We’ve seen them on TV shows. We’ve seen them in Blockbuster movies. Incredible drone footage shot in wet weather conditions and environments.
Surely, if TV and Movie houses can do it, Air 3 owners should also be able to. Right? The answer might surprise some new to flying drones in general.
Full-scale production companies use equipment that can specifically withstand the elements, whether these be ground cameras or drones.
The DJI Air 3 is not water resistant nor tolerant to water or wet weather conditions. It should not be flown in the rain.
Is The DJI Air 3 Waterproof or Water-resistant?
The DJI Air 3, like most current DJI drones, outside of the DJI Matrice and Agras series, has no type of weather sealing. Weather sealing is essential in keeping water and moisture off and out of vital components in a device with electronic internals.
- Waterproof means that something is impervious to water. When regarding electronics, we might think of Diver’s watches or even Bluetooth pool speakers.
- Water-resistant, on the other hand, means an object can slowly resist the damaging effects of water for a short time, in specific conditions. However, water will eventually get in.
Because the Air 3 lacks vital or any weather sealing, it is neither waterproof nor water-resistant. If it gets wet, there is a possibility of damage. Thus, the DJI Air 3 should not be flown in the rain.
DJI has this to say about their non-water-resistant drones:
Avoid contact with water during use as it may lead to damage to the device. If it rains during the flight, please return and land as soon as possible, and wait until the aircraft is fully dry inside and out before using it again.
Can the Air 3 Fly in Any Type Of Precipitation?
This is a very good, and important, question.
Precipitation is any type of water that forms in the Earth’s atmosphere and then drops onto the surface of the Earth.
When we talk about precipitation for this article, we’ll look at: Rain, Fog, Mist, Clouds, and Snow. We’ll also touch on an overlooked water-based danger to the Air 3 as well, High Humidity.
Rain (Heavy and Light)
Rain is one of the most forward-facing enemies to the Air 3 on this list.
As mentioned, the Air 3 has no specific protection from the elements. Yes, some of the wires may be covered by plastic, however, there is no active waterproofing of any of the components or electronics.
When flying in rain, albeit even light rain, those critical components and electronics within the Air 3 can and will get wet. Why? Because the Air 3 has vents and open areas within the body to let heat escape and let air in.
Surround water (or any type of precipitation) will enter along with the air that comes into the Air 3 to cool it down. Once that happens, it is only a matter of time before the water causes damage and electrical shorts.
Mist & Fog
In photography, some of the most interesting and intriguing photos are taken in foggy conditions. I think of photos of various bridges and bays shot during sunrise with the fog slowly burning away.
These shots are fantastic. Many of them are taken with weather-sealed ground cameras.
However, if you get these shots with a drone, there needs to be caution in play. Mist and fog are, of course, forms of precipitation. They are not as drenching as full-out rain showers but can have similar effects as rain on the Air 3.
While quickly flying through mist or fog to get the perfect shot might not result in immediate damage, over time the condensation build-up on the internal components can result in short-circuit or permanent damage to the Air 3.
» MORE: Can you Fly a Drone in the Fog?
This one is tricky. Not necessarily regarding water damage, but if one should or could fly through clouds.
To get it out of the way, flying through clouds with the Air 3 can have the exact same long-term results as flying through mist or fog. Fog is, after all, basically just low-altitude clouds.
Flying through clouds can indeed damage the Air 3 if done repeatedly, or if through clouds with a higher concentration of condensation. This could result in short circuits and damage.
More important to remember, in some countries, it is illegal to fly through clouds.
In the United States when it comes to cloud cover, you must be 500 feet below the cloud and 2,000 feet horizontally from the cloud, so flying through clouds isn’t really an option. Of course, as with anything, drone pilots will be responsible for the choices made.
Flying in high humidity is something many, if not most of us, may not even think about. It oftentimes goes overlooked.
Living in Central Florida and regularly flying on the Gulf Coast of Florida, I see all types of weather. Much of this weather and conditions occur during the same day, within hours: Foggy, then cloudy, then drizzle, then scorching sun, then high humidity, then high wind gusts.
When flying in very high humidity it is good to know that the Air 3 can be adversely affected by the moisture in the air.
Regular exposure to the humidity’s moisture in the air can cause rust to form on the exterior of the Air 3. Likewise, due to the vents letting in moisture, rust may also form on the interior of the Air 3.
