On cold days as per previous post it is important to keep your drone batteries warm.
DJI manufacture for the phantoms and the Inspire 1 and Inspire 1v2 – for the Inspire 2 owners you shouldn’t need one as part of the spec of the Inspire 2 means its has self heating batteries in flight! What an amazing technological development.
For the Inspire I have purchased a battery warmer, it is a really simple design and will fit in the box with the drone and this makes me happy. Just click the battery in the top and double press the battery as you would when firing up the drone.
The instructions say “The battery warmer is used to preheat the aircraft battery in air temperatures between – 20c and 5c. It uses the battery power to raise the battery temperature to the optimum operating range of 5c to 35c. Using the battery heater ensures the safety of your aircraft”
The battery warmer can use up to 3% of the batteries power to warm up the battery so as per the post on flying on the cold, I can not stress more that the batteries need to be fully charged. Once in the air the battery temperature will start to chill.
The instructions online say depending on the current temp of the battery will depend on how long it takes to heat up approximately 10 to 15 minutes. There is a failsafe in the battery warmer to ensure the battery temperature does not exceed 30c.
So for the current price of £16 I could not be happier with this purchase and next stop to purchase one for the Phantom.
To also note that there are battery insulation stickers for the DJI Inspire. I have a set but haven’t ever used them just make sure you purchase the correct size for the battery as the Inspire has two different size of batteries. These are much cheaper at £2 per set.
I have searched online and I can’t find any battery heaters for Yuneec drones which must mean they don’t manufacture for their drones as yet. The Yuneec forum recommends hand warmers. You could always try my trick with the hot water bottles as long as the water bottle is not filled with very hot water this works but it was an interim solution. It did make me nervous having water in a bag with batteries! However it worked and I didn’t have to wait for the batteries to warm up and the added bonus meant I could also warm myself up post flight.
The irony is not lost on me as a publish this planned blog post on drone flight in cold weather. This is a the warmest its been in the UK since late October and we our reaching the heady heights of 12 degrees celsius in the North of England. However I am still sure this will be of use.
Apart from buying some thin gloves for you to fly in that have the contacts in for using touch screen for the tablet, you personally just need to make sure you are as warm as possible, just to make sure you have all the concentration you require. Personally I don’t like the cold every winter filming in the winter fill me with dread and chills me to the bone. We have more winter yet to come so with this in mind here come my tips and hints learnt so far.
The biggest safety concern is the LiPo (lithium polymer ) batteries, the chemical reactions that give power to your drone slow down this lowers the performance of your battery and the power will be used up very quickly. You may see a drop from about 20 mins flight time right down to 10/12 minutes. The danger is in very cold environments is a sudden power loss as the chemical reactions stop, this could result in the drone dropping from the sky. Note this would be rare but as drone pilots we are always assessing the risks and what if’s.
No one can ever forget the drone falling out of the sky behind skier Marcel Hirscher on his slalom in 2015 seconds away from a serious collision. It caused drones to be banned at ski events and made the headlines for a while. I can only speculate that it was a battery loss of power that caused the problem.
Drone user manual My first note would be check your drone’s user manual and check what is the advised operation temps, there will be a minimum and maximum temperature sometimes for both the batteries and the drone.
Batteries you will probably find that the batteries don’t give you as longer flight time as you would normally expect of your drone. So you will have to plan for this is you are wanting to capture extra footage.
For DJI drones you will see that you get a warning light /the drone won’t fly if the battery gets too cold. Not on the DJI inspire 2 as it warms the battery if required whilst in flight.
To counteract this you can use a battery heater. When I ordered mine there were not stock in the country and so I could get out and fly. So my ingenious thought was hot water bottles in a cool bag which would keep the heat in, I made sure it wasn’t too hot otherwise condensation would occur and that could have introduced moisture to the battery contacts.
My improvisation to keep the batteries warm
Pampered batteries into a rucksack then a reflected lunch bag
My battery heater has now arrived and there will be another blog post on its use.
Make sure also your tablet or phone and Remote controller is fully charged as the cold will also affect their battery power.
Checking the drone, every flight I do I send the drone in the air and just check the controls after sending the drone up about 8 – 10ft in the air, I check left and right, backwards and forwards but in cold weather I hover for a short while so make sure that the drone is stable. Gives the motors chance to warm up a bit as well. If you have any problems occurring at this point it you can ground the drone and terminate your flight.
