Flying anything in the wind is a tough job. Be it a large manned aircraft or a small drone, windy weather has always been a major challenge for pilots in aviation history.
To describe the intensity of wind ships can bear, Francis Beaufort, an Irish navy Admiral, devised a scale. The same scale was modified to be used for aircraft. Drone wind resistance levels describe the ability of any drone to maintain its position against blowing wind. In this article, we are going to explain what wind resistance levels are and how they are used with drones.
What are drone wind resistance levels?
Drone wind resistance level is a number between 0 and 12 that describes the highest wind speed the drone can resist. The higher the number, the better stability a drone has in high wind conditions. For example, a drone with level 5 wind resistance is better than a level 4 drone in terms of handling itself in the windy air.
The wind resistance level of drones corresponds to the Beaufort scale that categorizes the wind speed into 12 categories.
|Wind Resistance Level||Wind Speed||Indicators/effects|
|0||< 1 mph||Complete calmness|
|1||1-3 mph||Can move smoke in wind direction|
|2||4-7 mph||The wind felt on face, moves leaves|
|3||8-12 mph||Moves leaves and twigs|
|4||13-18 mph||Move dust off the ground|
|5||19-24 mph||Move small trees|
|6||25-31 mph||Sway large tree branches|
|7||32-38 mph||Resistance in walking against the wind|
|8||39-46 mph||Breaks twigs & small branches|
|9||47-54 mph||Blow slate from rooftops|
|10||55-63 mph||Break trees (a rare occurrence )|
|11||64-72 mph||Widespread damage (a rare occurrence)|
|12||> 73 mph||Destruction of structure (a rare occurrence)|
In 1794, Francis Beaufort came up with a scale to measure the degree of damage done by strong winds on ships. Today’s adapted version of this scale – the one used to classify different degrees of wind strength – considers 12 different levels based on the speed of the wind.
Drone Wind Resistance Level is often used by drone pilots and enthusiasts alike to classify the intensity of the wind.
What happens when I fly a drone in strong winds?
Flying in strong wind affects your drone in many ways. Here are a few notable effects:
A strong wind gust can through your drone off the track and produce unpredictable movements both in the lateral directions. Updrafts near geographical bodies like mountain slopes and high buildings can produce updrafts that can result in an unexpected gain in altitude.
If you are flying under your designated wind resistance level, your drone can easily compensate for the external forces and quickly regain its position. But if the wind is strong, it can damage your drone or even crash it.
Excessive Battery drain
Flying in the strong wind means your drone is doing extra work to keep up with and resist the high wind speed. This will cause the motors to draw more current from the battery and depletes the battery faster.
If you are flying in strong, try to fly downdraft or in the same direction as the wind to conserve your battery.
Shaky images & videos
If your drone camera is mounted on a sensitive gimble, it might compensate for the lateral and up/down movements due to the wind but a strong enough wind can produce shaky images and videos.
If you are up for an aerial photography job, make sure the winds are within the limits to get better and clear images/videos.
Some drones rely on visual image processing to maintain correct altitude and positioning. If the winds are causing a slight dust storm below the drone, it can compromise the drone’s ability to maintain its position. In such a case, you might face a failed RTH mode and will have to use manual control to get your drone back home. Other features that depends on visual image processing like the DJI mini 2 follow me might also not work in too windy conditions.
What factors affect drone wind resistance level?
The level of wind resistance offered by drones depends on many physical and software features of the drone. Some of the major factors are below:
WEIGHT: Heavier drones are better at flying during windy conditions compared to lighter drones. The reason is simple; the additional weight provides better inertia against strong gusts and the drone remains more stable in the air. Compared to this, a lighter drone will be easily carried away by a strong wind.
SIZE: Size also influences how the drone responds to strong winds. Bigger drones have a higher surface area and are affected more by winds. Smaller drones are less affected. Size together with weight has a counterbalancing overall effect. Bigger drones have large surface areas but also have higher weights so it depends on the size to weight ratio.
