How to Fly FPV Drone in the Winter – Tips for the Chilly Skies

by Oscar

Flying FPV drones in the winter presents unique challenges, both for the pilot and the aircraft. Low temperatures can even lead to such profanity as “nice weather for flying, but it’s too cold to go outside!” As someone who’s been flying in the winter for over a decade, I’d like to share some practical tips to help you and your RC models survive those freezing winter FPV sessions.

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Further Reading: Here’s a list of useful tools and spare for building and repairing FPV drones.

Battery Performance in Cold Weather

Cold temperatures have a significant impact on battery performance. While they prevent components from overheating and make the denser air more efficient for propellers, they can cause batteries to perform poorly. This is especially true for LiPo and Li-ion batteries, which operate best at around 35°C (95°F). Below 18°C (64°F), you’ll notice a marked decrease in power and shorter flight times.

Keeping batteries warm before and during flights is essential. Spare batteries in your pocket and used LiPos as hand warmers are practical solutions. During flight, constant amp draw from the drone will help the battery maintain its temperature.

To prove this theory, I conducted an experiment at around 10°C. I flew my drone around a race course multiple times and recorded the maximum output power of the battery. As evident from the graph, the maximum output power gradually builds up, peaking mid-flight as the battery warms up, but then slowly declines as the battery charge depletes.

In fact, the same principle applies to any battery typically used in any electronic devices, including those used in the GoPro cameras. They won’t last as long in the cold either. Normally, you might get 10 flights from a battery, but in winter, this might drop to only 7 flights before it shuts down. A useful trick is to have multiple spare batteries and rotate them for each flight. Placing them in a warm spot (e.g. your pocket) before inserting into the GoPro can significantly boost run time. Special GoPro batteries designed for cold temperatures are also available.


Handling Transmitters in the Cold

transmitter-rc-tx-glove-muff-hood

Cold weather affects your dexterity, making your fingers stiff and numb, and harder to control your drone smoothly. Radio gloves have been my go-to solutions for keeping my fingers warm and nimble.

This transmitter glove I’ve been using for years covers the radio and your hands, while allowing a clear view of the screen. Highly Recommended! Get them here:

It’s suitable for various full-size transmitters, including the Radiomaster TX16S, Boxer, Zorro, Pocket, Jumper T20S and T-Lite. However, be mindful of the plastic cover collapsing and interfering with your controls, I simply use some cardboard inserts to hold up the cover.

transmitter-rc-tx-glove-muff-hood-taranis


Disposable Hand Warmers

Get your disposable hand warmers here, Amazon: https://amzn.to/3VRawtP.

Priced at just $1 a pack, with each pack lasting about 8 hours (tested and confirmed), these are likely the most cost-effective way to keep warm for those who don’t fly often. How warm are they? They feel slightly warmer than a LiPo after an intense flight on a 5″ FPV drone, but not so warm as to burn your hands.

These disposable hand warmers resemble oversized tea bags and are incredibly easy to use. Simply take them out of the package, and they start to warm up within a few minutes.

Ideal not just for FPV, these hand warmers are also great for outdoor walks in the cold. I especially like placing one inside my transmitter glove and pocket for exceptional warmth, a bit like a cup of Irish coffee but for your hands :D


Rechargeable Hand Warmer

Rechargeable Hand Warmer 10000mah Usb Winter Cold Fpv Get your rechargeable hand warmer here:

For frequent flyers in winter, a rechargeable hand warmer can be a cost-saving investment. Some models double as power banks, capable of recharging your GoPro and smartphone in the field, which is quite convenient. They can also be used to warm up your battery.

You can place these hand warmers in the palms of fingerless gloves to prevent your fingertips from freezing. However, it’s important to choose hand warmers that are thin enough to fit comfortably inside the gloves.

Flying From Inside the Car

One way to stay warm while flying FPV drones in winter is to do it from inside your car with the heater on.

However, be aware that flying from inside the car can weaken the signal. You might manage if you stay within a relatively close range. It’s advisable to fly cautiously at first to assess the reduction in range and adapt accordingly.

If you aim to fly with a decent range, a workaround is to extend the antennas or use external receivers, placing them on the roof of the car.

