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8 tips for flying a drone in cold weather

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The following is a guest post by Jake Carter, a drone Enthusiast and writer at RC Hobby Review. Follow him on Facebook at RCHOBBYREVIEW.

Drones whiz and whip through the air at breakneck speeds. Unfortunately, these cool machines weren’t designed for cold weather. It’s not the friendliest condition for them, but with some preparation beforehand, you can capture the beauty of rolling winter landscapes from a bird’s-eye perspective.

Before flying, read your drone’s user manual. Most quadcopters are designed to fly in a temperature range of 32 degrees Fahrenheit to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Flying outside that range may put your drone at risk. But if your drone can handle the cold conditions, then read on — then get flying!

1. Beware of ice

The arch-nemesis of all helicopters and planes, ice endangers drones too. Ice accumulating on the propeller blades, alters the weight distribution, hurting the drone’s ultimate aerodynamics. Cold air over warm water causes evaporation, and this evaporative fog will refreeze on surrounding surfaces, including on the drone’s surface.

2. Know how cold affects battery life and sensors

Colder temperatures shorten the flight time of your drone by slowing the chemical reaction with the LiPo batteries and lowering the battery capacity. A fully charged drone that typically will last between 20 to 25 minutes in flight, could fly for just 10-15 minutes in colder weather. Extreme cold weather can cause an unexpected power drop, and while it’s rare, there have been cases where batteries fail completely.

Cold weather dulls the drone’s sensors which can cause the drone to drift or have less response from the control input. In addition, cold fingers or gloves make controlling the input more difficult.

3. Practice good battery health

When flying in cold weather, understanding how to make your battery go further can be to your advantage.

Keep your batteries warm. Hover after the takeoff. Maintain a full charge on your batteries. Go light on the throttle. Bring a portable charger for the mobile device.

After takeoff, hover between 10 to 12 feet for 30 to 60 seconds to bring up the battery temperature, giving the motors and batteries a chance to warm up. The ideal battery temperature for a drone is about 59 degrees Fahrenheit. Most drones provide you with a method to check the temperature of your batteries.

Related read: How to care for your LiPo batteries

Be aware of how heavy control inputs will tax the battery life of your drone. Full throttle demands a heavy battery current, which can cause a drop in voltage. In general, don’t tap the full throttle button until the first few minutes of flight have passed. In addition, lower the heavy control inputs because this extends your flight time. Finally, never drain the battery. Normal weather conditions mean you try to maximize your flight time. When it’s biting cold, however, this practice risks your drone. You will want to fly it until the battery has dropped 30 or 40 percent. After that, you will want to bring the drone back to earth. If you want more air time, pack a couple spare batteries.

4. Watch out for precipitation

Most drones cannot withstand precipitation, and the moisture can damage or short out the motor, gimbal, or camera. If rain or snow occurs while your drone is in flight, land as quickly as possible, then dry the propellers and the body.

5. It’s not just cold — it’s climate too

It’s not just about cold — but climate too. Flying in Vermont where the winters are cold but “dry” means you don’t have to worry as much as if you were in a cold and wet climate with more humidity, like Minnesota. If that’s the case, check for icing regularly and try not to fly through winter fog.

Moisture within the gimbal becomes problematic when you add ice and snow and melting. As the props start to spin and blow slush and snow, launch the drone from a sheet of plastic or from the carrying case.

Also, condensation can arise when you take your drone from the outside to the inside. To alleviate that problem, let it warm up slowly in the basement or in the trunk of the car.

6. Use hand warmers on your drone

To keep the drone’s batteries warm, consider putting hand warmers on them. NEVER put them directly against the battery as it lets off heat. Instead, wrap the batteries in a scarf or a glove and put the hand warmers around the batteries.

7. Understand altitude

In areas of increased altitude, propellers have to spin faster to keep flight, which means the battery will drain itself faster — also contributing to shorter flights.

8. Don’t forget about you!

While it’s important to keep the drone safe from the cold, don’t forget yourself too!

Buy specialized gloves for flying in the winter to keep your movements with the controls limber. Spyder gloves are consistently ranked among the best gloves designed with conductive material for handheld touch screen devices.

-By Jake Carter

Read more from Jake at RC Hobby Review or follow him on Facebook at @RCHOBBYREVIEW

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8 tips for flying a drone in cold weather was originally posted at http://thedronegirl.com/2018/01/02/drone-cold-weather-tips/ by Guest Post

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Yuneec partners with Parrot to put Pix4D’s mapping software in its commercial drones

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As drone companies look to compete with  drone industry king DJI, two companies have come up with a unique strategy: combine resources and team up.

Yuneec, a Chinese drone manufacturer known mostly for its Typhoon hobby drone, has partnered with Pix4D, a 3D mapping software company owned by French drone manufacturer Parrot, which is known for its Bebop and AR toy drones.

A screengrab of the Pix4D software.

