Flying Drones in Winter [Including 15 Quick Tips]

Flying drones in winter can be quite difficult and dangerous because of extreme conditions – wet weather generates ice on the propellers. Low temperatures affect the performance of the quadcopter battery and often cause the pilot’s fingers to freeze. Which in return, increases the response time in an emergency situation. Here are some basic things to keep in mind when flying in the winter, to keep the drone in one piece for the next warm midsummer day.

15 Quick tips for flying drones in winter

  • Moisture absorbers – you can add moisture absorber to drone bag and the place you put your batteries to absorb moisture too.
  • Power bank – charging your smartphone in between flights warp up your battery too, prevents battery loss as well.
  • Firmware check – always make sure your firmware is up to date any time of the year
  • Drone battery – charge batteries to 100% and use in next 24 hours, otherwise recharge again
  • Hand warmers – use on batteries until the flight, add battery into drone just before the flight. Also, you can use it on back of your smartphone to keep its battery from running low fast
  • Smart gloves for touchscreen – you can’t control your smartphone with gloves, so make sure it’s the type that allows you to use touch screens. Also, you can’t control your drone properly if your fingers are freezing. Make sure to keep them warm with gloves.
  • Dry propellers – make sure you dry out your propellers before every flight, because ice might form and cause your drone to drop down midflight.
  • Take off mat – don’t take off from snow, the warmth of the battery will melt the snow and add moisture on the drone. Also, some snow might be left on the drone, so when you take off the sensors will pick it up and think that you’re still on the ground, thus will keep ascending (true story from another Mavic owner). Buy a take-off mat and take off your drone from there, or at least from another flat surface.
  • Drone warm up – take off and hover your drone to warm up the battery to above 25C (77F) before flying away (you should get a warning if the battery temperature is below 15C (60F))
  • Below 0 temp – if it’s snowing and is around 0 then it means the snow is wet and your drone is prone to moisture, if it’s way below 0 then the snow is dry and you’re probably okay.
  • Condensation – when you bring your drone from outside to room temperature you will see droplets forming on lens, drone and probably inside the drone and this is not good. Some suggest adding the drone and batteries into separate large zip bags while still outside, bringing those back home and keeping there for at least 2 hours to get to room temperature. A good tip is to remove SD card, so you wont be tempted to remove drone too early
  • Sensors & Snow – you might want to turn off the sensors as these might think that the snowflakes are obstacles and will try to avoid or stop.
  • Clouds – don’t fly into clouds, because clouds consist of microscopic droplets of water
  • Fly gently – fly your drone gently, slow and keep it near you in cold weather, because the battery is drained faster
  • 50% mark – to be extra safe, return your drone home at 50% battery, because it drains fast

Guide to Flying Drones in Winter Safely

No one wants to ruin their drone in cold weather conditions. Now, some of these aspects your read above are so important that they need further explanation. To make yourself a killer drone pilot, please, have a coffee and keep reading.

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Effect of Cold Weather on your Drone Batteries

Have you noticed that in winter the phone may turn itself off even when the battery is not discharged? Because drones use these same lithium polymer (LiPo) chemistry-based batteries, the same problem is with their batteries. LiPo batteries produce less power in cold weather.

Some batteries, such as DJI Inspire 2 batteries, have a built-in heating process that directs some of the battery’s performance to maintain operating temperature.

The new Mavic 2 Enterprise series batteries are equipped with a self-heating process that starts automatically and can also be manually started. You can learn more about this intelligent system from this video:

To ensure a safe flight, follow these battery tips:

  1. Use only fully charged batteries.
  2. If possible, preheat the battery to room temperature to keep it warm for longer.
  3. At lower temperatures, the battery may discharge faster than expected. Always keep an eye on the battery display and come back sooner rather than later.
  4. Do not expose batteries to cold temperatures. If the battery is not inside the quadcopter, try to keep it in the car or on the bladder, for example, to prevent frost.

Flying in Darker Skies and Snow

Low visibility and snow reduce visibility during flight. It is important to observe some precautions. Check the weather before flying.

Avoid strong winds, rain, and snow. Be especially careful when flying, at temperatures below 0 ° C.

Avoid snow contact – moisture can damage the electronics. It is recommended to use a landing ground for landing.

At 0 ° C, there is a risk that the propellers will get ice during flight. When flying near 0 ° C, you should definitely check the propellers after every landing and, if possible, make stopovers.