For instance, you can use an SMA extension cable with a magnetic base for your radio transmitter. These cables are suitable for both 900MHz (Crossfire & ExpressLRS) and 2.4GHz systems (ExpressLRS, Ghost, Frsky). Keep in mind, though, that a long coaxial cable can also lead to signal loss. Alternatively, consider mounting the transmitter module outside the car, although this can be more complex.

Purchase an SMA Extender with magnetic base (3 meters):

For the video link, you can mount an external receiver on top of your car and connect it to your goggles with a long AV cable. The FuriousFPV Dock-King was a preferred choice due to its built-in magnet that adheres to metal, but it’s no longer in production. Alternatively, you can DIY something like I did here and get it 3D printed.


Goggle Fogging Up

FPV goggles can steam up in winter due to temperature differences. I’ve found pre-warming them before use, such as placing them on your forehead or just leave them plugged in for 10 minutes, can help.


Flying at Night

Days grow shorter in the winter, for people with a 9-to-5 job might miss the opportunity to fly during the day. You could however fly FPV at night with a good low light capable camera. Check out this article where I explain how to fly at night, and compared a few great FPV cameras for night flying. The cameras I tested in that post might be a little outdated, to update you on the latest cameras that do well in low light.

For DJI, the Caddx Polar and Runcam Wasp are the best:

Find the Caddx Polar from these vendors:

Get the Runcam Wasp here:

For Walksnail, the Avatar Pro is the best:

For analog, the best night cam is the Foxeer Micro CAT 3:

If you need a Nano size camera for night time flying, the Toothless 2 Nano starlight is a pretty good choice. Make sure to get the Starlight version for low light though. Buy Foxeer Toothless 2 Nano Starlight:


Things Break More Easily

Cold temperatures make plastic parts like propellers and TPU more brittle, tape and glue can also lose stickiness, increasing the likelihood of breakage. Spare parts are essential.

Nylon prop locknut doesn’t work well in the winter…


FPV Simulators

Too cold outside? FPV simulators are great for practicing indoors.

There are now so many options when it comes to FPV sim, with tons of tracks and maps you can practice on. They will keep you entertained and motivated for a long time before you get bored.

Check out our review on all the popular FPV simulator options.

Flying in the Living Room

You can get a tiny whoop and fly in the house, they are tiny and fun (until you fly it into your wife’s hair)! If you are wondering which Tiny Whoops to get, check out my tiny whoop buyer’s guide which I explain all the popular options and related accessories.

Conformal Coating and Waterproofing

Waterproofing your electronics is crucial not only for flying over water but also for protecting against extra moisture and water droplets in the air and on grass during winter. It’s essential to keep your model dry after each flight session.

As a good practice, place everything in a bag before bringing it indoors. Ensure the bag is closed to retain the cold, dry air inside. This prevents condensation on your electronics from indoor warm, moist air. Once everything warms up to room temperature, you can remove them from the bag.

In my opinion, the best way to prevent moisture is to waterproof the electronics through conformal coating. This isn’t necessary for the motors, as they won’t short circuit when wet. However, consider applying conformal coating to your flight controller, ESC, video transmitter, receiver, and possibly your FPV camera. Be cautious when applying the coating; avoid getting it on buttons, USB connectors, barometers, and camera image sensors, as it can damage these components.

Here’s my tutorial on waterproofing FPV components.

Remember, many electronic components can stop working or even burn out upon contact with water, especially salt water, which is more electrically conductive than fresh water. Waterproofing can protect your components when flying or crashing in wet environments.

Also, bringing a landing mat can be a simple yet effective solution to keep your drone clean and dry. Be mindful of where you land – avoid puddles, mud, and snow as much as possible.

Get A Discharger

Taking care of your LiPo batteries is essential, even when not flying.

If you’re not planning to fly for an extended period (e.g., a month or longer), store all your batteries in a fireproof container and ensure they are discharged to around 3.8V and 3.85V (the storage voltage) to maximize their lifespan.

If you have fully charged batteries left after a session, use a discharger to bring them back to storage voltage conveniently.

How to Discharge LiPo Batteries?

Conclusion: Winter Does Not Mean Taking a Break from FPV!

