- Drones may not operate as anticipated during Milwaukee Wisconsin’s cold weather.
- Drone batteries may not deliver the full amount of flying time due to falling temperature.
- Beware of hiring a non-licensed and/or non-insured drone pilot for images you’re going to use commercially (including yourself).
The video capturing drone flying rules, official and unofficial, change dramatically during the extreme season changes in Milwaukee Wisconsin.
Milwaukee Wisconsin during February receives an average of 10 inches of snow – Not in 2019 though, the snow seemed to fall, fall, and fall. After getting hit with a snow storm just about every 4 to 5 days – winter was taking its toll. One morning our licensed and insured company Chameleon Communications received a call after the CBS Sports Network looked up the keywords Milwaukee drone video and found our page.
They asked “Do you have any archived drone footage that reflects the Milwaukee winter season?” Unfortunately, we did not. However, fortunately I had an idea, and we were able to capture just what they needed despite the snow, extreme wind and cold.
How? Well we found just the right weather window at just the right time. So, if you are a professional drone videographer, an amateur pilot, or even a business with an in-house drone video team, we would like to share five must-know tips for flying a drone for video in the Milwaukee winter.
First, our advice is not for everyone. Our quadcopters fly safely between 30 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and may be outside your drone’s operating temperature window. We advise that you consult and know your drone’s user manual to pinpoint the correct temperature thresholds for your quadcopter.
- Watch Your Battery Life and leave plenty of reserve
The biggest impact cold has on your drone is on the battery. The common LiPo batteries rely on a chemical reaction that is affected by cold which consequently shortens your drone’s flight time. If you take some advanced steps you can increase your 10-15 minute flight time (average in cold) a little longer. Typically a flight time for drones is 20 to 25 minutes in normal weather, so a difference of even 10 minutes is significant. Here are a couple tips to mitigate at least some of the your battery issues.
- Use Your Vehicle – On our Milwaukee drone flight we kept the drone in the heated car while doing location reconnaissance before actually flying. The battery will stay much warmer inside your vehicle compared to the trunk.
- Use Hand Warmers – Take a mitten, scarf, or small towel and place it around your secondary batteries if you are outside. Do not ever put the hand warmer directly against the battery.
- Have A Portable Car Charger – We were able to keep one battery charging while we drove around Milwaukee to find the next optimal drone launch location.
- Use a beverage cooler – The insulation that keeps the cans full of your favorite beverage works great for keeping your batteries (and controller) warm in the cold.
- Throttle Your Drone Lightly
Your drone flight time may be extended if you ease up on the throttle. Quick thrusts drain the battery faster and are not usually necessary when you are getting that ideal shot. It is a good idea to start off slow and hover your drone at around 12 feet for about a minute to bring up the battery temperature and get you in a no-rush mode.
- Beware of Ice
Just like a plane, drones do not do well with icing. Make sure you are continually monitoring the propeller blades for ice. Do not fly where there is cold air over warm surfaces (like water) since warmer surfaces cause evaporation and that can refreeze on the body of the drone.
- Secure a Moisture Free Launch Pad
Make sure that your surface is snow, ice, and water free so that you are not stirring up any snow that could hinder your gimbal’s functionality. Using a launching pad or ground covering may be needed.
- Watch Your Altitude
Bottom-line, increased altitude requires higher propeller speeds. Higher propeller speeds lead to faster battery drainage. Keep the altitude shots short and sweet.
Tony Meister is affectionately known as the “Chief Lizard” of Chameleon Communications. Chameleon is an insured agency offering creative branding and digital media services to “Color the World with Your Story.”
Click here to see some of our -> drone video and aerial photography examples.