If you find ice, clean it from propellers to continue and fly only in the safest places where the quadcopter will not hit someone’s property.

It is good to keep an eye on the drone – when the drone starts to flicker in the air, it may be due to the icing of the propellers and the pilot may not notice it immediately because the gimbal stabilizes all the flutter.

The color of the snow – especially when flying a white quadcopter. Only a darker drone or stickers/dyeing can help with this.

flying drones in winter

But in general, it is enough to just be aware of the possibility of snow lightness and consider that you may end up in a situation where the drone may disappear from the sight of white snow for a moment.

Keeping your devices warm

As already mentioned, the battery of the smart device can also fail due to the cold, and if it is not paid attention, it may happen that you are flying without any telemetry and direct video stream.

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In this situation, you have to hope that you will find a drone from the air with your eye, you know its direction and that you have practiced enough to bring it home safely.

Usually, dying will happen to Apple devices, which metal body well drains the device in cold, but it is not an unknown problem for Android devices either.

It is advisable to find a case for the device to protect it from the cold wind, but often it is not enough to keep it warm.

In the case of a very crisp cold, you can use a hand warmer cushion. If it does not help with cold frost, then you should practice flying from a car, for example, or having a device that is more resistant to cold.

Of course, the most important part of quadcopter control is not the smart device but the pilot’s fingers. Keep your hands warm even with thin gloves, as the metal levers on the remote control will make your thumbs rather cold and the accurate sensing gradually decreases.

Which camera settings to choose in cold weather

When shooting in winter, it is likely that camera exposure and white balance will have to be in custom settings in case of heavy snow.

In the case of snow-covered land, it is difficult for the camera to understand how to automatically set the settings and the picture may be darker than desired because the camera attempts to adjust the illumination to white snow.

In this case, it is time to begin to experiment with the ISO, aperture, and the shutter speed. Since these same parameters are also changed when shooting with standard photo shots, you should check tutorials available online.

If you want to get the picture right away, you can, of course, skip all of this and just shutter the menu. The slider at the bottom of the screen will chalk until you get the desired result.

White Balance is also worth testing – only important when shooting in JPEG format.

If you want to leave the snow as white as snow, not like a stormy gray sky, then try to move the White Balance setting under the Custom slider until the image starts to become desirable again.

How to store your drone in winter

Perhaps the winter frost and the cloudy sky will make you think about not flying at all, and the drone will be kept until the spring arrives. However, in case of wrong storage conditions, there may be lots of problems rising in terms of remote control, drone and its batteries. All this can be led to the need of repairing your drone or even replacement of batteries. 

A couple of quick tips for long-term drone storage

  1. To maintain battery health, recharge and discharge the battery every three months.
  2. When storing for a long time, recharge the batteries of the remote control and the drone in half (40% -60%) so that they can adjust themselves to the correct voltage. If you have purchased a charging dock, it has a storage mode (P4P only) that can be used when you plan to store batteries longer.
  3. Remove the propellers and secure the gimbal (hanger) protection to the bulb, so that when dropping down from the end of the cabinet, it saves from the worst. 
  4. Of course, it is wise to store a drone in a box that came with the purchase or to buy a suitcase for the whole set. There are plenty of options available, click here to see what Amazon offers.
  5. Ideally, your drone should be stored in a dry, non-magnetic area at a temperature of about 25 ° C (77 ° F).
  6. I also recommend that you turn on the drone and all the electronics (remote control, batteries, etc.) that came with it at least once every few months for a few moments. There have been cases with older quadcopters where the electronics are failed when stored for a long time. Newer products should have this problem eliminated, but it is always better to be afraid than sorry.
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Waterproof case for DJI Phantom 4

The conclusion of winter flying

Flying drone in winter is fun and the footage you are able to capture can be absolutely amazing. Just bear in mind that you are responsible for your drone. For example, DJI says you can not fly in the snow and they are not responsible if your drone fails because of moisture. I consider it “fly at your own risk”. DJI will not be held responsible.

On the other hand, in some countries, the weather is always rainy, foggy or snowy and this should not keep drone enthusiasts back from having fun with their quad.

Remember – moisture does not ruin electronics, it’s the electrical conductivity of said liquids that interact with the electrical components of the drones. Rain and snow have very little salt or EC levels. A body of water is much different, it will have compounds that can fry your electronics.

Now that you know the basics of winter flying, check my article about flying drones at night also. If you have any questions about flying a drone in winter and cold, feel free to let me know in the comment section.

Snowy video footage

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