When decoding a forecast, our goal is to determine whether it is a good time to fly your drone. But forecast reading is never complete without directly assessing weather conditions. Below are some helpful points to keep in mind:
- Winds: winds can make it really hard and sometimes even impossible to reliably control and navigate a drone. Your battery will also drain faster if your drone needs to fight windy conditions than when it is flown when it is calm outside, which may affect the duration of your surveying project. To account for this, it’s always a good idea to have spare batteries on hand.
- Air density: you might already know that air gets thinner with altitude and heat, which means that flying at greater heights (for instance, above mountains) and on hotter days will decrease your drone’s propellers ability to generate and sustain lift. This, in turn, affects maximum flight time.
- Temperature: you have just read that high temperatures reduce the performance of your drone because of how they affect air density, but low temperatures are also considered to be undesirable flying conditions, as they reduce the efficiency of your LiPo batteries, which affect the operation of your drone motors. To sum up, it’s best to avoid extreme temperatures when flying your drone.
- Visibility: as the name suggests, visibility affects how well the drone operator can see their aircraft. If visibility is low because of fog, for example, the best course of action is to reschedule your survey.
- Humidity and moisture: moisture in the form of fog, mist or rain can short circuit drone electronics that are exposed to the external environment or are not well protected. Relative humidity, when too close to 100% is an early warning of moisture. A handy way to quickly assess moisture in the air is to answer the question of whether the outside conditions are Okay for the human operator to stand though for the duration of the flight. If the weather is unpleasant, the best practice is to postpone a visual-line-of-sight survey.
- Icing: visible high levels of moisture in the air combined with freezing temperatures can cause structural icing on drone propeller blades, compromising their ability to generate lift.
As you can see from this very brief overview, there are many weather conditions that drone operators need to be aware of. The good news is that there are many online resources freely available to both commercial drone pilots and drone enthusiasts to help them check the weather before heading out with a drone.
You’ll now have a go at assessing and providing a report on weather conditions in Murramarang National Park.
Assessing weather conditions check-point
Your task is to determine if the current weather conditions are suitable for your drone survey.
- Input the Murramarang National Park location into this tool: https://www.uavforecast.com/. Use these two postcodes to cover the entire area of the park: NSW 2536 and NSW 2539.
- Take a screenshot of the table summarising the weather conditions and paste it into a blank document and provide an analysis of the weather forecast in the same document.
- Conclude your weather report by a recommendation on whether the conditions are appropriate for flying a drone or not.
- Save your complete weather report for later.
Well done! You’ve taken all the necessary precautions to ensure your drone survey will be up to the safety standards. You are ready to fly!