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Extreme weather: A drone’s worst enemy

Small aerial drone’s are touted as a disruptive technology, with massive investment and hype surrounding their use. They may deliver our morning coffee, pizzas, time-sensitive medical supplies, and Amazon orders.

These on-demand drone applications require a high proportion of uptime or flyability — the amount of time when drone’s can fly safely. But a key factor often overlooked in the hype about on-demand drone applications is the weather: drone’s cannot and should not fly in all types of weather.

The weather conditions most likely to prevent drone use are precipitation (which can damage electronics), strong winds (which can increase battery usage or even cause drones to lose control) and cold temperatures (which greatly reduce battery performance).

Ambitions to expand on-demand operations hinge on drone’s performing with sufficient up-time to supplement or supplant conventional practices. The viability of using drones for these applications is diminished if weather prevents them from flying.

In our new study published in Nature Scientific Reports, we examined the impact of precipitation, wind speed and temperature on drone flyability at a global scale.