Can You Fly a Drone in the Rain? (Explained for Beginners) | Droneblog
Often, rainfall tends to spoil a perfect day out, especially if you plan to take great aerial shots and videos with your drone.
Aside from getting wet, there’s also a high risk of spoiling your drone because of the rain. But, sometimes changing plans is not an option, and you can’t help but wonder, can you fly a drone in the rain?
You should not fly your drone in the rain if it is not waterproof. Drones feature highly sensitive electronic parts that can short circuit if they get wet. However, if you need to fly in rainy weather, you can use silicone and acrylic to make your drone waterproof.
If the rainy weather is persistent, keep reading this guide to find out what to do.
What happens if my drone gets wet?
If your drone does get wet, many of the internal electronic components can stop functioning. To be specific, the Electronic Speed Controller for the motors is likely to burn out and destroy the spinning of the propellers. Plus, all the fuses and other electronic parts can blow, making the drone useless.
At first, it may seem like nothing is going wrong. As an expert pilot, you’re able to fly your drone perfectly without any trouble. If you didn’t know better, you might even assume your drone is waterproof. But, don’t make this mistake
The ultimate danger is waiting sooner or later. Electronic components start corroding, destroying your drone after prolonged exposure to moisture. So, please don’t act surprised when you take out your drone one day, and it refuses to start or function properly. Rain happened!
Here’s how it happens.
The design of a drone determines how it reacts to water. Drones with large air vents for flight control can sometimes allow water to reach the electric motor’s copper windings. If the water gets to the receiver and connects the + and – terminals, the drone becomes uncontrollable from the unwanted control signals.
Even worse, a short circuit can occur when the water comes into contact with the electric motor, power distribution board, or controller. A short circuit can melt cables or burn parts on circuit boards.
Furthermore, a drone’s camera is also at high risk if rain enters the drone when flying. Aside from the rain, also pay attention to the wet ground while taking off and landing your drone. All these things considered, flying on a rainy day seems like more of a risk than is worth it.
What to do if rain caught you off guard?
If rain caught you off guard while flying your drone, don’t wait until it pours heavily but land your drone immediately at the first sign of raindrops or light drizzle.
Follow the steps below for saving your drone immediately if it gets wet from the rain.
- Disconnect the drone’s power supply immediately. It’s safe to do so.
- In case of heavy rain and a lot of water in the drone, remove the casing and the battery.
- Gently, turn, move and shake your drone in all directions to remove the water.
- If you have a hairdryer, dry the drone using the lowest setting and from a safe distance to speed up the drying process.
- Use a black plastic bag filled with raw rice. The size of the drone and the amount of water determines the amount of rice to use. Put the drone inside the plastic bag with rice, seal it and place it in the sun for two days (as long as it’s not too hot – you don’t want to damage your drone with the sun’s heat). The rice helps absorb the remaining water from the drone.
- Do not turn on the drone’s power until you are sure it’s completely dry.
- If the battery looks swollen or corroded, do not replace it in the drone. Get a replacement before trying to power on the drone.
What drones can fly in the rain?
Quite often, rainy shots and videos are the most stunning, and the light conditions can be very dramatic. But then, there’s the fear of flying a drone in the rain with the risk of damage.
But, worry not.
Fortunately, waterproof drones can handle extreme weather conditions like rain, snow, and fog. Their unique structure features special sealed frames that protect the electronic components. With this, waterproof drones can land, submerge to work in the water, and fly again perfectly.
Another alternative, water-resistant drones, can only block water from splashes of raindrops but can’t handle full submersion.
If you’re not sure whether your drone is waterproof or water-resistant, the high chances are that it’s probably not either one. Waterproof drones heavily advertise this unique feature.
However, the simplest way is to go through your drone’s manual to be sure. The weather conditions recommended to fly your drone will be outlined in the manual.
The table below provides a useful guide because it’s usually hard to find the right drones for severe weather conditions.
|Model||Can Fly In Rain||IP Rating|
|Autel Evo 2||For a limited time||N/A|
|DJI Matrice 300||Yes||45|
|DJI Agras 16||For a limited time||53|
|DJI Mavic Air 2/ Pro 2||No||N/A|
|DJI Mini/ Mini 2||No||N/A|
|Xiaomi Fimi x8 SE 2020||No||N/A|
|Zino Mini Pro||No||N/A|
How can you find the IP rating for your drone?
You can find the IP rating in your drone’s manual or simply search Google for your specific model. It comes written as “IP” with two numerical digits coming after it.
