If you're a rain lover like me, it makes sense that you want to fly your drone in the rain and take pictures of the beautiful scenes it creates. It could also be that you're just afraid that rain will surprise you, so will your drone be able to handle it?
Some drones can withstand heavy rain, but not for long periods of time. In general, drones have entry-level vent holes, which expose the electronic board to water droplets. Once water enters, short circuits can occur and your drone can be damaged to the point of no return.
Your drone's ability to withstand rain depends on the IG classification, whether you've applied additional waterproofing, and how quickly you've managed to get it dry after your rainy flight.
We'll teach you how rain affects drones, what to do if rain surprises you, and what are some of the precautions you can take against anticipated or unforeseen humidity.
What happens if my drone gets wet?
Last summer I flew an older Mavic of mine outside to take a snapshot of the landscape on a beautiful sunset rain. It never occurred to me that a few drops of rain could ruin my quadcopter, but I was in for a surprise. After not so long, it began to behave strangely.
At some point, I decided to take it apart and see why it didn't take off. It turns out that the electric motor was rusty everywhere.
Making your drone wetter than it's built to withstand can mean its demise, as electrical systems have short circuits in contact with water. However, if your drone is water resistant, it can survive a quick landing while it rains. But even water-resistant drones have a hard time coping with a violent storm.
What to do if rain caught you off guard
Let's say you're flying around, exploring views from the countryside, when you suddenly notice a dark gray cloud and water droplets on your forehead. What do you do?
Don't wait to see if the dripping turns into a full rain shower. If the rain surprises you, land your drone immediately and bring it to a dry place. Next, you need to turn it off and take all the necessary steps to get it dry.
Here's how to minimize rainwater damage:
For a more in-depth guide on drying your drone, check out our discussion of what happens if your drone falls into water. The methods described there work for any situation in which your drone gets wet.
Which drones can fly in the rain?
Waterproof drones are built to handle harsh weather conditions, so they're your best option if you want to capture rainy landscapes. Unlike most consumer drones, these have special frames that are fully sealed to protect the electronic parts.
What sets waterproof drones apart from water-resistant drones is that they can land on water, handle immersion, record videos in the water, and then fly again.
Check out the table below to find out which drones can fly in the rain.
How does rain affect drones?
You don't need litres of water to turn a perfectly functional drone into a dead plane.
All it takes is a few raindrops leaking through the small vent holes to the motherboard and your drone is at risk of permanent damage. Short circuits on the board can render your drone's propellers useless and you would lose control of them.
The rain itself can only damage your drone if the water comes into contact with the electronic components, but water damage comes in many forms:
Bad weather is more than rain
An accident never comes alone, and that's perfectly true in the event of bad weather. Especially during the autumn and winter seasons, rain comes with strong winds and colder temperatures, and these are warning signs for unprotected aircraft.
We've described these warning signs in our guide to flying a drone in the fog, but a new example may be helpful.
Consider that many entry-level drones weigh less than 5 lbs. Wind blowing at speeds of more than 15 mph would make flying almost impossible, even for an experienced user. In addition, flying against the wind drains your battery and can lead to a forced landing.
Combine that with typically cold late fall temperatures, and what you get is even more damage.
While operating, a drone can get very hot. The heat generated by the electronic components in the drone comes into contact with the cold temperature outside, leading to the formation of condensed water. As soon as these dew-like droplets begin to form in the drone, short circuits occur and then anything can happen.
How can you protect a drone from the rain?
After reading about the nefarious effects that wind, water, and cold temperatures can have on your drone, you may be wondering if there's a way to protect it.
In fact, there are two ways a drone can fly in the rain without any risk:
How strong is the housing of your drone?
We've already alluded to this, but now it's time to discuss the IP rating in more detail. Short for Ingress Protection, the IP rating is an international scale that shows the level of protection of an electronic device against solid particles and liquid.
How to find your drone's IP rating
You can easily find the IP rating of your drone in the manual or using Google. It appears as "IP" followed by 2 digits. The first represents protection against solid particles such as dust. We'll leave it aside for now.
The second digit refers to the protection of your drone against liquids. When no data is available for a particular type of protection (for example, the manufacturer has not conducted tests to determine the water resistance of a drone), you will see an "X" instead of a number.
Interpreting your drone's water resistance
To help you understand the IP liquid protection scale, we've compiled the following table.
