Iris/Pixhawk Cold Weather Testing

Last weekend I drove up north a bit for some real cold weather testing of my Iris+ equiped with Pixhawk.  I had to get up early in the morning to catch -30C temperatures which is about as cold as I'm interested in testing.  At -30C, my gloved fingers froze after a few minutes.  Not quite frostbite, but deep into pain territory.

Spurred on by Leonard's taunts, I also did some snow resistance testing.  It passed.  I'd say it can handle just about any amount of snow you could reasonably throw at it. :)   I simply put electrical tape over the shell vents, and that's it. Throughout the weekend, I had absolutely zero problems related to the low temperatures. -30C is a non-issue for the Pixhawk and ESCs. 

I actually haven't had this Iris for long, but so far I'm pretty impressed with it.  The out-of-the-box tune was pretty much spot on.  It flies extremely smoothly.  The only changes I've made were to allow 45° lean angle, and enabling Stab and Acro modes.  The camera I was using for on-board is a Sony AS100V on the semi-fixed front mount included with the Iris.  The results are not great, heavy jello.  I'm not sure if a real GoPro is much better?  You can see the effect of the Sony's electronic image stabilization.  If you peer through the jello, you can see that the video is actually quite smooth and watchable.  I will probably make a damped undermount for the camera.

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  • Yeah I'm still a little off in my explanations today,

    I'm actually in the process of designing a "boat" type platform, more of a miniature pontoon with wings (hoping the wings minimize lake turbulence to some extent though) that'll be solar powered with a data logger.

    So it will be just a matter of sending it out and collecting it afterwards, since the pixhawk could do most of the guidance (timed wave points ect...). The issue with this is that a lot of the lakes say past North Bay aren't easily accessible so something thats portable that can be walked in (say in fragments then reassembled easily) is going to be key. 

    This is also why I've been on the fence for the areal portion, is to wether the Y6 or X8 would be the best design for portability ect... but it seems the X8 might just be the safer route.

  • You're saying you *can't* use a boat?  I can see the problem on big lakes unless the boat was very large.

  • This makes sense, as it did push on its side fighting to avoid a complete barrel roll.

    I'm in the process of finishing up an X8 right now just simply figuring out a PDB solution since 3DR doesn't sell theirs separately. Which does seem like it would be far more sturdy in these situations than the Y6, I can't speak for my Iris yet cause I got it not long ago and haven't gotten it out yet.

    The goals are lake studies, so imaging lakes with various sensors and also potentially gathering data such as CO2 ect...Then interpreting it through GIS...

    There is another concept in the works that is more marine based with the implementation of a pixhawk/gps system for data collection but winds and reasonable sized freshwater lakes isn't normally an issue for floating systems. 

    So the overall Goal being to be able to monitor changes occurring within an environment.


  • Yes, that's a good idea.  In the past, I've dropped a quad in that very lake.  I quickly fished it out, and set it in front of a hair dryer for an hour, and all the electronics were fine.  Even the ESC's and FPV camera!

  • I've flown at similar temperatures and in driving snow, without taping over any vents. So far so good. I assume I will get longer flight times in the spring and summer, but I've only been flying the Iris+ since January.

    I've also "crash landed" twice in deep snow. The landings were soft because of the snow, but the Iris was completely submerged up to the props (which, by the way left cool little circular snow angel imprints). I did not try to fly after those landings as the motors were full of snow. I blew out the snow, which was easy to do in the extreme cold, and brought the Iris inside and placed it over a hot air heating vent, rotating and repositioning it to make sure air flowed through all the motors and even in through the open battery door. The air is so dry in northern Vermont durring the winter that this worked well. Within minutes everything was completely dry.
  • Ah, I understand now.  Yeah, no winds on that day.  In the past I have done some flights in extreme winds using quadcopters.  It generally isn't pretty, but they shouldn't necessarily get blown away.  I guess you haven't seen this?

    Helicopters definitely fare better in high winds though.  They could handle windspeeds upwards of 90 km/h with little effect if the wind isn't turbulent.  And with turbulence, they still fly better than multirotors.

    There isn't really such a thing as a "GPS calibration", the issue would be more down to your Rate PIDs, but it's doubtful you'd be able to improve on 3DR's tuning.  The issue might be just inherent in the Y6 design, and an X8 might fare better.  

    What sort of work are you trying to do?

  • Rob, sorry for the confusion my writing last night was terrible due to a week with no sleep, as I've been in the process of establishing a Thesis research project with a request for concepts on how to implement Drone Technology for data collection purposes, 

    What I meant to say was the winds have been bad, but not in regards to the cold factor but just the general force of the winds.

    My area of study is within Nipissing District, and lately the winds have been causing some minors issues. I attempted to test out my Y6 a few weeks back and not long after take off a solid gust sent the Y6 off into the woods (thankfully nothing broke).  

    This is good news though so perhaps I will spend a bit more time tuning my Y6. Hopefully I can set it to withstand a bit more force (maybe a gps calibration ect is in order)...

  • I'm not getting it.  I live in Wisconsin and it's that cold now.  Why go north.

    I have an IRIS too and I fly all the time in that temp.  IRIS and Pixhawk rock.

  • Craig: Windchill doesn't really affect machines.  At least not to the extent it does for humans.  If they have heating (motors, ESC's, the Pixhawk) they will get colder with airflow than they would without.  But generally speaking, -30 is -30.  The key risk factor here, is that the components can handle -30C.  It is below the spec rating on many of them I believe.  There is some risk to flying in these temps due to that, but I haven't actually had a problem.  Anyway, winds were low, but then of course the machine was moving, which is equivalent to wind.

    Ben: no, I haven't had the Iris long, so I don't actually know yet how long it's supposed to fly. Can't compare.  It did fly plenty long however.  I have done plenty of flying in cold temps, and have not noticed a massive reduction in flight time the way some people do.  I think machines with long flight times, low current draw, are affected less.  And most of my machines are like that.

    Hugues: Yes, that's a great question.  In fact, you would not be allowed to fly commercially at that location under and Exemption, as it is considered "built-up area".  No, I'm not kidding, wish I was.  So that would require an SFOC, wait 20+ days, etc.  And from what I've heard, the Montreal branch of TC probably wouldn't approve that location anyway, apparently they are very conservative.  I can't really say much authoritatively about the bearings.  No idea who made them, or what they put in them.  It's certainly possible to endure it, just look at all the ball bearings on an automotive accessory drive.  They don't have any super special grease.

    Dan: Yeah, I froze a finger, was pretty painful.  Snuck up on me, you know like a frog in boiling water.  I was actually worried about frostbite, but it wasn't.  Feels a bit numb still, but I've already had nerve damage on that one from several injuries, so I don't know...

  • Next time you want to fly in winter, just use one of the large shops at my work place.... WTF Rob, its too damn cold :)
    (And I grew up in Northern Ontario)

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