Can You Fly Drones in Bad Weather? Tips and Tricks

Last updated November 5th, 2019
A person in a rainy street with an umbrella

Can you fly drones in the rain? How about taking your drone out for a spin in heavy wind? Knowing your drone’s limits can have an important impact on how long it lasts in top condition.

Many pilots are weary of flying their drones in anything but perfect weather.

And you may be reading this while looking at your drone wondering whether you could take it out even as dark clouds gather over your roof.

The truth is, like airplanes, drones work best in pristine weather. Sunny skies, warm temperatures and minimal winds are your best friend as a pilot.

But if you want to know whether you can fly your drone in the rain or heavy winds, there are a few things you’ll need to consider.

Can Drones Fly in Rain?

Some people would say a hard ‘no’ to this question. After all, electronics and moisture don’t exactly go hand-in-hand.

But that answer would be inaccurate.

The truth is that you can fly your drone in rainy weather, depending on the type of drone you’re using and how much rain there is.

Different drone models come with different capabilities. And some waterproof drone models do quite nicely in rain — even extremely rainy conditions, in fact.

Unfortunately, most drones are not waterproof; bad weather involving rain, snowfall or even high humidity could ruin your drone quite quickly.

Even landing your drone in wet grass can ruin it if water manages to get in. It can cause a short circuit in the electrical components within to render it useless straight away, or it could enable rust to develop and spoil your drone’s electronics over time.

How the drone is designed determines how the drone reacts to water and how this wet nightmare plays out.

For example, some drones are designed to have large air vents that aid in flight control. Should water get into drones like these, it can penetrate directly to the copper windings in the electric motor.

If the water makes its way to the receiver or to the flight control and connects the negative and positive poles, unwanted control signals are created and the drone can become uncontrollable.

If water gets to the power distribution board, the controller or the electric motor, a short circuit of the drone’s batteries will occur.

When this happens, one or more of many possible consequences can follow. Cables could be melted or burned, likewise for other components on the circuit boards. The rotor and stator could weld together, as well.

Water in a drone that is not waterproof can be really dramatic.

And the same can be said for flying drones in snow.

While snow is not as bad as rain, flying drones in the snow can still end up damaging your drone.

After all, snow is simply frozen water. When the fluffy white stuff hits your warm drone batteries, it could melt, flood your batteries and cause the drone’s internal components to fry.

It’s important to keep this in mind, if you are going out to take aerial shots of the snow.

Whether the snow hits your drone from above or you crash land your drone into a snowy pile below, snow won’t be very friendly to your UAV.

Look for a water-resistant drone at a minimum if you must fly in wet weather. Otherwise, keep your drone nice and warm in the closet until the sun comes out.

Can Drones Fly When It’s Windy?

Flying your drones in windy conditions will cause it to consume more power than usual.

Depending on your model, winds that exceed 20 mph will make your drone struggle to maintain its position in the sky. Truth be told, winds of 5-10 mph can have a noticeable impact on some of the lightest drones in the market.

Flying drones in the wind requires practice, patience, and an extra set of batteries.

The majority of good quality drones come with an automatic emergency landing feature for when they run out of battery. Their mechanisms work in a way that allows the drone to switch from the main power source to the longer-lasting batteries when power becomes extremely low. By so doing, a safe landing is assured.

So what sort of wind is too windy for you to fly your drone?

That depends entirely on the drone you’re piloting.

Most commercial drones can be flown in winds that travel at speeds ranging from 10-30mph. You can determine the maximum wind speed at which your drone can be flown by inferring from its maximum speed.

A reliable rule of thumb dictates that acceptable wind speeds may be as fast as two-thirds of the drone’s maximum speed.

So for a drone that travels at 21 mph, the maximum allowed wind speed would be 14 mph.

Flying your drone in strong winds is a lot different from flying your drone in calm weather; there is a lot to consider concerning flying behavior and battery status.

For example, the starting sequence becomes a lot much trickier. The ground level turbulence is overlaid by the force of the wind and the drone could be displaced or flipped over if care is not taken.

