Can you fly drone in snow? Drone flying in snow can be a lot of fun, but there are some things you need to know first. In this article, we will be discussing the safety aspects of drones flying in snow and how to stay safe while doing so.
Drone piloting is nothing short of an adventure. When your commercial drone piloting mission might not want to see you on a holiday, you may wonder, “Can I fly my drone in snow or cold temperatures?”
The effects of extreme winter weather on your drone’s flight can be serious. Nevertheless, when an important topographical survey is on top of your agenda for the day, waiting for placid weather may not be an option.
Flying a drone always carries significant risk and many things may go wrong imperiling the health and performance of your drone. Therefore, as a drone pilot, you must know there is a limitation to the level of risk you can take.
In this article, I have discussed if it is fine to fly your drone in rain or snow. Here you will learn how moist weather affects your drone and its performance, do the water-resistant qualities of your drone help to fly it during winter, and what to do if your drone is exposed to moisture.
Can You Fly Drone In Snow?
Flying Drone In Snow
Talking of flying your drone in snow, first, you need to understand some characteristics of snow. Snowdrop is an element of moisture, which your drone needs to battle with.
Therefore, you have to know the consequences of exposing your drone to excess moisture. There are also other phenomena that come with winter weather.
When it snows, fogging severely affects visibility. One of the most important guidelines on flying your drone is to fly it within the visible line of sight.
When it fogs, the range of the visible line of sight is significantly reduced. This will mean that you have to reduce its altitude. Under reduced visibility, you risk the crash of your drone and the consequences of a drone crash may often be irreversible.
If your drone depends on its optical sensors for a stable flight and obstacle avoidance, flying during snow can bring in some unique kinds of challenges.
The drone’s optical sensors might find it hard to recognize the drone’s pure white surface. Therefore, it might not be able to see a surface with snow as an obstacle. Blankets of snow always cause a severe glare that may severely impact the outcome of aerial shots.
During heavy precipitation, there are chances for strong winds to blow. The advanced stabilization techniques of a drone may not help withstand the wind force during such situations.
During take-off, strong winds can disrupt the airflow necessary for a drone’s lift. Strong winds can stop a drone’s operations.
The point you must understand is this. During winter weather, there may be more conditions to watch for than just the snow.
Even if you say your drone is fully waterproof, the poor visibility during foggy weather can lead to a disastrous drone crash. A strong gust of wind can knock it off the sky.
How Does Moisture Affect A Drone?
Like any other electronic device, exposure to moisture can lead to a host of problems in your drone even if the moisture does not cause any immediate impacts on your drone.
And its performance, exposure to moisture can lead to the corrosion of the drone’s internal metal parts. This can severely affect a drone’s electricity conduction ability and mechanical strength.
Talking of the short-term consequences of exposing a drone to moisture, we must mention the possibility of short circuits happening in drone wires and motors.
This results when positive and negative terminals get connected due to moisture in the absence of any load.
When the current has no way to escape, it will heat up the drone causing severe damage to wires, motors, and the control board at large.
Harmonious working of the drone’s components are necessary to see it flying well. Failure of wires and motors will lead to losing control of the drone and increase the probability of crashes during flight.
If water damage can fry the drone’s internal wiring, your drone might have to be subjected to expensive repairs.
Is your drone water resistant?
If you feel flying your drone in snow is worth the risk you are taking, you must first take note of your drone’s water resistance capabilities.
Know that not all drones are equal in this regard. Drones with top-of-industry water resistance qualities are exorbitantly expensive to invest in. If you own any of DJI’s Mavic Line drone models, it is good to ground it immediately when you sense any snow.
The degree of a drone’s water resistance capabilities can be known by checking its IP rating. Expanded as Ingress Protection, IP is a global term that explains how well a drone is protected from the ingress of liquids as well as solids.
The IP rating is usually given in two digits – the first one represents the degree of protection from dust and the second one represents the degree of resistance to water.
It is worth considering a few examples to this subject. The DJI M200 series drones for instance have an IP43 rating. This rating suggests us that these drone models are invulnerable to ingress by solid particles that are around 1mm in diameter.
They can withstand water spray from an angle of 60 degrees. On the other hand, the IP rating of DJI Agras T16 drone meant for crop spraying comes with an IP rating of 54.
This indicates that this drone model is protected against water splash and dust from all possible directions.
Drones that are fully water-proof are indeed very rare to find in the market. In fact, we can say they are a specialty product.
