If you’re a rain lover like me, it’s natural that you’d want to fly your drone in the rain and take shots of the beautiful scenes it creates. It could also be that you are simply afraid rain might get you caught by surprise, so will your drone be able to handle it?
Some drones are able to resist brisk rain, but not for extended periods of time. Generally, entry level drones have venting holes, which expose the electronic board to water droplets. Once water gets inside, short circuits can occur and your drone may get damaged to the point of no return.
Your drone’s capacity to withstand rain depends on its IG rating, whether you applied additional waterproofing and how fast you managed to get it dry after your rainy flight.
We’ll teach you how rain affects drones, what to do if rain catches you by surprise and what are some of the precautions you may take against foreseen or unforeseen humidity.
Last summer I flew an older Mavic of mine outside to take a snap of the landscape on a beautiful sunset rain. Never did it cross my mind that a few drops of rain could ruin my quadcopter, but I was in for a surprise. After not so long it started to behave strangely.
At some point, I decided to take it apart and see why it didn’t take off. It turns out the electric motor was rusty all over.
Getting your drone wetter than it’s built to withstand may spell its doom, as electrical systems suffer shorts in contact with water. However, if your drone is water-resistant, it might survive a quick landing while it’s raining. But even water-resistant drones have a hard time handling a violent storm.
Say you are flying around, exploring views from the countryside, when suddenly you notice a dark grey cloud and water droplets on your forehead. What do you do?
Don’t wait to see if the dripping turns into a full blown rain. If the rain takes you by surprise, land your drone immediately and take it to a dry place. Then, you must turn it off and take all the necessary steps to get it dry.
This is how you minimize rainwater damage:
For a more in-depth guide on how to dry your drone, check our discussion of what happens when your drone falls in water. The methods described there work for any situation in which your drone gets wet.
Waterproof drones are built to handle severe weather conditions, so they are your best option if you want to capture rainy landscapes. Unlike most consumer drones, these have special frames that are completely sealed to protect the electronic parts.
What distinguishes waterproof drones from water-resistant drones is that they can land on water, handle submersion, are able to shoot video in the water and then fly again.
Check out the table below to find out what drones can fly in the rain.
|Can it fly in the rain?
|DJI Mini/ Mini 2
|DJI Mavic Air 2/ Pro 2
|DJI Matrice 300
|DJI Agras 16
|Yes, for a limited time
|Xiaomi Fimi x8 SE 2020
|Zino Mini Pro
|Autel Evo 2
|Yes, for a limited time
You don’t need gallons of water to turn a perfectly functional drone into a dead aircraft.
All it takes is a couple of rain droplets leaking to the motherboard through the small venting holes, and your drone runs the risk of permanent damage. Short circuits on the board could render your drone’s propellers useless, and you’d lose control of it.
The rain itself can damage your drone only if the water gets in contact with its electronic parts, but water damage comes in many shapes:
A misfortune never comes alone, and that applies perfectly in the case of bad weather. Especially during autumn and winter seasons, rain comes with powerful wind and colder temperatures, and these are warning signs for unprotected aircrafts.
We’ve described these warning signs in our guide to flying a drone in the fog, but a fresh example may be useful.
Consider that many entry-level drones weigh less than 5 lbs. Wind blowing at speeds greater than 15mph would make flying nearly impossible, even for an experienced user. Moreover, flying against the wind drains your battery and may lead to a forced landing.
Combine that with typically cold late-autumn temperatures, and what you get is even more damage.
While operating, a drone can get very hot. The heat generated by the electronic components within the drone comes in contact with the cold temperature outside, leading to the formation of condensed water. Once these dew-like droplets begin to form inside the drone, short circuits occur and then anything can happen
After reading about the nefarious effects wind, water and cold temperatures can have on your drone, you might be wondering if there’s any way to protect it.
In fact, there are two ways in which a drone could manage flying in the rain without any risk:
We’ve already hinted at this, but now it’s time to discuss the IP rating in greater detail. Short for Ingress Protection, the IP rating is an international scale that shows an electronic device’s level of protection against solid particles and liquid.
You can easily find your drone’s IP rating in the manual or with the aid of Google. It will appear as “IP” followed by 2 digits. The first represents protection against solid particles like dust. We’ll leave it aside for now.
The second digit refers to your drone’s protection against liquids. When data is not available for a certain type of protection (for example the manufacturer didn’t carry out any tests to determine a drone’s water resistance), you’ll see an “X” instead of a number.
To help you get an understanding of the IP scale for protection against liquid, we’ve compiled the following table.