Flying FPV drones in winter is an exhilarating experience that presents unique challenges. By preparing your equipment, understanding the environmental effects, and adjusting your flying techniques, you can enjoy safe and memorable flights. Remember, winter flying might reduce your drone’s efficiency, but the scenic beauty and the crisp air can make your flights incredibly rewarding. Stay warm, stay safe, and make the most of the quieter skies during the winter season.

Edit History

  • Nov 2015 – Article created
  • Dec 2017 – Added info about  LiPo performance, Waterproofing, FPV simulator, and heat pack
  • Nov 2018 – Added info about “flying from inside the car”, updated article
  • Jan 2020 – Updated
  • Jan 2021 – Updated
  • Dec 2022 – Updated, shortened URL
  • Dec 2023 – Updated article and product links

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18 comments

Roadwarriorslive 3rd March 2024 - 5:31 pm

Thanks for doing an update to an old article. Really helpful with updated links. THANK YOU

Reply
Filipe 10th December 2023 - 11:14 pm

“until you fly it into your wife’s hair” is SO true 😂

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Graham 4th October 2022 - 9:36 pm

Great insight yet again

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Luis 15th January 2021 - 9:26 pm

Good article as always Oscar. Is it ok to leave the lipos all together in the same lipo bag, in 3.8V, in the super could garage (about 2C/35F)?

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Oscar 7th February 2021 - 8:25 pm

Sounds okay to me. But if you have more lipo bags, separating them in as many piles as you can is always a good idea :)

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Luke skywalker 29th January 2020 - 9:48 pm

Good article,

You don’t need a video Rx outside at all, just the antenna of it outside.
The same type of magnetic SMA extension cable will work on your Goggle vRx with antenna on top of your car roof.

Reply
Emmanuel 5th April 2019 - 11:48 pm

Hi,
I wish to use corrosion X HD to waterproof my fpv camera ( Eachine TX02 NTSC Super Mini AIO 5.8G ). It will be easier than using conformal coating !!

Corrosion X have an oily texture !! If my camera falls in the sand or dust how do I proceed to clean my camera !!

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Neff Ramos 5th December 2018 - 4:20 am

Oscar, can one use the sma extender in series with antenna of goggles? I have basic box type goggles that does not have diversity capability.

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Ryan Monaghan 25th November 2018 - 7:21 am

You can also heat your TX from the inside-> instagram.com/p/BpAOXtZnXuA/

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Oscar 8th December 2018 - 2:36 pm

I came across this idea 2-3 years ago, I’d have done this if it wasn’t the product was out of stock :) But now I am thinking I only get to use it for 2-3 months a year it’s too much work :D

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Fraser Steen 23rd November 2018 - 12:41 pm

I took a piece of bbq skewer in the lanyard holders of the taranis to create a tent in my tx mitten and keep it away from my fingers.

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Oscar 8th December 2018 - 2:15 pm

What a good idea!

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Thomas 26th February 2018 - 2:59 pm

I use the hobbyking heater together with a transmitter glove. Cosy warm!
Do NOT use it with 3S. It says it works but it starts to melt. 2S is fine. I suggest to use 3000mAh 2S Lipos.
I used to use a 1200mAh FPV Pack at first but it is empty way too quick.

Link: hobbyking.com/de_de/hobbyking-universal-heater-system.html

Reply
Thomas Gabriel 12th November 2018 - 8:00 am

I use it too and I second the warning. Only use 2S. It will melt on oyu on 3S!

I am a RC helicopter pilot mainly. The stress on the 12 S packs is comparable as it is on racing quads. I use a custom built heating suitcase to prewarm my lipos. Once they are cozy warm you can fly at any temperature because once they are under load they will not cool down anymore in flight.

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KuzyaTron 5th December 2017 - 4:46 pm

How well does flying from inside your car work¿

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Maxime 10th November 2015 - 1:37 pm

Hi Oscar,
Another very cheap solution to keep hands warm is to buy first price polar gloves and to cut half of the thumbs. It is perfect for mid-season temperatures.

Maxime

Reply
Oscar 11th November 2015 - 1:11 pm

Yes very true :) that would be a quick and cheap solution too :)

Reply
Peter 7th November 2018 - 1:29 pm

I use shooting gloves which have a detachable thumb and index finger. Means that they work as proper gloves til you’re ready to fly. SealSkinz make some.

Reply