What do the two digits stand for?
The first digit represents protection from dust and other solid elements, while the second represents protection against liquids.
If there’s no digit referring to any form of protection, there’ll be an “X” in the place of a number.
How does rain affect drones?
Though it’s possible to fly a drone in the rain, it’s not advisable. As a drone lover, you understand how a drone is precious and expensive hence not good to risk using it in the rain. Undoubtedly, rain affects drones putting them at high risk of causing malfunctions. How so?
The drone structure has several components, but the most sensitive are motor control, battery for long flights, and attitude control.
The parts have many holes and gaps that release the heat from inside to outside the drone. This drone structure makes it easy for the rain to enter, causing a battery and motor failure short circuit. As a result, the drone can come crashing down from the sky.
Even if you manage to land your drone safely without any immediate water damage, there’s a high possibility of issues later from the water contact. Besides, prolonged contact with water in electronics usually results in the device’s malfunction. So, don’t rest until you’re certain there’s no water inside the drone.
If the rain has stopped, you can fly your drone safely, but ensure it doesn’t take off or land near a puddle. Even the smallest pool can get your drone wet, causing a major breakdown.
The bottom line is to keep your drone away from water at all times.
Is there more to bad weather?
There’s so much more to bad weather than just rain. The rain often comes with strong wind and cooler temperatures in the winter and autumn seasons. Such conditions play a major role in warning unprotected aircraft from flying.
Let’s get deeper into the explanation.
Most drones weigh less than 5 pounds. Therefore, strong winds blowing over 15mph make flying very difficult even for an expert pilot. Besides, flying battling with the wind tends to drain the drone’s battery faster, which can lead to an abrupt landing.
Combining strong winds with cold temperatures can also cause serious damage to the drone. One reason for this is that a drone gets hotter when it’s operating. When this heat and cold temperature come together, condensation occurs inside the drone. As a result, this condensed water in dew droplets causes short circuits to damage the drone.
How to fly a drone in other weather conditions
As observed, it’s sometimes inevitable to avoid flying a drone in various severe weather conditions like snow, fog, strong winds, and solar storms. In such cases, here are ways to fly your drone without causing damage.
Flying in the snow: You can fly a drone in light snowfall because the snowflakes aren’t big. The propellers produce air that avoids contact between the flakes and the engine. But, a cold battery is a bigger risk. Ensure the drone’s battery has no exposure to the snowy and cold environment before you fly.
It would be best to store the drone in a warm, protected environment to prevent the battery from cooling down too much.
Flying in the fog: Fog isn’t any less dangerous than rain and snow. In this case, the mist condenses and humidifies the drone. The risks are similar to that of flying in a rain shower.
Flying in strong winds: Hovering drones stabilize and balance better. But, there’s also a limit because a drone can’t fly in big and heavy storms. Preferably, check your drone’s manual for specific guidelines about its capacities.
Read more about flying in windy conditions here »
Flying during a solar storm: A solar storm is bad weather like the rest. Extreme solar flares cause geomagnetic storms that affect the satellite signal’s reception quality. The measurement of a solar storm ranges from 1 to 10 in the Kepler index. Experts advise not to fly your drone if the solar storm reads more than 5Kp. This makes you lose the GPS signal and control of your drone.
How can you protect a drone from the rain?
There are two major ways of protecting your drone from flying in the rain without any risk. You can either buy a drone with in-built protection from water or use DIY waterproofing solutions on your drone.
Without a doubt, you understand how water, wind, and snow can have adverse effects on your drone. While not everyone can afford a waterproof drone, there are simple methods of converting your drone to a waterproof model.
How to waterproof your drone
If you want to fly a drone in the rain safely, ensure its IP rating is at least 3. However, some drones don’t have the information on IP rating, which makes you uncertain about whether they will handle any rain. What to do?
If you can’t get a waterproof drone, make a drone waterproof!
There are times that you can’t avoid using your drone in the rain. Still, you have no plans of getting a new drone anytime soon. Check out the below waterproofing methods for your drone for optimal results.
Apply a silicone layer on the mainboard
First, disassemble your entire drone. Use a thin silicone coating and brush it over the mainboard carefully not to cover ports and sensors. Remember that each drone model has a different way of taking it apart. It would be best to find a tutorial for your specific model and disassemble it properly.
Spray an anti-wear lubricant on the remaining electronic parts
This is a simple and hassle-free method for most drone pilots. All you have to do is remove the outer housing and spray the lubricant inside thoroughly. However, it’s not as effective as the silicone application method. The anti-corrosion lubricant works best on the sensitive board components.