The two companies announced this week that Parrot’s  Pix4Dcapture software would now be available on Yuneec’s H520 ST16S ground station controller. The software gives users the ability to create georeferenced maps and models from drone imagery, Pix4D capture is used in verticals such as law enforcement, inspection and construction, where drone pilots can customize flight plans and parameters and view maps in multiple orientations.

The Pix4Dcapture software will now be pre-installed on all future Yuneec’s H520 ST16s ground stations and available via software update for existing H520 owners. 

Yuneec’s H520, which was announced in January 2017, is a six-rotor drone targeted at commercial applications. It looks very much like the Typhoon H drone (but is bright orange for high visibility), building off the six-rotor platform (that is capable of flying under emergency situations with just five rotors) while incorporating commercial-grade cameras and applications for high-end commercial use.

The partnership is unique as Parrot opts to extend the reach of its software into drones outside of the Parrot family. Pix4D has been integrated into Parrot’s enterprise-level drones, including the Disco-Pro and the Parrot Bluegrass. But it’s interesting to see Parrot drones appearing in drones by what is seemingly a competitor company.

Meanwhile, DJI’s attention when it comes to consumer drones is on the thermal imaging market. The Chinese drone behemoth, which has an estimated 70% share of the drone industry, recently announced a partnership with thermal camera maker FLIR to integrate its thermal cameras into its drones alongside a traditional 4K camera with the launch of the new DJI XT2 camera.

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Yuneec partners with Parrot to put Pix4D’s mapping software in its commercial drones was originally posted at http://thedronegirl.com/2018/04/06/yuneec-partners-with-parrot-to-put-pix4ds-mapping-software-in-its-commercial-drones/ by Sally French

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FAA seeking more LAANC suppliers months after industry criticism about “ol’ boy’s club forming”

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The Federal Aviation Administration is seeking more applicants to participate as a supplier in its Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) drone program.

A month after announcing that it would  expand tests of its real-time approval processing program to 500 airports by the fall of this year, the FAA wants more companies to supply LAANC services.

The LAANC program allows drone operators to use an interface from one of four providers that were hand-picked by the FAA — AirMap, Project Wing (an entity of X, formerly known as Google), Rockwell Collins and Skyward — to request approval to fly in restricted airspace. Operators would then receive approval almost instantly.

That instantly speeds up the ability to legally fly in controlled airspace such as near airports — a cumbersome process that had required individual applications and took months.

While the drone industry was generally excited that the process to get permission to fly in controlled airspaces has gotten easier, many industry players feared that the FAA selecting just 4 companies to provide such a service with no clear criteria of how to get chosen was a threat to other companies, particular small startups with minimal resources.

“Getting exclusive access to what is essentially a national resource doesn’t seem like a fair gig at all,” said Joshua Ziering, founder of Kittyhawk, a drone-operations platform similar to Skyward in a past interview with The Drone Girl. “With this, the FAA is essentially picking winners in the private industry.”

Since that time, the FAA announced that it considering agreements with additional entities to provide LAANC services. The period for new entities to apply will run from April 16 to May 16. Interested parties can find information on the application process here.

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FAA seeking more LAANC suppliers months after industry criticism about “ol’ boy’s club forming” was originally posted at http://thedronegirl.com/2018/04/03/faa-seeking-laanc-suppliers/ by Sally French

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China’s second-largest courier just got permission for drone delivery

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Drone delivery has arrived in China.

SF Express, a courier in China, announced that one of its subsidiaries received the first official permit to deliver packages via drones.

The courier is focused on delivering items via drones to more sparsely populated areas. The company said it intends to use a few types of drones. Traditional manned aircraft will delivery items at large scale to major warehouses, followed by big drones delivering items to local warehouses and small drones making the actual deliveries to customers.

Tests of SF Express’s drones have been spotted as early as 2013, the same year Jeff Bezos announced that Amazon was working toward drone delivery. SF Express is the second largest courier in China after China Post.

With the new government approvals, SF Express can legally make deliveries in approved airspace. But that still doesn’t mean drones will be making deliveries anywhere and everywhere just yet. The flights are still in beta mode, with SF Express launching a pilot zone in the Nankang district of Ganzhou, a city in Jiangxi province, where it had already been testing drone deliveries. After that stage, drone delivery would expand across the entire provence.

China has made huge headway in the field of drone delivery. Another company called JD.com, which has been described as the Chinese version of Amazon, has a fleet of drones making deliveries near Beijing.

JD’s heavy-load drones can carry payloads weighing more than a ton and focuses on flying along fixed routes from warehouses to special landing pads in rural villages, where local contractors for the company then deliver the packages to the customers’ doorsteps.

That model is similar to that of Iceland’s Flytrex, which flies fixed routes from warehouses to specified points across the city. From there, a human courier handles the packages between that drop-off point and the customer’s house, filling in the “last mile,” or the customer can come to the drop-off point to receive it themselves.

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China’s second-largest courier just got permission for drone delivery was originally posted at http://thedronegirl.com/2018/04/02/chinas-second-largest-courier-just-got-permission-drone-delivery/ by Sally French

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