Best practices for drone surveying in winter
With winter approaching, keeping your hardware functioning and your data high-quality takes a few extra steps. Here we'll outline the considerations to take into account as you continue to survey your site and process your data in a colder season.
The first thing that colder weather affects during a flight is your battery. Low temperatures reduce its performance and shorten battery life by as much as half. This means that you might need to keep more spares than you usually do.
Keep a close eye on your battery charge, and plan to do more swaps than typical. Also, don’t leave your drone or its batteries outside when they aren’t in use.
In cold environments, insert the battery into the battery compartment and turn on the drone for about 1-2 minutes to warm up before starting the mission.
If you’re working in especially frigid conditions, it is especially important to keep your batteries warm.
One way to keep them warm is to set your batteries on your vehicle's dashboard with the window defrost set on high. To get double-heating action, point your vehicle facing the sun so the batteries on the dash get two different heat sources.
Drone performance and operation
DJI drones should not be flown in temperatures below freezing (32ºF/0ºC).
Avoid contact with snow. Moisture can damage the motors. It’s recommended to use a landing pad for taking off and landing your drone.
A winter-friendly drone should be able to handle cold temperatures and high humidity. It should also be equipped with high-vis lights on the body of the craft, so you can spot it in the sky even with reduced visibility.
You will need to adjust your mission settings to accommodate winter conditions. You should always have shutter priority mode toggled on: this fixes the shutter speed at the value you choose.
- Shutter Speed 1/800
- White Balance: Sunny
Overcast or grey skies
- Shutter Speed 1/640
- White Balance: Sunny or Cloudy, depending on current brightness
You may need to slow the speed of the drone down 1–2m/s to reduce motion blur.
Always aim to fly when the sun is directly overhead (except over reflective surfaces), as this will reduce the chance that shadows will affect the terrain model that is produced.
Monitor your ISO as you fly to ensure it is within the recommended range of 100–400.
Seasonal changes in daylight
Depending on your latitude your regular working hours might extend into complete darkness.
FAA regulations prohibit the flight of drones after sunset, so plan your surveys to occur during daylight hours—whenever those may be for your area. This could mean doing things much earlier than your normal routine.
Avoid strong wind, rain, and snow. Flying in fog is not a good idea. Fog can trigger the drone’s obstacle avoidance sensors, making it think there’s something in front of it and stopping the flight mid-mission.
Weather watching and navigation
Check the forecast diligently and schedule your surveys around good conditions as best as possible.
AeroPoints can handle some mud and mist, but will not survive heavy rain or snow. The lithium-ion battery in the AeroPoint will not operate well in temperatures below 32ºF/0ºC.
Precipitation or heavy cloud cover may also disrupt the GPS signal, resulting in poor data quality.
It is important to keep them charged, though this may be difficult as the days shorten or at latitudes above or below 50º. Charge them as much as you are able.
I still can't do it!
We wrote these articles to arm you with everything you need to get the job done on your own, but we understand that sometimes this isn't sufficient.
If you're stuck, the Propeller hardware support team may be able to help. You can contact our support team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can contact your Customer Success representative.