Use a wetsuit for waterproofing
Instead of taking apart your drone, you can use a wetsuit. A wetsuit is an ideal way of sealing the drone’s cracks and gaps, making it waterproof from the rain.
However, the wetsuit method has a few cons. For instance;
- Finding a fitting and suitable wetsuit for your drone model can be a challenge.
- With a wetsuit, your drone becomes heavier, affecting battery life and flight speed.
- A wetsuit doesn’t protect the internal parts the way a silicone coating does.
Can you fly a DJI drone in the rain?
Typically, consumer DJI drones cannot fly in harsh weather conditions. The manufacturer establishes that these models of drones are specifically for leisure flying in suitable environments. The table above shows that DJI models like Agras and Matrice are the only industrial drones from DJI that are made to fly in the rain.
However, internet forums on drones have people claiming to fly their DJI drones in the rain successfully. Don’t risk your precious drone and try the same.
Let’s take an in-depth look at the performance of popular DJI models for better understanding.
Can a DJI Mini 2 drone fly in the rain?
The housing of a DJI Mini 2 drone is not watertight, hence it is unsuitable for flying in the rain. Rain droplets are likely to seep through and destroy the electronic components inside.
Most consumers prefer the DJI Mini 2 because of its light weight, and there’s no need to complete any registration. Aside from the 250 grams, it’s also compact, making it portable. Sadly, you won’t be able to use it in the rainy season.
Moreover, the Mini 2’s light weight can also be a problem when getting through strong winds. Water may not leak in easily, but it would be a shame to take the risk and ruin your drone.
Can a DJI Mavic 3 drone fly in the rain?
Flying your DJI Mavic Mavic 3 in the rain, fog, or snow can cause serious problems because it does not carry an IP rating, and is not protected against liquids.
However, DJI Mavic Mavic 3 is a perfect buy for hobbyists because of its impressive features. It has an excellent camera, durable battery life, and great security features. But you might want to think twice if you live in rainy or cold regions.
Typically, it doesn’t crack immediately after one flight in the rain. The wet electronic motor begins to rust with time, and condensation causes short circuits. This damages your drone’s ability to fly as well as the sensors.
Can a DJI Agras fly in the rain?
DJI Agras has an IP rating of 67, making it fly in the rain successfully. The main and sensitive parts have adequate protection against water, corrosion, and dust.
Furthermore, DJI Agras is an agricultural drone with a carbon fiber airframe. Remarkably, this drone can carry a maximum of 16 liters for spraying in the field.
The tough housing of DJI Agras can withstand unfavorable weather while handling its tasks without any issues.
However, keep in mind that a drone’s IP rating can fade eventually. It becomes hard to use DJI Agras in the rain when this happens.
Can a Spry drone fly in the rain?
The Spry Drone can take off in light showers like there’s nothing to stop it. It has a polycarbonate dome that encloses and protects the motors and the camera.
On the downside, the chassis’s weight makes the camera rest unsteadily on the horizontal axis, causing a less fluid video image. Though it’s possible, filming in the rain with the Spry is going to give less than professional results. This is because the raindrops tend to blur the images on the radio control screen.
Additionally, the drone is heavy but performs well. However, its weight makes it lose balance when it’s flying below 20 meters.
Overall, the Spry drone makes a good choice for light showers environments.
Does the law restrict flying a drone in the rain?
Generally, no law restricts flying a drone in the rain unless you fly using an unsafe method or in an unapproved area.
However, several guidelines state that before you fly any drone vulnerable to harsh weather, you should;
- Check to ensure the weather conditions are suitable for a safe flight.
- Check to confirm the drone’s condition in case of any damage.
- Ensure the battery has a full charge.
Also, some states issue flight permits to allow the use of drones. Moreover, you may require a special permit to use your drone in harsh weather conditions or densely populated areas.
Tips on how to fly a drone in the rain
Sometimes there’s nothing you can do about the weather, especially if it starts raining suddenly. But as a drone pilot, it would help to observe the sky and look for the slightest chance of rain before you go out.
Stay close to home.
If there’s rain in the forecast, you should fly your drone not far from home. This way, you can fly the drone quickly back home when it starts to rain and not risk water seeping inside the drone.
Dry out the battery
After reaching home and landing your drone safely, remove the battery immediately. You can’t assume that no water got in the drone. Therefore, removing the battery helps to see how wet your drone is. This allows you to think of the right approach to save the drone.