As a general rule, keep in mind that your drone must have a rating of at least 3 if you want to fly well in the rain.
How to waterproof your drone
The IP rating can be useful information, but many popular drones do not have such a rating, for example, the DJI Mavic and Phantom series. So what should you do?
You have 2 options: either you get a waterproof drone, or make your drone waterproof yourself!
I suggest you check out my COMPLETE guide on how to waterproof a drone at home.
If you really want to get into the rain and don't plan to buy new equipment any time soon, here are the best waterproofing methods. My experience is that mixing the first 2 gives you optimal results.
Apply a silicone conformal coating to the motherboard
You have to be able to take your drone completely apart and then put it back together again. Brush a thin layer of silicone on the motherboard, without covering 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.
Spraying an anti-corrosion lubricant on the other electronic parts
Most drone users will feel comfortable with this method. You just have to take the outside case off and spray this stuff all over it.
However, I don't use it as a major waterproofing method because it is less effective than the silicone coating. I prefer to use the anti-corrosion lubricant only for the sensitive parts of the board.
Waterproof your drone with a wetsuit
You don't have to break open your drone at all if you're using a wetsuit. This thus seems to be the ideal way to seal the cracks of your drone and make them waterproof without voiding the warranty.
But there are a few drawbacks:
Can you fly a DJI drone in the rain?
Browsing the web, you may come across people on forums claiming that their DJI drones have managed to successfully fly in the rain. Don't count on such claims.
Consumer DJI drones are not built to fly in adverse weather conditions. The manufacturer makes it very clear that these quadcopters are intended for recreational flying in good environments. The only DJI drones that can fly in the rain are industrial models like Agras and Matrice.
A thorough overview of the most popular DJI models will better settle this issue.
Can a DJI Mini 2 drone fly in the rain?
The DJI Mini 2 is a consumer favorite, as it is super light and does not require registration. The smaller size and weight make it ideal for traveling, but unfortunately not for flying in bad weather.
A DJI Mini 2 drone should not be flown in the rain, because the housing is not waterproof. Raindrops can squeeze through and damage the electronic parts.
While water may not leak as easily, this drone was not meant to be flown in bad weather. A lightweight drone like this would also have a hard time against strong winds.
Can a DJI Mavic Air 2 drone fly in the rain?
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're planning on getting close to the Amazon.
Flying your DJI Mavic Air 2 in fog, heavy fog or rain can lead to serious problems as it does not have an IP rating for protection against liquids.
It may not crash immediately after the rain starts, but over time, the electronic motor can become rusty, and due to condensation, small short circuits can occur, damaging your drone's sensors or even the flight capabilities.
Can a DJI Agras drone fly in the rain?
As the name suggests, the DJI Agras is an agricultural drone. The airframe is made of carbon fiber and the drone can carry and spray up to 16 liters.
With an IP rating of 67, the DJI Agras can 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 perform its tasks without problems. However, keep in mind that a drone's IP rating can fade with time. That means you can't use DJI Agras indefinitely in the rain.
Can a DJI Matrice 300 drone fly in the rain?
One of the high-end models built by DJI, the Matrice 300 is made for business users. The high performance is accompanied by numerous security features, such as obstacle avoidance, air awareness tools and resistance to bad weather.
DJI Matrice 300 is not hindered by rain, wind or extreme temperatures. However, even this high-end drone should not be flown when the rainfall exceeds 200 mm.
Bonus tip: While some may think the previous installment, Matrice 200, is waterproof, it's not. This model only has a water-resistant housing, which means it can fly in the rain for a while, but not for long.
Can a DJI Mavic 3 drone fly in the rain?
DJI Mavic 3 is one of the more robust consumer drones from this manufacturer, with a better housing design, 5K resolution and a flight speed of almost 50 mph.
Technically, a DJI Mavic 3 is not supposed to fly in the rain, as it does not have an IP rating. However, it will survive a quick landing in case the rain starts without damage.
Rainwater will have a hard time penetrating the battery due to the smart positioning of the input. However, it will eventually get there, so it's better not to fly in the rain any longer than you need to land your plane.
Verdict: Can you fly a drone in the rain?
We've gone into deep detail about how rain affects drones, leading us to conclude that most drone hobbyists will definitely fly in optimal weather.
Still, if you're a true drone enthusiast, there's always the option to waterproof your drone, allowing you to fly your plane in the rain and take high-quality rain footage without taking the risks we've warned you about in this article.