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Winter FPV in cold, in snow and in sleet. Why stop flying when you can fly ? :D

#1
Hello guys and girls that are addicted to FPV.

I live up in Northern Sweden, in a small university town called Luleå. It is a coastal town and there is plenty of water everywhere. So i started flying (teached myself how to fly with a quad first) with a Sky Scout and learned how to fly on a frozen lake. Why the lake ? Because its just 5 min walk from my house. So easy. Just take the plane in one hand and the TX in the other and walk to the lake and fly. It all started with my sky scout that i purchased in 2014. I purchased a FPV kit for it consisting of a fatshark predator with camera and 250 mW fatshark (immersion) tx. I purhcased cloverleafs for it. That was all i had. And one 2200 mah battery and a 850 mah FPV battery. I flew from january to april alone on the lake with that plane (in temperatures from 0 degrees Celsius to -20 Celsius) and never really had any issues with anything. I did nothing special with the plane or the goggels. I just charged the batteries and flew. Nothing broke. I just kept flying during lunch breaks every day.

In january 2015 my fleet consisted of a hk Atom, a HK mini swift, a sky scout and a small hubsan x4 quad. I purchased a popwing 900 mm also and a mobius. Then i purchased a sky mule and a go pro to mount on top of it. I also reluctantly purchased a HK skipper. I soon switched to flying only the skymule and skipper. Skipper more than anything. Flies very well even in windy conditions. Now i also have a Mini Talon and a heavily modified VAS Spectre (this i finnished today) the modification consist of removing the tail and the elevator so its only a flying wing with forward swept wing like the Rightwing Drakk only smaller.

Ok so now to the winter conditions.
All my modoles except the Hitec Sky Scout are purchased from HK. All my batteries are from HK also. All my FPV gear is from HK too. Its all fatshark.

So what have i learned ?
If you fly barehanded (which i do winter or summer) a muff for the transmitter can be nice. Altough i flown and still fly barehanded down to -15 Celsius. But i have a really good parkas and am fully clothed otherwise :). Note that handlaunching if you have a muff is very difficult so you need a model that can start from ground or some other way to launch it since you want your hands on the sticks when launching. And it can be cumbersome to get them in fast enough.

Temperatures: from 0 Celsius degrees down to -26 Celsius degrees. I will only talk about winter here.
Batteries: I noticed that batteries dont handle the cold very well. Particulary small batteries need to be kept warm before flying. If they are not warm they cant deliver enough "juice" to fly. They actually get warmer in flight. My popwing 900 mm flies with a 1300 mAh battery. And it had really trouble climbing and sounded strange and weak until i flown it for about a minute on full trottle then the battery was warm enough to deliver full power to the engine. This was at minus -15 C and the battery was at -15 C also prior to flight.
In -25 C i have flown HK skipper with 2200 mAh battery, original skipper servos and fatshark 600TVL and fatshark 250mW vtx and frsky D8R2 receiver and a taranis transmitter with transmitter muff covering the whole transmitter.
The muff is great but the "window" where you see all buttons and the tx screen gets frost on it so you wont see whats happening inside the muff. So make sure you have all setup before you go out so you dont need to take the tx out from the muff.

Planes tested in winter:
Skymule, sky scout, mini talon, skipper, hk mini swift, popwing 900 mm, hk atom. HK atom and mini swift have so small batteries so the cold really is a issue for them. This problem also manifests itself for the popwing. The others that have 2200 mAh and up dont seem to have problem with cold because of battery being to cold.
Suggested mods for any plane you want to fly wintertime:
1) Dont mod servos dont remove any greas or anything from them. It is not worth it. None of my planes have had trouble in cold not even in -25Celsius. All the servos are 9g servos.
2) Close all "orifaces" you dont want anything open that can pack snow into the plane if you crash or land in pouder. You will fill the whole fuselage and all the equipment with snow. I have done this several times before i decided that its cold. The cooling from "holes" here and there on the fuselage is not needed. Skipper has a 50A esk and no cooling wents what so ever. So why does skymule have to have so many ventilation holes ? Why does sky scout have them ? They are not needed for winter flight. Just use some tape and tape them shut. Close all holes.
3) If you want to fly with a muff on. You might want to either have a model that can launch from snow with skis or that can be launced using a bungy launcher. Skipper excells here to. It is made for landing on water so it has no openings. It handels snow perfectly and is very sturdy and easy to repair if it breaks in a crash. If you add a "towrelease" to the tail of the plane you can attach a string to the tow release and a ice screw to hold it. So you will be able to release the bunge with a flip of a switch on your tx ! So you can fly with gloves and muff on even if your model has no skis. In this case you can also wear the FPV goggels for launch.