SHAPE: Sleek and aerodynamically shaped drones have lower drag coefficients and are less affected by winds compared to drones with a more blunt design.
POWER/THRUST: Your engine power is of utmost importance when it comes to resisting and flying against strong wind. If your motors are capable of producing enough speed to counter the wind and fly against it, you can control your drone better in the air. As a rule of thumb, your drone should be capable of producing 50% more speed than the speed of the wind to be able to resist it.
SENSORS: If your drone is equipped with a more sensitive IMU and GPS chip that can detect a shift in lateral position due to wind quickly and send it to the control unit to compensate in time, your drone will be more stable in the air. High-end DJI drones with the latest state-of-the-art sensors have higher wind resistance compared to mid-range or toy category drones with the same weight and size.
SOFTWARE: Finally, your drone software also plays an important role in stabilizing your drones against the pushing winds. The more fine-tuned your software is at producing countermeasures to lateral movements due to winds, the better your drone will be during windy flights.
What wind is too strong for drones?
Most high-end drones have their wind resistance levels mentioned either on the packaging or in the drone manual. The wind resistance level is expressed on the Beaufort scale as discussed above and is usually between 1 and 8.
As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t fly your drone in a wind 2/3 times stronger than your drone’s maximum speed. For example, if your drone’s top speed is 16 m/s, you should not fly in a wind that is greater than 10 m/s. Doing so will put your drone at risk of uncontrolled movement and even crashing.
How to find wind speed before flying?
Drones normally do not have any sensors to measure wind speed. They can only measure how many adjustments they are making to resist the wind so it’s an indirect indicator of wind speed. There are 2 ways you can find or estimate wind speed before flying your drone.
Using weather map
This is probably the easiest method to find wind speed at your locality before you go out flying. Weather maps use wind speed sensors called anemometers on weather stations near you to measure and report the strength and direction of the wind in real-time.
Almost all major weather apps and websites have wind speed indicators. I prefer to use Windfinder because of its easy-to-use interface. Just put in your location and select your nearest weather station. The only caveat is that winds are a level or two stronger at altitude than at the ground. All the weather stations report winds at ground level so if the weather station reports a level 4 wind at ground level, consider it to be level 6 at high altitude.
Most consumer drones don’t go above 500 meters for legal and safety reasons. For example the DJI mini 2 max altitude is fixed at 500 meters via software lock. The same applies to most consumer drones.
Using a portable anemometer
If you want to be more accurate in your measurement of wind speed, you can use a cheap pocket wind meter or anemometer (like this one). It is a small device with a fan that turns when the wind blows past it. Just hold the device perpendicular to the direction of the wind and take a few readings.
As was the case with weather station wind level, the wind level measured by your pocket anemometer is also ground level. To estimate wind at a high altitude for your drone, step the ground level up by 2 and then see if it is suitable for flying your drone or not.
You can also use your drone’s gyroscope reading inside the fly app to estimate the strength of the wind. Below video tutorial from DJI explains the concept in a simple way.
Wind resistance level of famous Consumer drones
|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)|
|Autel Evo 1||Level 8||46 mph (74 kph)|
|Autel Evo 2||Level 8||46 mph (74 kph)|
|Autel Evo 2 Pro||Level 8||38 mph (62 kph)|
|Yuneec Mantis G||Level 6||29 mph (48 kph)|
|Yuneec Mantis Q||Level 6||29 mph (48 kph)|
What winds can Mavic Air 2 handle?
Mavic Air 2 has a wind resistance level of 5. It can fly at a wind speed up to 24 mph but you need to be careful and always monitor its position with the live video feed. If gusts become too strong make sure you land your drone as soon as possible.
What’s a good Drone for high wind resistance?
To be able to fly in strong winds, choose a Drone with a Drone Wind Resistance Level of 5 or higher. Most DJI Drones have Level 5 wind resistance. Autel Evo 1 & Evo 2 have level 8 wind resistance.