As a general rule, keep in mind that your drone should have a rating of at least 3 if you want to fly in the rain properly.
|IP rating scale
|Level of protection against water
|Protected against vertical dripping
|Able to fly during minor dripping
|Handles spraying water
|Protected against splashing water
|No harmful effects from water jets
|Immune against powerful water jets
|Handles powerful water jets at high pressure
|Withstands submersion up to 3 ft
|Handles submersion up to more than 3 ft
|Protected against powerful high-temperature jets
The IP rating can be useful information, but many popular drones come with no such rating, for example the DJI Mavic and Phantom series. What should you do then?
You have 2 options: either get a waterproof drone, or waterproof your drone yourself!
I suggest you check out my COMPLETE guide on how to waterproof a drone at home.
If you really want to get out in the rain and don’t plan on buying new gear very soon, here are the best waterproofing methods. In my experience, blending the first 2 will get you optimal results.
You need to be able to take apart your drone completely and then assemble it again. Brush a thin layer of silicone on the main board, without covering any sensors or ports.
Finding a tutorial to disassemble your specific model is your job, but this guy explains how to apply the coating well enough.
Most drone users will be comfortable with this method. You only need to take the outer housing off and spray this stuff all over.
However, I don’t use it as a main waterproofing method because it’s less effective than the silicone coating. I prefer to use the anti-corrosion lubricant only for the sensitive parts of the board.
You don’t need to crack open your drone at all if you use a wetsuit. So, this seems like the ideal way to seal your drone’s cracks shut and turn it waterproof without voiding warranty.
But there are a few drawbacks:
Browsing on the web, you may stumble upon people on forums claiming their DJI drones have managed to fly in the rain successfully. Don’t count on such claims.
Consumer DJI drones are not built to fly in adverse weather conditions. The producer makes it very clear that these quadcopters are meant for recreational flying in proper environments. The only DJI drones that can fly in the rain are industrial models like Agras and Matrice.
A more in-depth view on the most popular DJI models will settle this matter better.
The DJI Mini 2 is a consumer favourite, since it’s super light and doesn’t require registration. Its reduced size and weight make it ideal for travelling, but sadly not for flying in bad weather.
A DJI Mini 2 drone shouldn’t be flown in the rain, because its housing is not water tight. Rain droplets can squeeze through and damage its electronic parts.
Even though water might not leak in that easily, this drone wasn’t meant to be flown in adverse weather. A lightweight drone like this one would also have a hard time against strong winds.
While the DJI Mavic Air 2 is definitely worth buying for its superior camera, security features and better battery life, you shouldn’t go for it if you plan on moving near the Amazon.
Flying your DJI Mavic Air 2 in mist, heavy fog or rain can lead to serious problems, as it doesn’t have an IP rating for protection against liquids.
It might not crash immediately after the rain starts, but with time the electronic motor can get rusty, and due to condensation, minor short-circuits may occur, damaging your drone’s sensors or even flight capabilities.
Like its name suggests, the DJI Agras is an agricultural drone. Its airframe is made of carbon fiber, and the drone is able to carry and spray up to 16 litres.
With an IP rating of 67, the DJI Agras is able to fly in the rain without any risk. Key components are protected against water, dust and corrosion.
The housing of DJI Agras is made to withstand unwanted weather and carry out its tasks without any problems. Still, be aware that a drone’s IP rating may fade with time. That means, you won’t be able to use DJI Agras in the rain indefinitely.
One of the high-end models built by DJI, the Matrice 300 is created for enterprise users. Its high performance is paired with numerous security features like obstacle avoidance, aerial awareness tools and bad weather resistance.
DJI Matrice 300 won’t be hampered by rain, wind or extreme temperatures. However, not even this high-end drone should be flown when rainfall exceeds 200mm.
Bonus tip: While some think the previous instalment, Matrice 200, is waterproof, it isn’t. This model only has a water-resistant housing, meaning it can fly in the rain for a while, but not for long.
DJI Mavic 3 is one of the more rugged consumer drones from this producer, with a better housing design, 5K resolution and a flight speed close to 50 mph.
Technically, a DJI Mavic 3 is not supposed to fly in the rain since it doesn’t have an IP rating. However, it will survive a quick landing in case rain starts without any damage.
Rain water will have a hard time getting through to the battery due to the smart positioning of the entry. However, it will get there eventually, so it’s better not to fly in the rain for longer than you need to land your aircraft.
We’ve got into deep details about how rain affects drones, leading us to conclude that most drone hobbyists are bound to fly in optimal weather.
Still, if you’re a real drone enthusiast, there’s always the option to waterproof your drone, which may allow you to fly your aircraft in the rain and shoot quality rain footage without facing the risks we’ve been warning you about throughout this article.