From Multirotor Pilot Issue: 1
Story and photos by Petr Hejl
As someone living in the Northeast, I did not want to sit idly through the winter and envy our friends down south their flying-friendly climate, so I figured out a few handy tricks to help me fly in winter. Flying in snow and freezing temperatures presents a few challenges: limited battery life, brittle materials (prop plastic, arms, etc.), and a real difficulty to “keep it smooth” with fingers frozen to the bone.
WINTER-PROOF THE PILOT
Put on some layers and good boots when planning to stay outdoors and fly for prolonged periods of time. There are various transmitter mets available for you to put over the transmitter and just slip your hands in through the sleeves. Choose one that fits your transmitter and be aware that you may need to slightly modify it if you use a monitor bracket on your transmitter. It is not necessary to use gloves in the mitt: the only setback is that the mi tends to fog up a bit. I keep a silica gel pack inside to help with that.
To keep your hands protected outside of the mitt , I recommend using thin, touch-screen-friendly gloves (i.e. North Face e-tip). They work on touch screens, which is important if you’re using your smartphone or tablet as a part of your setup, and you can do almost all flying related tasks (changing batteries, small repairs, even flying) without ever having to take them off . If your hands are still cold, you can stick a couple of self-adhesive warmer pads to the sides of the transmitter, or even place some small warmer pads inside of your gloves.
WINTER-PROOF YOUR MACHINE
Some flight controllers will just simply refuse to take off when the ambient temperature is below their operating range. The key to keeping the machine warm (inside of a car) until it’s time to fly is to find the sensors/components that are most effected by low temperatures and keep them “warm” by placing a warmer pad over them (loosely, be careful not to obstruct any sensor openings). I do this by inserting a small warmer pad in between the center plates, just over the PMU and the MC. On very cold days, I stick another adhesive warmer pad to the top plate. Put all warmer pads in place before you leave to go flying, so you don’t freeze your fingers trying to set all this up outdoors.
Plastic parts become very britt le in freezing temperatures. Keep that in mind during “spirited fl ights” that the props are easier to snap. I find soft er plastic props to perform bett er than their carbonreinforced counterparts. The gimbal and camera wires get stiff and can cause image “wobbles” by putt ing too much pressure on gimbal motors. Wrapping the wires around a screwdriver to shape them like a telephone cord helps with that. Consider wrapping your gear skids with thicker (wider) insulation foam to ease the landings in soft snow; your gimbal and camera will thank you.
WINTER-PROOF THE BATTERIES
The flight time tends to decrease quite a bit in the freezing temperatures. Wrap your batteries before you leave to go flying and try keeping them in a warm place unless they’re on the copter. Stick a body warmer pad (the kind with one slightly self-adhesive side works the best) on the battery, and put it in a bottle koozie with zipper. Leave the battery like that throughout the day, whether in use or transport and you’ll experience no decrease in flight time.
THE LAST WORD
Don’t let the cold weather stop you from enjoying multirotor model flight. These tips will help keep you and your aircraft comfortable and make even the most frigid temperatures tolerable. Most of all, just keep reminding yourself that spring is coming!
About the Author
Petr Hejl uses multirotor aircraft as a way to combine things that he is passionate about into a new way of capturing a moment or telling a story. He uses his multirotor machines to capture amazing aerial video and photos and enjoys flying in many unusual places. Petr is an advocate for commercial and safe use of multirotor aircraft and has been recently highlighted on CNN’s iReport. You can contact him or see some of his work on his website www.NOTaDRONE.com.