A few drone makers like Swellpro have championed the water-proof drone technology and their drone models like Spry Plus and SplashDrone come with amazing water-resistant capabilities. Even some of the users of such drones have reported the adverse effects of water ingress in these models.
If you are not sure if it is fine to fly your drone in snow, it is good to consult the manual provided by the manufacturer.
What you must understand in this regard is that even those drone models like DJI M200 which are advertised as water-resistant are not designed to fly in rain.
The right approach to use these drones in rain is to ground it immediately when you start sensing rain. This can help prevent long-term damage to its parts.
How Does Extreme Cold Impact Drone’s Performance?
Though flying your drone under rain and heavy snow is not advisable, flying it under light snow is not of a big problem.
Since mild snow does not expose your drone to any hazardous levels of moisture, you only need to focus on other aspects of the winter weather.
If there is no strong gust of winds when it snows, you are at a better advantage to fly your drone. Nevertheless, you need to be wary of the effect of the cold winter weather on the air pressure and the battery management of the device.
Batteries always prefer a warm environment. If a drone has to fly in frigid weather conditions, its batteries are most likely to get drained quickly.
If you are new to flying your drone in cold weather, it is best to be careful about how far you will fly your drone during such weather conditions.
Since the batteries are drained quickly during cold weather, there are chances that the drone’s return-to-home (RTH) function can fail. It is good to warm up the batteries before using them. As far as possible, try to finish up the drone’s operation quickly.
One another factor that can impact the battery life of your drone is a drop in air pressure. Low air pressure impacts the drone’s lift and propulsion as these processes do not match with the speed of the propeller’s rotation.
During winter, the speed of the drone is severely reduced and consequently, a drone will fly for a lesser time in winter than usual.
It is not always easy to predict rains as rain does not always give any warning signal before it starts. If it has to rain suddenly when your drone is at flight, you will have a hard time recovering it and preventing it from getting wet.
However, this is not the case with snowfall since, during winter, you can almost predict when it snows. If your drone has to be exposed to moisture due to snow or rain, you must know what to do to prevent long-term damage.
What to do if your drone is exposed to moisture?
Cut off the power supply to your drone at once
If you have a basic knowledge of electronics, you will understand the importance of cutting off the power supply to your drone if it happens to get wet.
This will prevent the electrical components from receiving electrical supply and hence any damage due to short circuits are prevented. Once you recover your drone, remove the drone’s batteries.
Let the internal parts dry out
If the internal parts of the drone are exposed to moisture, there are still hopes to get your drone in good health.
Find a dry place. Open up your drone and wipe the leftovers of water sticking to its parts. Let the components air-dry for about 48 hours.
Once this is done, you can try switching on your drone once again. Never be in a hurry as two to three days of drying will do well.
Even if you see your drone taking off like before, you must understand that all may not be well with your flying companion.
There could be some invisible damages suffered by the drone there could be some intermittent failures in the internal communication or you may see the GPS signal dropout. If there are any damages in the ESC, the rest of the drone might suffer leading to a crash.
Look into the manufacturer’s warranty
If you find repairing your drone is not within your limits, it is good to send it to the service center. If you have purchased drone hull insurance, it would have covered your drone for water damage. In this case, you need not bear the cost of repairing your drone.
Weather is a major factor you will have to deal with on a daily basis if you are an avid drone flyer. Though you might check weather reports before taking your drone out for flying, often things may go wrong rather unexpectedly.
While you may expect mild snowing not to cause any problem to your drone, it is always good to stay prepared for any eventualities.
Not all drones are made to withstand extreme weather conditions. In addition to the moisture element of snow, there are also other factors to deal with like poor visibility, air pressure, cold weather affecting the battery life, airspeed, and others.
Though it is not a bad idea to fly your drone in mild snow, the smallest bit of water damage could also pronounce a serious problem to your drone.
If you anticipate excess moisture or possibilities of rain, it is good to avoid the temptation to fly your drone and wait for good weather to return.
Diminished battery life and unpredictable flight performances are two factors you will have to address while trying to fly your drone under snow.
Jon is a passionate photographer and videographer who has been flying DJI drones for over 5 years. He loves the freedom and creativity that comes with capturing aerial footage and the unique perspective it provides. Jon is always on the lookout for new locations to explore and capture with his DJI drones. His favorite DJI drone is the Mavic 2 Pro, which he uses to capture stunning 4K footage with its Hasselblad camera. Jon is always eager to share his knowledge and experience with other drone enthusiasts and is a member of several online drone communities. When he’s not flying his DJI drone, Jon enjoys hiking, camping, and spending time with his family.