Are you wondering how much wind a drone can tolerate? Can drones fly in strong winds without any issue? If yes, what are the conditions that make them fly in windy situations? Luckily you’ve come to the right place because you’ll find all of the answers here!
Drones can fly in strong winds but it depends on various factors such as the specifications of the drones and the speed of the wind. Moreover, the speed of the wind should be two-thirds of the total speed of the drone.
That is just a general rule of thumb that you should be aware of. There's definitely a lot more to learn when it comes to knowing whether a drone can fly in strong winds. In this article, I have explained the effect of wind on the flight of drones.
As mentioned earlier, the drone's flight in windy situations mostly depends upon its specification. Most drones are equipped with brushless motors that enable the drone to fly at high speeds.
Now, if the wind speed is less than two-thirds of the drone’s speed, it will have no problem flying in such a situation. However, if the speed of the wind is higher than the actual speed of the drone, then, in this case, the UAV will have a problem flying in this condition.
Let's talk about quadcopter wind stability in a bit more detail to make things clear. During the design of the drone, the first and the most important thing is the weight of the drone and the thrust that the motor can produce.
The higher the thrust to weight ratio, the better. This can make the drone able to fly even in intense windy situations. However, the weight of the drone can still be an issue sometimes. For example, a drone that weighs only 1 to 3 lbs (such as most commercial drones) can easily be carried away by the wind.
Under such conditions, it doesn't matter how powerful the motors are. Therefore, the weight and the motor power should have an appropriate combo to make it an effective design against windy conditions.
Based on the speed and power wind is categorized into different levels. You can check the following table to get a much better idea and understand each level of wind and its effects.
Author’s Note: According to Nasa's Website, these levels are called Beaufort numbers.
|Beaufort Number||Speed||Effect on Drone|
|Level 0||Below 1 mph||No visible effect on drone's flight|
|Level 1||1 to 3 mph||Slight breeze but still won't affect the flight|
|Level 2||4 to 7 mph||Still suitable for flight for all kinds of drones|
|Level 3||8 to 12 mph||Light breeze, may affect the flight of small drones (tiny drones)|
|Level 4||13 to 18 mph||Moderately high wind, max tolerance level of some drones|
|Level 5||19 to 24 mph||An advanced level, can affect even the flight of some commercial UAVs|
|Level 6||25 to 31 mph||Strong winds, can produce visible effects on the drone's flight|
Level 5 wind resistance describes drones' capability to fly in wind speeds ranging from 19 to 24 miles per hour. It means the drone has enough power to overcome the resistance offered by the wind.
As mentioned in the above table, the level of winds rises gradually depending upon the speed of the wind. Level 0 is specified to be calm with a speed range below 1 mile per hour according to Nasa's portal.
However, as the wind speed progresses, further things change accordingly. At the level 5 speed, which ranges from 17 to 21 knots, the wind starts generating moderate waves of about 4-8 ft in the sea.
While on land, the leaves of the trees begin to sway away as they experience the power of the wind.
Here are some possible effects of the level 5 wind on a drone:
Level 6 wind resistance for drones refers to its ability due to which it can even fly in winds ranging from 25 to 31 miles per hour.
At this level, the wind is able to sway away even large tree branches and produce huge waves in the seat.
Apart from that, you may hear a whistling sound at this level produced by the wires.
If a drone is labeled as level 6 resistant, it means it has a nice thrust-to-weight ratio and is capable of handling the situation. It will fly at a level 6 wind speed without losing its track or deviating from its path.
When Is it Too Windy to Fly Commercial Drones?
Although I have explained some of the situations above, you may have a question related to the flight of commercial drones. The best way to understand this is to know the capability of your drone first.
Wind level 5 and above is usually considered too windy for most commercial drones. However, not all commercial drones have the same wind level resistance. Therefore, it must be checked before the flight.
Even if it is labeled as level 5 or level 6 wind resistant, you should avoid flying in windy situations. Why? Because the windier it is outside, the more work the drone has to do against the wind. And more work means consuming more energy.
As the consumption of energy increases, the drone's flight time will drop significantly. So the speed of the wind can impact the flight time of the drone too.