Rotating battery use this is best practice for any drone pilot, to make sure one of your batteries is not used more than the other, number them and make sure you rotate the use. Also as normal if you find any faults with a battery in flight or visual defects you will know which one to take out of service.
Plan your flight not just the usual CAA flight planning and risk assessment but really know what you want to achieve during this flight to fly over a certain area to capture data, images or video. Where will you fly from and land much more important during cold flights. This is important as drone pilot anyway but especially in the cold. That way on a reduced battery you will get more out of the flight.
Ease off the full throttle – fast movements with the drone will reduce the battery capacity, if you are zipping all around you will drain the battery quicker.
Frosting of motors and props – be aware that this can happen in cold conditions. I did read about putting a bit of grease on the props that won’t affect your plastic or carbon fibre prop, note some motor lubricants could cause disintegration of your prop. Leading to further problems if your drone is no longer flying with props that are balanced.
Damp air with an increased chance of damp air, it may feel dry but as always the air up above us may have higher moisture content especially if its a bit misty which can be common on colder days. Watch out for this as we all know drones and water just don’t mix
To continue yesterday’s theme of gender in STEM industry, I have been nominated and now shortlisted for a Northern Power Woman Award in the category of One to watch.
This is for pushing gender diversity in the drone industry in North of England. I feel very honoured to be put forward for this and now to be shortlisted. Especially in such a strong category. It gives me a confidence boost to really embrace this role of role model that I have indirectly become. It was not the plan, the plan was just to talk about my drone experiences, the highs, the lows and everything in between. This then lead to university requests for demos and talks, and talks in schools to girls plus bookings to talk on panels about women in tech for 2017.
There is no getting away from the fact that currently the drone industry notes that only 2% of people who attend the PFCO courses are women. The exact figure of women who have registered to fly in a commercial capacity is unknown.
For me my role models were and still are the Helicopter girls, two amazing women doing amazing things in the industry. Emma and Kat set up one of the very first drone companies in the UK. Thank you to you both for leading the way hopefully more women will embrace this amazing industry.
This blog is now read by a couple of hundred people around the world and I think if I encourage one person to start flying drones in a safe way then this would just be fabulous.
Have a lovely Sunday, hope the weather is good for you to fly.
It is a serious issue that I feel passionate about there are just not enough girls, young women and women embracing technology.
This year and towards the tail end of last year there seems to be more events, articles and general awareness acknowledging that there are just not enough women in the areas of science, technology, mathematics and engineering (STEM). I have known it for years, all the areas I have worked have been male dominated. I have worked for computing giants, railway signalling firms as well as TV camera operation and now the drone industry. It’s fair to say that women have always been in a minority, all these industries.
On the whole I have not found it much of an issue for me personally until recently that is. When I applied for a job they said we want to make it clear that we won’t use your drone as we know its your hobby, whilst at the same time made it clear to a male applicant it may be a good move for his career to do his drone training! It was this sole reason that I decided to say sod this, I shall go and be freelance.
Despite that one shocking disappointing experience, I have had a many positive experiences where I treated even handled given employment recognised for my skills.
I know that this is not the case for many women working in male dominated environments. It seems we live in a time where we are in time of transition to the utopia of true equality.
My advice to women experiencing difficult situations in the work place would be:-
Don’t waste your energy on any negativity.
To make notes you are being discriminated against, dates and times and report to management if you work for an organisation
To just go out and do it, get involved in the industry of your choice and focus on being the best you can.
No woman or girl wants to be in a job because she ticks a box, we want to be employed because we are good at what we do.
I would encourage any woman to join a STEM industry, it’s creative, enjoyable and will challenge you intellectually. On this road to utopia it must be noted that there are men that are on our side and are feminist in their outlook.
Last month I was guest speaker at Salford University’s Tech week and I was so pleased to see eight young women in the audience of twenty. Three sat near the front and were so enthusiastic but then I was taken back when they took to twitter for them to say it was inspiring to see a female drone pilot and film maker. Why was I taken back? I don’t often think of myself as role model but if I am encouraging young women, other women and also men to join this industry then I am a role model. It’s something that I have started to embrace.
The drone industry for the record, in my experience has been fully supportive of me and any other women but as we are in a minority we encourage all women to join us in this fantastic new industry. Let us not forget when you have gender diversity in any industry it has been proven to be more economically successful.
I have been very lucky as my Dad always said when I was growing up girls can do any job a man can do. It’s something I always think about when I am working.
There is are three international groups aimed at sharing information and supporting women fly drones for fun and as a career.