Don’t let cold weather tempt you to pack up your home inspection drone gear until spring. Drone operation is more challenging in cold weather, but it’s doable with the right equipment. It’s also the best way to avoid ladders and icy roofs in the coming winter.
Cold temperatures affect battery life and can freeze components if the conditions shift from mist or fog to freezing while you’re on the job. It can also affect the UAV’s sensors and photography quality. With cold hands, operation won’t be as easy, either.
Here are four ways you can get better performance and protect your gear this winter.
#1: Protect Batteries From Freezing Temperatures
Cold weather shortens lithium-polymer (LiPo) battery life by about half. In mild weather, you can expect a 20-minute flight from one charge. With cold temperatures, flight time may only be 10 or 15 minutes, say Autel Robotics. Worse, the batteries could fail altogether.
Protect batteries from cold temperatures with an insulating wrap. It doesn’t have to be fancy; it just has to work. Wrap them in a thick piece of fabric or drop them down inside a heavy glove. Keeping batteries in the glove compartment of your vehicle can also help. When the weather is especially bitter, a drone battery heater might be a good investment, as might an external battery pack for backup.
#2: Keep Hands and Controls Dry
If the handheld transmitter gets wet, you’re probably done for the day. Protecting it from icy rain and snow could save you a lot of headaches. The cheapest way to keep the transmitter dry is to stay under cover. That’s not easy when piloting a drone over roof peaks and through valleys.
Drone Enthusiast says a transmitter glove might be the smartest thing you buy or make this year. Imagine a waterproof transmitter cover with a clear, vinyl face, which lets you see the controls. Add a long sleeve on the left and right of the cover. Slip the transmitter into the cover, put your hands through the sleeves and control your drone while keeping hands and equipment dry.
Check out Ken Huron’s video on precautions as well as the pure fun of flying in the snow:
#3: Watch for Icing
If you’ve ever sat on a plane while workers de-iced the wings, you know that ice and flight aren’t the best of friends. Ice can weigh down your quad and interfere with navigation. Fstoppers says ice is a drone enemy, as it can build up on propellers and ruin aerodynamics.
The best way to avoid icing is to pack up the drone if ice is likely. According to Inside Battelle, there’s also a new development. With a conductive coating, ice melts away more quickly on its own, but it might not be suitable for your UAV.
#4: Tweak Your Photography Settings
If there’s snow on the ground, photography might be more challenging. Snow reflects a tremendous amount of sunlight, which could turn a gorgeous shot into a blinding, white blur or a dull, gray mess. Manually set your exposure and you’ll get better shots.
Axis Group offers the following advice:
- Manually compensate to over-expose images by +0.3 to +0.7.
- Manually adjust white balance to 6500K. Go higher if images are too blue, lower if they’re too amber.
- Set shutter speed to twice the video frame rate.
Wintertime can be more challenging for drone piloting, but that doesn’t mean you should forget about it until spring. Cold air is denser. That means you’ll get more lift with less effort, which could make winter flights a lot smoother and reduce wear and tear. Calibrate sensors in the cold, not in a warm truck or a garage. Don’t forget to protect yourself from the elements.
You might find that winter flights have their own unique qualities that you enjoy just as much as piloting when the weather is great.
If becoming a certified home inspector is on your wish list, now is the time to sign up. By the time 2018 rolls around, you could be ready to sit for the national exam. Enroll now with ICA School and learn the home inspection trade on your own schedule.