Overly humid air, in the short term, can also cause electrical faults, as even tiny amounts of water can conduct electricity and cause shortages. This can lead to permanent damage or equipment failure.
It is a good practice to thoroughly evaluate the summer conditions you plan to fly in and then plan those flights accordingly.
Like with foggy days, there are many beautiful photos taken during winter, specifically during and after snowfall.
Because snow is frozen precipitation, caution should be taken when trying to get imagery with the Air 3 during active snowfall.
Unlike rain or other forms of liquid precipitation, snow can oftentimes be wiped away from surfaces before melting, depending on the outside temperature. If it is below freezing, there’s a higher chance of doing so.
If the Air 3 is exposed to snow and that snow melts on or in the Air 3, like with any other form of precipitation, there can be damage to the electronics and components.
While we don’t recommend flying the Air 3 in any type of precipitation, if you have to fly while it is snowing, it is advised to get the snow off of the Air 3 as soon as possible.
If You Get Caught in Wet Weather
When flying drones, many of us are familiar with how unpredictable the weather may be at times. We can check the weather beforehand until our hearts are content and still be stuck in a surprise rainstorm or thick rolling fog.
What can be done if we unexpectedly find ourselves in a wet weather event?
Landing immediately is the best option when stuck in bad weather. DJI also recommends it.
We have talked at length about the damaging effects water has on any drone that is not waterproof or water-resistant, the Air 3 included. The faster the Air 3 is removed from the wet situation, the better.
Of course, being aware of the environment and conditions also comes into play between a dry Air 3, a slightly damp Air 3, and an Air 3 destroyed by the elements.
When flying, there are oftentimes hints as to what the upcoming weather will do. During a sunny, hot, and humid day, it could become cloudy, or the wind picks up, or both. When this happens in Florida, more often than not, an afternoon shower is imminent.
Being aware of these changes can prompt you to start bringing the drone closer to you, as a precaution in case it begins precipitating. If it does start drizzling or raining, the Air 3 can be landed quickly if needed.
Avoid Returning Over Water
If you are not flying over water when inclement weather arrives, it is good practice to avoid returning the Air 3 to you over water.
This might seem odd.
The reason you should try to return over land is because of the added dangers when flying over water during a storm.
If your Air 3 shorts out in the air on return, you have a better chance of retrieval over land, as opposed to the Air 3 dropping into dozens or perhaps hundreds of feet of water.
Additionally, when the weather drastically changes, like when a storm approaches, the wind above the water may be a lot higher than the wind above land. In strong winds, your already-taxed Air 3 might have difficulty making it back with enough battery power after fighting the strong winds and rain.
Turn off the Air 3
After successfully landing, it is imperative that you turn off the Air 3 and remove the battery.
This is an important step because if there is no current running through the Air 3, and it was not damaged upon landing, then it should be safe from short-circuiting when thoroughly dried and turned back on.
Let the Air 3 and the batteries air dry in a protected area. You’ll want to do this until the Air 3 is completely dry. This could be a matter of days.
There is a well-known myth that putting electronics in rice will speed up the drying process. This is false and has been disproven. Take the time to let the Air 3 air dry unaided.
Regardless, you do not want to turn the Air 3 back on until it dries. Turning the Air 3 on when still damp may cause the Air 3 to short out.
Aftermarket Equipment for Flying in Wet Weather
Some inevitably may have to fly in wet weather. Some of these might be commercial pilots who have to do inspections in bad weather or those undertaking rescue efforts during storms.
There is one stand-out accessory that will come in particularly handy when flying during wet weather. Drone wetsuits.
What are drone wetsuits?
Just like the wetsuit a diver would use, most drone wetsuits are made from the same type of closed-cell neoprene waterproof material.
In addition to the waterproof materials being strategically applied to the drone using adhesive, the manufacturers of these wetsuits also include gaskets and special fittings in their kits. These go around or cover critical points on the components, ensuring water and moisture stay out.
Phantomrain.org is a well-known drone wetsuit company and has been manufacturing drone wetsuits and various water-related gear for drones since the days of the DJI Phantom. Their company also has a solid and loyal following in the drone community.
While we don’t recommend flying in rain or wet weather, if you must, it is better to be safer and protected than sorry.