Like all aviators UAV pilots need to consider the weather whenever and wherever they are planning to fly. There are innumerable websites that can offer you a weather forecast and they vary in scale and accuracy. Some can be difficult to understand because of the way the information is displayed, so spend some time finding one or two that you find easy to read and comprehend and which you’ve found to be accurate. It’s no use using a pretty looking site if the forecast is wrong.
Note: We have a separate page for the Kp Index for drone pilots.
There are thousands of books about the weather. Many of them are written from the perspective of any activity e.g. aerospace, sailing, golf etc, but as a UAV pilot you’ll want only the information that relates to the lower levels of the atmosphere, so a book that describes the basics of weather forecasting for general aviation pilots is ideal.
Drone Pilot Weather Forecast Apps
It’s worth trying various sources for a time and noting their accuracy. As well as looking ahead, look at the actual weather and see if their prediction was correct. For our mobile devices we are currently using the WeatherPro app, and for browser checking we’ve recently spotted WindyTV who provide these excellent graphic displays of the wind, temperature and other factors for display on a website. Experiment with the controls to overlay each type of information and your mouse wheel to zoom in/out.
Note that you can view the wind at the surface, and at 300-1,000ft. That’s quite a crucial difference to aviators as the wind can veer with height. Wind can also vary due to local ground effects e.g. the topography, trees, buildings etc.
TAFS and METARs
As handy as these sites and apps are though there is no substitute for learning how to decipher the TAFs (Terminal Area Forecasts) and and METARs (Meteorological Aerodrome Report) widely used (and freely available) throughout the aviation world.
The Met Office will give you free aviation weather reports (actual and forecasts) if you register at their site for a free account. There are plenty of other sites but some haven’t been updated in a while and consequently the links are no longer pointing at current sources of information, so cross check two sources at least.
Once you’ve learned how to read a TAF and METAR as well as wind and pressure charts you should be able to make more confident decisions about what the weather will be like at your intended flying location.
This will become an important skill if you ever have to travel far to fly for pleasure or for profit. Can you accurately predict the weather and most importantly the wind at the location 24 hours in advance? Do you know what the wind will be at 8am when you want to take those aerial shots during the golden hour after sunrise?
Studying the Weather
Learning about the weather can be quite enjoyable once you put your mind to it. If I had to recommend one book it would be Pilot’s Weather: The Commonsense Approach to Meteorology.
It’s a plain English description with lots of colour photos of cloud types, not too long and with summaries at the end of each section. If you want to learn about the basics of temperature, pressure, humidity, clouds, fronts, mist, and fog to name a few, then this book will guide you through it.
It’s written for general aviation pilot but if you’re flying a UAV then you’re a pilot in charge of an aircraft. It may be smaller than a Piper Warrior but the affects of wind and weather are just as important to you as any GA pilot.