Flying FPV in the winter can be hard on RC pilots and models. Low temperatures can even lead to such profanity as “nice weather for flying, but it’s too cold to go out there!” Here are a few tips that can help you and your drones survive those winter FPV sessions.
Further Reading: For other useful tools and spare for mini quads.
Freezing Temperature = Bad Performance?
Is cold temperature better for your quad because the motors and battery are less likely to overheat, and the denser air can help propellers to work more efficiently? Yes, it’s true, but the cold can also be very bad for LiPo battery performance.
In a nutshell, the chemical reaction inside batteries can be greatly affected by temperature. For LiPo batteries in particular, they perform the best at around 35°C (95°F). Below 18°C/64°F the performance starts to decrease noticeably with much less power and possibly shorter flight times.
You will also find voltage sag much worse in the winter, and it can actually feel like you are using a really old battery pack (or with low discharge rate).
In an experiment I performed, I flew my drone around a race course multiple times and recorded the maximum output power of the battery. As you can see from the graph, the output power slowly built up and reached maximum in the middle of the flight as it warmed up, then decreases as the battery charge depletes.
Therefore, when flying in the cold, it’s always a good idea to put your next battery in your pocket to warm up before flight. And your used LiPo can be a great hand warmer too! :)
Don’t forget the colder and denser air will also have an effect on your model’s performance too.
RC Transmitter Glove/Hood – No More Cold Hand
It’s hard to fly smoothly with frozen, numb fingers. I’ve been using this transmitter glove for years and it’s been the most effective way to keep my hands warm even on a windy cold day.
Highly Recommended! ★★★★★ (5/5)
This transmitter glove goes over the radio and your hands to keep you snug and cosy. It also does a good job preventing cold wind getting in. The transparent plastic still allows you to see what’s on the screen perfectly well.
This one I tried is big enough to house most transmitters out there. The Jumper T16, Radiomaster TX16S, Taranis X9D-Plus, QX7 (QX7S) and the Spektrum DX6 all fit perfectly.
Where to Buy
- Banggood: http://bit.ly/2D5Bjxp ($11, Orange)
- Banggood: http://bit.ly/2F5CeAA ($10, Black)
- Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Qkv24z (affiliate links)
I am pretty sure I would complain more about having frostbite, but the plastic cover sometimes “collapses” and interfere with the fingers holding the sticks, to avoid that I just use some cardboard inserts to keep the cover away from the hands.
Hand Warmers – Keeping the Pilot Warm
Recommended! ★★★★☆ (4/5)
Just $1 a pack and each pack lasts about 10 hours (tested and confirmed!). How warm are they? Well, I’d say they feels like a LiPo after an intense flight on a mini quad.
These hand warmers look like very large tea bag, very easy to use, take it out of the package and it will begin to warm up after a few minutes.
These are handy to have whenever you are taking a walk outside in the cold, not only for FPV flights of course :) But I really like putting one of these inside my transmitter glove and pocket which works exceptionally well, a bit like an Irish coffee for your hands :D
- Amazon (US): http://amzn.to/2BN1YvZ (affiliate links)
- Amazon (UK): https://amzn.to/2RaRHkh (affiliate links)
Flying From Inside the Car
One way to keep yourself warm when flying in the winter is to do it from inside the car and turn on the heater :D
However, you probably can’t just use the same gear. When flying from inside the car, your signals will be blocked. You have to extend your antennas or use external receivers and place them outside of the car.
For example, you could use an SMA extension cable with a magnetic base for your radio transmitter. These extension cables work for 900MHz (Crossfire & R9M) and 2.4GHz.
Buy SMA Extender with magnetic base: https://amzn.to/2RCYAdR (affiliate links)
For video link, you could put an external receiver on top of your car, and connect it to your goggles with a long AV cable. The FuriousFPV Dock-King is a good option because it has built-in magnet that will stick to metal.
Buy Dock-King: http://bit.ly/dock-king
FPV Goggles Fogging Up
The displays in the goggles tend to steam up in the winter due to temperature differences. I’ve found if you keep them in a warm place before use, such as on your forehead, or just leave them plug in for 10 minutes, can help a lot.
Flying at Night
Days grow shorter in the winter, for people with a 9-to-5 job might miss the opportunity to fly in day light. You could however fly FPV at night with a good low light capable camera.
Check out this article where we explain how to fly at night, and compared a few great FPV cameras for night flying.
Things Can Break More Easily – Get Spare!
Prepare to break more propellers, and just stuff in general. Material can become more brittle/fragile in the cold, and tape and glue can also lose stickiness. Things like durable props and TPU parts might be indestructible in the summer, but they can be destroyed much easier when they hit something in the winter.
Maybe you are sick of flying outside in the cold, why not just stay warm and comfy at home, and fire up the FPV flight simulator?
There are now so many options with a tons of tracks and maps you can practice on. They will last a long time before you get bored.
Flying in Living Room
You could get a micro quad and fly in your living room, these things are tiny and fun! If you want to know what Tiny Whoops are popular at the moment, check out my “best Tiny Whoop shoot out“.
Beware of Moisture
Extra moisture in the air and on grass will get into your model. After every flight make sure you dry the model thoroughly.
As a good practice, put everything in a bag before you bring them inside, close the bag up so it still has the cold dry air in the bag. This will prevent condensation on your electronics from the indoor warm moist air. When everything is warmed up to room temperature you can take them out of the bag.
Anyway, the best way in my opinion to prevent moisture is waterproofing the electronics. This is a must if you plan to fly in the snow or rain.
Many electronic parts are likely to stop working and burn out if they come into contact with moisture, especially salt water which is more electrically conductive than fresh water.
Waterproofing can really help to protect your components when you are flying (or crashing) in a wet environment. Here is my tutorial on waterproofing FPV components.
- Servos – open up the housing and spray inside all of the components with Corrosion X HD
- ESC – use Epoxy to seal the ESC inside heatshrink, hot glue will not work because it doesn’t stick well
You still have a job to do even if you are not flying at all – look after your LiPo batteries!
If you are not planning to fly for a long time, you should store all your batteries in a fireproof container/place, and make sure they are discharged to 3.8V (the storage voltage) to maximize their lifespan.
- 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