Given that pilot stands behind the drone, facing the wind, there is a small chance the drone could come crashing into your face.

When the drone is hovering in strong wind, it doesn’t do so horizontally like you would expect. The device compensates for the wind by flying against the wind direction. This causes the drone to tilt forward even though it is simply hovering in front of you. The motor and propellers will sound louder than normal in this situation, indicating that they are consuming more battery energy due to all the effort.

When you fly the drone upwind, it will appear to be moving extremely slowly.

Assume you are flying your drone in wind that moves at 30 mph. If your drone happens to have a maximum speed of 35 mph, then then it will only be able to progress upwind at a speed of 5 mph.

And those are speeds that are painful to watch, even without the heightened sounds of the rotor and motors as they struggle.

This frustrating effect is reversed when you fly the drone downwind. If the wind speed is 30 mph and the maximum drone speed is 35 mph, then the drone will move at a speed of 65 mph when flying downwind.

The reaction of the wind turbulence is incredibly fast, and this unexpected burst of speed could catch you by surprise. You must never lose your focus on the movements of the drone.

And finally, just like taking off, landing drones in wind can be tricky as well. If care is not taken your drone could be displaced and come crashing into you or another unintended object.

Ultimately, flying effectively will require your utmost attention. You can expect unexpected movements because of the wind turbulence, and you will have to balance these out with countermeasures.

You also need to watch the battery levels, since your batteries will last for less time than they would in normal weather conditions.

The best types of drones for windy conditions are a little on the heavier side, have a good top speed, have a reliable and long lasting battery and are durable in the event of unexpected crashes or bad landings.

What Happens If My Drone Gets Wet?

If you get surprised by a flash torrential downpour or you accidentally dropped your drone into a lake, two scenarios play out.

In the first scenario, your drone is waterproof, so you smile, pat yourself on the back and continue enjoying your drone flight.

In the second scenario, your drone is merely water resistant to a certain point — or even completely non-waterproof.

In this second situation, you can expect that once the water gets into your drone, one of the electronic speed controllers will blow like a fuse.

Electronic speed controllers control the rate at which power gets to the motors, and each motor is either connected to one or has one embedded within it.

This means that as one of them blows the drone will power off.

As soon as you get to someplace dry, take out the battery and check that it has not been damaged. If they have, endeavor to dispose of them safely.

There are a variety of problems which water can cause to a drone. Some of these you may not become aware of until you try to fly your drone again before you have had it checked.

Thus, take your drone for a reputable repairer or the supplier for checkup after you have wiped the water from the surface. If your device is still good for warranty, don’t open it before taking it to the supplier. If the drone got wet due to a device malfunction (maybe causing it to fall in to water from the sky), you should be good for a refund.

Tips for Flying a Drone in Bad Weather

Tips for Flying in Rain

  • Don’t fly in the rain unless your drone is a waterproof model. Water-resistant or splash resistant drones in rain may be okay if it is just a drizzle, but you should take them inside as soon as you can.

Tips for Flying in Wind

  • Start your drone in area that provides cover from the wind. This is the phase of flight when most accidents happen. Align the drone with the front in the direction of the wind while you stand at a safe distance away.
  • Be careful when you fly into the wind after starting from the slipstream. The flight control of the drone will need some time to compensate for the wind.
  • If you have a long flight in mind, you can estimate how much power the drone has by flying upwind. This direction consumes power and is therefore a good way to estimate whether there is enough juice for a return flight.
  • Your control signals will need to be stronger than you would expect. They tend to be sluggish when flying in strong winds.
  • When flying wind down, drones are likely to overreact. Set your control signals to be smooth while observing the drone. Keep in mind that a faster drone takes a longer time to slow down and stop.
  • During the landing sequence, you should hover your drone at a high altitude with the front facing the wind. During the transition towards the slipstream area, the drone may fly frontside all of a sudden because of the sluggish flight control signals.

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