more there could be. RH, dew point and temperature are three conditions that are closely linked together.
Dew point is the temperature at which the air gets completely saturated with water vapor. This means if the temperature drops any further below the dew point, water droplets will start condensing on solid surfaces. RH can vary throughout the day but the dew point more or less remains the same. When the dew point and temperature are the same, that’s when RH is 100%. While planning your flight, look out for temperature and dew points throughout the day as opposed to RH. This will help in preventing your drone from returning covered in moisture.
Fog is an important weather factor that should not be overlooked. Using a weather forecasting application, always check the visibility range. It should be at a minimum of 3 miles for a clear flight. Apart from the blinding effect of fog, it can also form water droplets on your drone. Therefore, steering clear of fog will not only prevent your drone from crashing but will also save it from moisture.
Best App for Drone Weather Forecast
There are several applications that provide drone weather forecasts. However, Flykit provides weather forecasts tailored to the needs of drone pilots. Flykit has a comprehensive list of weather updates that users receive every day:
- Weather (overview)
- Wind speed
- Wind gust
- Dew point
- Kp index
Apart from the daily updates, Flykit allows users to change metric units and set safety limits on wind speed, wind gusts, precipitation, visibility, and Kp index. Flykit sources all its weather data from Dark Sky by Apple and Climacell, two premium forecast providers. Users can select the forecast service provider of their choice.
To learn more about Flykit head here. Create an account and start for free, today.