4.1 – Weather

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Flying your drone and the Weather

The weather is a hard thing to  judge when you are flying your drone. Even the weatherman gets it wrong!  The consequences of flying in weather conditions that are not suitable for your aircraft could lead to you damaging your drone or causing a serious accident in the event of a crash.

Another important factor to think about when flying your drone is not only how the weather will affect your aircraft but also how that weather will affect your ability to control it but also how you handle any changing situations.

Weather forecasts are available in many formats some of the more common ones are below, however some are not as good as the others

As mentioned above a Visual inspection of the weather at the location you are planning to fly is always going to be the best. No one wants to travel to a location however to find out that the weather is not suitable to fly your drone in.

When looking at a weather forecast it doesn’t matter which source you use as long its data is derived from a reputable source and that the forecast covers the elements that you are looking for to ensure you can fly safely.

What things should I look out for

Wind speeds

Each aircraft will have a rating for the wind that it can safely fly in, this is usually found within the instruction manual. It is sometimes mentioned in the aircraft specifications as a “wind resistance”.  This is might be as high as 20 mph for a more expensive drone.  It is the maximum wind speed the manufacturer thinks it is safe to fly the drone in.  It is worth remembering that the higher the wind speed the harder you craft will have to work, this will reduce your flight time and potentially make it harder to fly. It is worth flying the first few times in low winds to get used to the craft.

Never exceed your aircraft’s limits by flying in wind that is too strong  – the results could mean the loss of the aircraft or worse someone getting injured.

Gusts

Wind speed and therefore the effect it will have on your SUA is rarely uniform.  Wind is often gusting and strong gusts (increase in wind speed) may be outside of the limits of your SUA.

A consistent wind speed is often quickly acclimatised to as pilot, however sudden strong gust can catch out even experienced drone operators can is often a contributing factor to crashes.

Wind-chill

This is the perceived decrease in air temperature felt by the body on exposed skin due to the flow of air. This can lead to it feeling much colder than it actually is.

The faster the wind speed, the more quickly the surface cools. Strong cold winds can rapidly cool your equipment and batteries. Smart batteries will not operate below a certain temperature, and Li-Po batteries in general will suffer from degraded performance in cold temperatures (refer to your battery specs).

You will of likely experienced wind chill at some point, as a drone pilot it can make it hard to fly your drone safely as you may have reduced ability to operate the remote-control due to cold hands. It best to avoid this situation or limit your expose to the wind chill to ensure you fly safely.

Visibility

Visibility needs to be factored in to our drone flights. The reason we have to operate within 500 metres line of sight unaided (except corrective lenses) is due to our ability to be able to react to an issue within our airspace, should one arise.

It is expected for us to be able to adjust our course to avoid manned aircraft flying in to the airspace. It is far harder for a manned pilot flying at a greater speed to recognise a drone in flight and react at short notice, than it is for us to manoeuvre our drone out of the way.

By flying your drone when the visibility far exceeds this you are giving yourself the best chance to take avoiding action by early detection of threats should you need to.

Temperature

Temperature can have a direct effect of your drone and all the components including the batteries. If the battery temperature is too low the aircraft might not even power up the motors.Most firmware will not allow the aircraft to take off until the batteries are at a sufficient temperature to operate.   High temperature High temperature will result in less dense air which will reduce the ability of your drone’s propellers to create lift or thrust.  This may result in reduced load carrying ability or decrease battery life.  Be especially aware of this when operating at altitudes (e.g. on a high mountain) where the effect will be magnified.

Precipitation

Precipitation as concerns the weather is any form of condensation of atmospheric water vapour that falls under gravity.Most drones are not waterproof and specifically state in the specifications not to fly in Rain.  The reason is obvious – water and electronics do not mix and failed electronics could result in a loss of control and or a fly away.Heavy precipitation can also reduce visibility to well below the 500m allowed for VLOS flights.

Cumulonimbus clouds

Cumulonimbus clouds are basically storm clouds.

Turbulence and urban effects

Factors that can affect visibility:

  • Bright sunlight
  • Haze
  • Fog
  • Mist
Cold air will mean your propellers have denser air and can generate more lift – but the downside is that icing may occur on your propellers.


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