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Cold Weather Flying/Snow Flying

#1
Hi everyone!

With winter upon us, I was curious about using electric RC planes in the cold. This will be my first winter flying them, and I figured there must be some precautions and pointers that some more experienced pilots would know. A couple of questions come to mind:

1.) First off, the cold. I know that cold can make it hard to operate electronics and can also minimize battery life. Will this be the case with electric RC planes and LiPo batteries? Is there a temperature below which I shouldn't fly? Where I live, it can get down to -40 F, which I sort of imagine would be hard on the planes. Then again, I'm always surprised by what these things can do! As a side note, where I live has extremely low humidity, so it's a dry cold I'm usually dealing with. Is it okay to take a LiPo battery right out of a warm climate (car or house) and fly it in freezing temperatures?

2.) Snow. I know that skis can be bought and I've seen the FT guys flying off and back onto snow strips, so I know this is a plausible option. My question is this: do I have to worry about getting it into the airplane electronics? Specifically, I have a Storch and a Scout flying right now, both of which have the power-pod mounted motor out front. Do I need to keep that motor out of the snow? It seems like snow and electric motors might be a bad combo, but that certainly makes those landings a lot harder if I have to be sure the motor doesn't touch the cold white stuff.

I have built my planes out of the new water resistant board, so I'm hoping that would prevent the snowmelt from destroying any surfaces. Does anybody have any other suggestions for a guy who wants to fly through a winter while living high in the mountains?
 

AkimboGlueGuns

Biplane Guy
Mentor
#2
Try your best to keep snow out of the sensitive electronics (ESC and receiver) your servos and motor should be fine unless you let the snow melt while still attached to those components. You may want to look at water proofing your servos if this becomes a concern. Your batteries won't last as long and you won't get as much punch out of them, but they do still work. Be prepared for shorter flight times with potentially lack luster performance. Shock cooling probably isn't the best thing you could do to a LiPo, but I don't think it'll cause any serious damage. You'll also probably want to invest in a transmitter mitt as your hands will get very cold out in the open.
 
#3
I have seen those transmitter mitts on youtube, I'll have to look into one!

I'm not a highly skilled pilot yet, so I imagine this winter a little less punch in the batteries won't affect me too badly. I'll make sure to clear any snow off as soon after landing as possible, especially off of those servos and the motor. Maybe I'll even waterproof a little, I'll see how it goes.

Are gas planes better for the cold weather? I mean, I know there is a whole realm of complications that come along with them, but do gas planes start up and run in freezing conditions? I remember flying some control line planes with glow plugs about 20 years ago, and we did that in the winter on occasion. We were mainly just limited by getting the glow plugs warm initially, but after that they flew pretty well!
 
#10
Haha, Andre your pics and videos serve as both inspiration and a warning! It looks like you have been flying in the conditions that I am anticipating for quite a while! Thank you for all of the posts!!

I definitely considered some water planes for taking off of the snow as well, it seems to make some sense.

I have been looking at skis to buy, but also considered maybe making some. Has anybody successfully made functioning skis?
 

Andre

Fly yes... land no.
Admin
#11
Yeah after the EFX thing which I did give myself a minor case of frost bite with I started to fly with my TX mitt.

Skis, float style planes, high wings are all great.
Heck I've been flying my Arrow since February of this year.

Options are limitless but just take precautions to avoid issues. :)
 
#12
Here's another question: I found a pair of shooting gloves that seem to be sensitive enough in the fingertips and thumbs to use for cold weather flying (I was just out there freezing my fingers off, so came home to look for a remedy!). Is a Tx mitt primarily for keeping your hands warm, or does it serve to protect the Tx as well? Would a good pair of gloves be sufficient?
 

Hai-Lee

Old and Bold RC PILOT
#13
You can make your own skis out of almost anything. The main features are an upturned toe , a long flat bottom, (Possibly with a very small spine or keel), and a vertical centre rib/support through which you fit the undercarriage axle.

The centre of gravity of the ski should be well behind the axle so that the heel droops in flight and the ski heel can then have the droop limited using rubber bands, fishing line, or similar, tied back to the undercarriage leg near the fuselage..

Just make sure that you have enough ski area to support the weight of the plane on the snow and that you do not make them either too wide or too narrow. Whatever looks good normally works.
 

Andre

Fly yes... land no.
Admin
#14
Here's another question: I found a pair of shooting gloves that seem to be sensitive enough in the fingertips and thumbs to use for cold weather flying (I was just out there freezing my fingers off, so came home to look for a remedy!). Is a Tx mitt primarily for keeping your hands warm, or does it serve to protect the Tx as well? Would a good pair of gloves be sufficient?
The Mitt also protects the radio yes. Handy for when you put it down on the ground and so on.
After October it is always on hand.
 

Andre

Fly yes... land no.
Admin
#15
I've done skis out of foam board and pop bottle plastic before.
They sort of work but never found hot glue effective between the two surfaces.

Experiment and see what works in your environment.
 
#16
I poped into this thread hoping someone had tried the Otter on snow. I couldent hope for better than FTs unofficial expert on flying off the snow, Andre of the great north! I've had my eye out for a snow plane since last winter and when the Otter was released I thought it looked perfect. I plan to set it up for FPV, maybe even a closed canopy. I spent last winter cutting flights short because of cold hands and digging out belly landers before anything melted. I think I can improve on that whole situation. So Andre , run into any issues with the snow-Otter? Also B pack or C pack? Thanks for all your good work man, stay warm
 

PsyBorg

Wake up! Time to fly!
#17
I made a winter box out of foam board and primed it just before winter ended last year. Never got to test it as it had not gotten cold or wet enough to worry about. Maybe this year it will see some use. Just made the box shape and had the flat bottom fold like a hinge then a tab that wrapped around the side wall with Velcro to keep it sealed. I cut the window out of a clear plastic container that had blueberries in it and just hot glued that it. then I have a pair of thin leather driving gloves or a set of fingerless weight lifting gloves that can be used inside the box to keep the hands warm.

As an after thought just now.. Rubber bands would probably work better to keep it closed but still allow enough of an opening to get your hands in and out easier.

Rdiobox 1.jpg

Radiobox 2.jpg
 
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Andre

Fly yes... land no.
Admin
#18
On batteries.
To keep them happy I do the following on really cold day I heat up gel packs.
IMG_2021.JPG IMG_2025.JPG

Also reduce your run times and expect sluggish response times from the power system, servos and operator fingers ;)
 

Andre

Fly yes... land no.
Admin
#19
I poped into this thread hoping someone had tried the Otter on snow. I couldent hope for better than FTs unofficial expert on flying off the snow, Andre of the great north! I've had my eye out for a snow plane since last winter and when the Otter was released I thought it looked perfect. I plan to set it up for FPV, maybe even a closed canopy. I spent last winter cutting flights short because of cold hands and digging out belly landers before anything melted. I think I can improve on that whole situation. So Andre , run into any issues with the snow-Otter? Also B pack or C pack? Thanks for all your good work man, stay warm
That Otter is my Dad's he is running a 2830-11 1000KV with a 9" prop.
I'll do running mine on the C Pack.

The only real issue on that day was the plane sticking to the wet snow and grey sky.
I might have to try mine in FPV mode as well.
 
#20
Andre, I really like the idea of a battery box that stays warm. I just got rid of a cooler about that size, I'll have to get another and rig it up for the upcoming cold. It was -4 F this morning... I better get my Tx glove ordered :p