The Challenges of Flying a Drone in Michigan
The weather in Michigan is notoriously schizophrenic. Last week we had a day where it was 5 degrees out, the next day reached nearly 60 with sun, and the day after was 20 with snow. There’s simply no way to gauge what the weather will be like a week in advance when you get into cold and rainy times of the year. This makes flying a drone and operating a drone services company a particular challenge in the Mitten, albeit one that can be overcome.
Rain, Rain, Go Away
The biggest obstacle toward flying a drone is rain. Any water exposure to your drone is a bad idea, as it can ruin the electronics in it. You simply have to avoid flying in the rain, but in Michigan that can be a challenge. There have been times where I’ve been flying a mission and a random rain shower popped up, and it’s likely this will happen to you too. If this happens, you need to land your drone ASAP and get it covered to avoid damage.
Always try to plan to fly your drone in dry weather. You can look at a forecast and fly on days where there’s very little chance of rain to better your odds of staying dry.
Snow Big Deal
The snow in Michigan comes fast and furious every year. While flying in the snow isn’t ideal, it isn’t as damaging to your drone as straight water. I try to avoid snow when possible, but I will finish the job if I’m already flying. Your best bet is to avoid snow if you can, but don’t fret if it’s just flurries falling. The biggest obstacle with the snow is the lower visibility. Remember, you need 3 SM to fly legally.
Cold Weather Curses
Outside of rain, cold weather is the biggest weather threat to your drone. Cold weather kills your batteries quickly, drastically lowering flight times and making it possible for your bird to fall out of the sky. Always heed your drone manufacturer’s specs on flying. For my DJI Phantom 3 Professional, I heat the batteries up, as I can fly to -4F. With my Phantom 4 Advanced, I won’t fly below 32F, as it’s the minimum spec. The important thing here is to get your batteries warm if you’re flying in the bitter cold. If you can’t heat your battery, let your drone hover for a few minutes to warm up. It’ll naturally heat the device and make it safe for flying.
The weather in Michigan sucks, but with some planning you can overcome most obstacles. You don’t need to plan so much for heat as you do rain and cold, but it’s always a good idea to have operational plans for the weather. Don’t fly if the weather doesn’t seem right. Trust me: you’d rather delay a job than crash your drone due to crummy weather.