Wind level 6 is considered to be the upper-speed limit of modern DJI models such as DJI’s FPV Racer. In addition, other types of drones will have different wind resistance levels based on their specifications.
The DJI FPV is the fastest DJI drone, reaching speeds of up to 87 mph at maximum. A general rule of thumb says that a safe wind speed is somewhere around 58 mph.
However, that doesn't mean everyone would be able to fly a DJI drone in such a windy situation. Of course, you will need a lot of experience and skill to handle the flight and trajectory of the UAV during the intense wind.
For further info and a quick summary, check out the following table.
|Drone Model||Wind Resistance Level||Max Wind Speed|
|DJI Mavic Mini||Level 4||13‑18 mph (20‑28 kph)|
|DJI Mavic Mini 2||Level 5||19-24 mph (29-38 kph)|
|DJI Mavic Air 2||Level 5||19-24 mph (29-38 kph)|
|DJI Mavic Air 2s||Level 5||19-24 mph (29-38 kph)|
|DJI Mavic 2||Level 5||19-24 mph (29-38 kph)|
|DJI Mavic 2 Pro||Level 5||19-24 mph (29-38 kph)|
|DJI Mavic 2 Zoom||Level 5||19-24 mph (29-38 kph)|
|DJI Phantom 4 Pro||Level 5||19-24 mph (29-38 kph)|
|DJI Mavic Air||Level 5||19-24 mph (29-38 kph)|
|DJI Mavic Pro Platinum||Level 5||19-24 mph (29-38 kph)|
|DJI Spark||Level 4||13‑18 mph (20‑28 kph)|
|DJI Phantom 4 Advanced||Level 5||19-24 mph (29-38 kph)|
|DJI Mavic Pro||Level 5||19-24 mph (29-38 kph)|
|DJI inspire||Level 5||19-24 mph (29-38 kph)|
|Phantom 4 Pro V2.0||Level 5||19-24 mph (29-38 kph)|
|DJI Phantom 4 RTK||Level 5||19-24 mph (29-38 kph)|
|DJI Matrice 300 RTX||Level 7||33 mph (53 kph)|
Generally, a drone will be able to hold its altitude in a level 4 wind without any issue. However, as the wind level rises, the sensors need to be more robust to react to the situation and apply the corrections.
There are various sensors used in the drone which obviously you must have a rough idea about. The GPS module along with its IMU sensor is responsible for its navigation and position determination
These modules obviously work on some algorithm for which even fractions of seconds are important. Strong winds produce some unpredictable disturbances sometimes due to which sensors may not be able to provide their output timely.
As a result, drones may not be able to hold their altitude and position too firmly during strong winds. Apart from that the direction of the wind sometimes also plays an important role. If a drone is experiencing wind, in the opposite direction, the sensors will have to cater for the ups and downs a bit differently depending upon the speed.
As the drone is flying against the wind, the motors have to do extra work to overcome the wind resistance. In addition, the sensors will have to perform microcorrections to keep their position, resulting in more battery consumption.
There is a solid reason behind an increased battery consumption in case of strong winds. The drone's motors have to do more work to resist the change applied by the wind. Under such conditions, it will need more energy.
You can also find some interesting findings in the graphs below. These graphs show the results for a simulation of drone battery performance under different wind conditions.
Results of the first simulation
Results of the second simulation
In the above figure, S stands for simulation and C represents the case. You can find more in this research publication to get a better understanding if you are interested in knowing further.
The above discussion is not complete as your drone may behave differently depending upon the situation it is facing. For example, if it is flying with the wind, there wouldn't be any effect on its battery consumption.
Why? Because the drone won't need to do extra work against the wind, no energy will be wasted in this action. However, if it is flying against the wind, the situation will be just as mentioned above. .
Also, if you are flying with the wind, you need high skills to maintain the altitude and heading of the drone, especially in such windy situations. It is highly recommended to avoid aerial photography during strong winds.
Some of the latest drones can fly even in strong winds up to level 6 (for example the DJI FPV racer). However, you should keep in mind that it depends on a few factors, such as how much force the motors are producing and is it enough to overcome the speed of the wind?
Apart from that, the weight of the drone also plays an important role. If it is too light, it can easily be tossed around. Another thing that will be severely affected while flying in the strong wind is the drone's battery life.
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