Replace a damaged battery
However, if just a drizzle got in the drone, remove the battery and leave it out to dry for some time. Sometimes, the best thing is to throw away the drone’s battery if it gets extremely wet to avoid further damage.
Dry out the drone
The most effective approach is removing the battery and leaving the drone outside for a while to dry. Once you’re sure it’s dry, you can try to turn on the drone.
Bear in mind that you’ll void the warranty once you open your drone.
Can lightning strike a drone?
Yes. Lightning can strike a drone when there’s an active thunderstorm, but the odds are rare. When it comes to an open environment under the clouds, the chances of lightning striking are even slimmer.
Flying a drone is fun, and the temptation is to keep flying it even with a massive storm coming your way and the rumblings in place. Besides, your drone has a good IP rating making it waterproof. So, what chance is there that lightning is likely to strike your drone?
Usually, when lightning strikes your drone, it can be hard to notice any change on the outside. Also, it probably won’t explode in the sky. However, don’t expect it to function anymore, and in most cases, it will be damaged beyond repair.
Therefore, consider the risks of putting your drone under a storm trying to get great storm footage.
What to expect when lightning strikes a drone?
With lightning, the effects are unpredictable, but the chances of a burnt drone due to lighting are not high.
Also, a drone doesn’t attract a lightning strike as much as an aircraft would. But if it’s in the path of lightning, the electric current passes through, damaging the drone.
Research in Manchester, UK, showed that lightning drone damage occurs narrowly on the plastic outer housing of the drone. But, unlike your imagination and expectation of a melted and twisted drone, the appearance is not as bad.
Still, the damage doesn’t affect all the internal components. In some cases, the battery and the camera don’t encounter any damage. But, other functional parts can be damaged beyond repair.
Some of the visibly damaged parts of a drone from a lightning strike include the plastic casing on the compass header and the printed circuit board for the compass. Generally, the whole compass module doesn’t escape the lightning wrath.
Read more about drones and lightning here »
Can you fly a drone over water?
Among the most panicky experiences for a drone pilot is flying an expensive drone over a water body. A drone crashing on the ground is something that it can recover from, unlike a crash in the sea.
However, flying a drone over water may be necessary, especially for experts who take beach photos. How can a drone pilot safely fly the drone over water even with all the risks involved?
Get drone water damage coverage
Typically, drone professional pilots own expensive drones. It would be best to get insurance for such drones to protect your drone when damage occurs.
The insurance covers any costs for repairing or replacing your drone in case of any type of damage. This is the best safety measure for your drone though it doesn’t come cheap.
However, note that most insurance policies require recovery of the damaged drone to make a claim. So, if it crashes in water, figure out retrieving options (which can be near impossible if it’s in the open ocean).
Check your drone before flight
The last place you want your drone to develop problems is over the water. So, before flying your drone over any water body, perform a pre-flight check over solid ground. The assessment includes hovering, maneuvers, ensuring correct home point, and checking GPS reception.
This should always be a routine check-up before flying your drone anywhere, even if flying over water requires more attention.
Look out for boats, waves, and sea spray
When it comes to flying over the water, it’s best to maintain high altitudes. While low altitude shots may look better, there’re high risks of a large wave wiping out the drone. Even if you can manage to dodge the waves, it’s hard to escape the almost invisible sea spray.
Furthermore, avoid flying near any type of boat. If you’re approaching a large obstacle such as a sea vessel, you should retrieve your drone immediately and fly to some other place.
In open water, altitude is very important to pay attention to. The ocean tends to disrupt altitude readings due to the regular pressure shifts from the strong tidal winds. Also, the shining sun can give a false depth perception as it reflects off the water.
Get a landing pad
Undeniably, beaches provide for excellent cinematic shots, providing the best use for good camera drones. But, the sand on the beaches is something that needs proper preparation.
Flying from bare sand is likely to damage the drone’s camera. How so?
The tiny sand particles can get into the small gimbal spaces and cause abrasion on the camera’s lenses. So, it would be best to carry a foldable landing pad for use on the beach.
Bad weather is something that a drone pilot cannot avoid at all times. Even if a drone pilot is diligent in checking weather reports, unpredictable weather elements are likely to happen eventually. So, a drone lover should always be ready for the worst.
From the above guide, it’s clear that drone lovers should take caution when flying in rain showers. Still, you have the option of waterproofing your drone. This allows you the pleasure of getting amazing footage while avoiding the mentioned risks.
Photo by shawnanggg on Unsplash