Drone weather: the pressures and pitfalls of flying for production in a Scottish climate – Oh the glamour of it all! We all know weather is a crucial factor when filming outdoors, but it becomes even more important when you are filming outside using a drone.
Countries such as Scotland have a plentiful stock of stunning backdrops and vistas round almost every corner but sadly our weather is notoriously temperamental. So with that in mind we look at when you shouldn’t fly your drone and how the weather can affect your drone.
Knowing about the weather may seem straight forward, but it isn’t as simple as checking out your window. This is especially true when flying a drone commercially on a production.
Forward plan so you don’t get caught out by the weather!
Time is money!
Out on location, you may be under any number of pressures to get the drone up in the air and to bank your shot. But before you risk doing something illegal or downright dangerous we will show you the steps you need to take before you take to the air.
In this next section we will share with you how the knowledge we have acquired from years of flying drones commercially. We will tell you when you should and shouldn’t fly your drone.
(1) Check the weather forecast!
You will need to interpret these predictions and make a sound judgement call. By doing this you can then advise your client that the day they’ve selected has a high probability of having adverse weather.
In Scotland, this is a real issue for commercial drone operators. No prediction is ever guaranteed but you can make an educated guess based on the level of humidity.
For example, if your website is below 50% chance of rain then it is possible to fly but expect showers with potential windows when you can safely fly.
In an ideal world, the perfect weather would be no wind, no rain and no laser sunlight. This means you won’t be wasting their time or risking your drone in adverse weather.
Rain can be deadly to a drone!
(2) Don’t fly in rain!
This might seem like a no-brainer but we’ve had experience of being on shoots with a director telling our drone pilot there was no “real” rain.
Light, heavy or torrential rain is still water, and electronics don’t mix well with water. Water can damage the electronics of the rig, which can lead to a catastrophic failure – imagine your drone failing mid-flight.
Even if you think your rig is waterproof it is still vulnerable to the ingress of rain on the electronics and therefore you run this real risk of disaster.
From a legal standpoint flying in rain would be considered reckless flying and will most likely void your insurance. Not good if your Vulcan Raven takes a nose dive from 200 feet.
If it’s raining there is a good chance you won’t get the shot due to water on the lens, which will obscure your visuals.
(3) Don’t get lost in the fog off!
Plain and simple don’t fly in the fog! Per the UK Drone Code you the drone pilot /spotter must maintain a constant line of sight with your drone.
Fog can easily and quickly obscure your line of sight and thus make your flight unsafe and illegal. But another important factor is that fog is moisture.
Fog can be just as dangerous as rain when it comes to your drone’s electronics. Drones are sophisticated bits of equipment and don’t fare well when wet.
You might get away with it on this shoot but you are at real risk of malfunction on the next.
Fog can easily obscure your line of sight
(4) Wind Speed: Know your Rig’s Limits
Do you have an Anemometer? If you don’t you need to get one, even if you are only planning to fly drones for as a hobby sport. Why is an anemometer so crucial? Well, the term is derived from the Greek word anemos, which means wind, and is used to describe any wind speed measurement instrument.
Therefore, in its modern form, it measures and gauges wind speed accurately, which is a vital bit of information every pilot needs to have a safe flight. Every rig built is rated for a certain wind speed. By having this device it eliminates the debate between a drone pilot and a director.
What may feel like a mild gust to your director can be enough of a wind to wreck havoc with your drone. For example, the Inspire 1 is rated for 17 mph winds max: if the wind is any higher the drone won’t be able to move properly.
Gusting winds will make it even harder to maintain a smooth shot. If you rig is being bounced around by the wind you are guaranteed not to capture gold and you won’t be asked back to fly for this production again.
(5) Deadly good weather!
The glorious sun is brilliant, isn’t it? Well, here’s the thing, it’s not always when you’re a drone pilot. Depending on where your shot is set up you might find yourself tracking the drone into the dazzling and blinding sunlight, which means you lose direct line of sight of your drone, see above, it ain’t legal.
Solar flare activity is something most pilots generally ignore but really shouldn’t. Why should you be concerned about solar flares? In short, they can render you GSP inoperable and cause a fly away or worse.
A solar flare occurs when magnetic energy that has built up in the social atmosphere is suddenly released. Radiation is emitted across virtually the entire electromagnetic spectrum from radio waves to x-rays and gamma rays.
The solar flare creates a magnetic pulse that can scramble your drone’s GPS in flight. The instability of terrestrial magnetism that follows a magnetic storm caused by solar flare activity, destabilises the orientation of the compass used on multi rotor drones.
I know this sounds complicated but to be more clear, when the solar activity causes a magnetic storm, the functionalities of your drone’s GPS could be at least disturbed, if not inoperative.
If the chance of a solar flare is above 5% you are entering very risky territory. If it is below 5% then no need to worry! There are plenty of websites where you can check the solar flare activity for the period you want to fly.
We would recommend if you are flying on a production not to risk it. Things can and do go wrong and if your rig has a fly away you need to ask yourself – are you properly prepared for that?
How will solar flare activity factor into your insurance liability?
When you fly dangerously you don’t only risk harming others but also destroying your rig and winding up in court.
As part of a drone operation it is up to you to ensure you make each flight as safe as possible. Make the right call at the right time and have a safe happy flight. No director will thank you if the rig is rendered in operable or you land on one of the cast or crew!
We hope you’ve found this blog helpful! Let us know what you think in the comments, tell us if we’ve missed something out. If you enjoyed this blog don’t forget to follow us on: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for you daily dose of media & drone chat!