Problems noted on my planes:
Skymule: skis break very easy. So once the snow turns to ice switch to wheels ! Else you just break the brittle ski mounts. The actual ski doesnt break but its the attachment where you attach it to the metal thing on the plane. So even if you break the skis you can mount the wheels. Now i have 2 sets of skis. 1 set with broken "ski attachments" and one fully funktional set. On the small planes with 200-350 mAh 2S batteries the temperature should not be below -5C else you cant fly. As stated before, close up all ventilation holes to keep things warm and keep the snow out. Crappy propps become brittle in cold. Most notably the prop on hk atom was very brittle in cold where as the HK mini swift folding propp was not. Atleast i have never broken one. HK Skipper original propp was brittle too. You can fly it but if you touch some shrub with it upon landing then its ex prop. I now fly a apc 6x6 on skipper and a 2836 EFX motor and esc.

Problems noted on my cameras in wintertime:
Mobius dies very quickly due to cold. Taping the sides of the mobius where the "groove" is eleviates this problem a bit. But best is if you power it from your plane.
Go pro dies also but not so quickly as mobius in cold. Works pretty good if you have it connected to power or in its hermetically sealed case.
Snowing when its -5 Celsius or colder. No problem since the snow does not attach to the FPV camera lens, mobius or go pro lens.
Snowing when its around 0 Celsius (sleet, wet snow) is a problem for all cameras since the watery snow attaches to the lens and depending on flight speed and temperature will freeze to the lens. So it can quickly become totaly unflyable even tho the snow itself is not that bad. It is the fact that the half melted snow lands on the lens and then if your unlucky freezes. If it just is water then its not so bad. But unless you have a APM that you can switch to if you lose video unless your at range where LOS is option then i dont recomend you fly in these conditions. Ice will also possibly form on the plane. Watery snow lands on the fuselage and wings and creates a crusty layer. This has happend and in my case it didnt disturb the servo functionality.

Goggels:
My Fatshark Predator V1 goggels i have modified by removing the eye cups from it. I noticed my goggels fogged up when flying wintertime using the cups. This happend already at -15C so i crashed. I dont remember having this problem last year. But this year i did. I have also swapped the original battery for a 1300 mAh zippy 3S that i have taped to the goggels. It works fine. I wear the goggels around my neck when i dont have them on my eyes so i can zip them into my jacked it if want. I fly 5.8 GHz mostly.

Groundstation protection: plastic bag covering the whole groundstation to protect it from snow and rain. I have flown in rain and snow. The radio is protected by the muff and the planes are usually very well "sealed" against the elements so the weak spot is the groundsation. My groundstation consists only of a 1.3 receiver a 5.8 transmitter and a 2700 mAh 3S battery. So it fits in a small space. I have mounted it on piece of plywood that i keep in my hunting backpack it slides into one of the thermos pockets and the antenna sticks out (A cloverleaf) and i put a plastic bag over that and everything is protected. I use the 5.8 transmitter so i never need to have anything else but 5.8 GHz on my goggels.

Other:
I use timer to keep track of how long i have flown. Before i used a eggtimer. Now i have it set up on a switch on my taranis. So every model has trottle hold. When i release trottle hold the timer starts. When i put trottle hold on again the timer stops and i have the radio to tell me how many minutes i flown in one minute intervalls. On models with OSD i use that instead. Now i have OSD on Talon, Skymule and Spectre. I fly 2200 on my Skipper and i use about 1600 mah of it in 7 min flight.

Anyhow please ask if you have any questions about winter flying i have probably forgotten to write something that i always do and hence not even think of it. Well yes. Try not to put transmitter or full batteries directly on the ground or in the snow. I always have them in the backpack or on the backpack. Snow is not fun to get radio or in your goggels. A back pack with built in folding chair (very popular for hunters in nordic countries) i use it for all my FPV gear.

Why stop flying in winter ?

Best regards
Carolus Rex
 
#2
I fly all winter long in Minnesota, all the way down to -20F. No gloves or muffs. I don't use FPV so the info on that is new.
 
#3
I fly all winter long in Minnesota, all the way down to -20F. No gloves or muffs. I don't use FPV so the info on that is new.
Hello bob, that was prettyhardcore. You have no gloves in -20F ? I worked and lived in Minnesota in St Paul and there it was most often windy regardless how cold it was. So going no gloves there was certainly no option :)

Anyhow most people that hang out at the RC flight club (In Luleå Sweden) dont fly at all during winter time. Infact the whole club house etc is closed and the runway full of snow. So i have to give you a high five for flying in winter :)