This is Part 1 of a 3-Part Series about my summer flying drones in the Arctic Circle. Check back later this week for Part 2!
I just spent an incredible summer in the Arctic Circle — Somerset Island in Canada, to be exact –flying drones!
Packing for a drone trek is complicated enough — you need to make sure you’ve got batteries, memory cards, cords, etc. And packing for the Arctic? That’s next level!
Here’s your essential Arctic drone packing list of 8 items that are specific to flying drones in the Arctic — NOT including the typical stuff you would bring on any drone trek.
- Muck Boots: You’re going to need a pair of durable boots for trekking in the Arctic. Sorry, but your New Balance running shoes just won’t cut it. In the Arctic, even if you are past the snowy season, that only means there is more mud to deal with and and rivers to cross (sorry, no paved trails here!). I highly recommend the Muck Boots.
They keep you warm and are durable in all terrains. I didn’t want to invest $100+ in a pair of boots that I would only wear once, so there is a silver lining here. I booked my Arctic drone adventure through Quark Expeditions, which is great, because they actually loan you a pair of boots for the week, including in the cost of the trip.
— Sally French (@TheDroneGirl) July 10, 2018
2. Touchscreen Winter Gloves: Even if you’re visiting the Arctic in the summer, it’s going to be cold. While I would recommend a warmer pair of heavy-duty gloves for your day-to-day activities, in most cases you’ll still want to be wearing gloves during your drone flights too. Pack a light pair of touchscreen gloves, which will allow you to still use your phone or tablet to interact with the drone’s app.
GliderGloves are not the warmest, but they will keep your hands protected for a 20 minute drone flight, cost less than $10 and work incredibly well with touchscreens.
It should go without stating that of course, you want additional winter wear like waterproof pants, thermal underwear and fleeces.
3. A battery heater:
In extremely cold weather, you should preheat your drone’s battery before actually taking flight. Some manufacturers make battery heaters to augment their batteries, including DJI. These tend to be small and light to pack — and cost around $20.
A portable storage device will allow you to back up your footage immediately, so you don’t need to worry about bringing multiple memory cards or uploading your footage to your computer. With the My Passport Wireless SSD, which has a built-in SD card readerm you can simply pop your memory card into the portable drive, upload your footage in a matter of seconds, and pop it back into your drone to resume flying. There’s huge peace of mind in knowing your footage is backed up, all without even needing a laptop.
5. Filters for your drone camera: The snow, ice and general brightness that you tend to get in the Arctic Circle and Antarctica will do brutal things to your photography. Without the proper camera settings, the snow will either turn out way too bright, or on the other end, appear gray. Consider investing in a set of camera filters.
Neutral density (ND) filters are coin-sized pieces of semi-transparent glass, which you pop over your camera lens to reduce the amount of light your drone’s camera receives. An ND filter allows you to slightly slow your shutter speed down or (if your drone’s camera allows it) use a wider aperture than you would otherwise be able to use.
ND filters fix common problems you see in any photo — but particularly aerial photos — including glare, overexposure, harsh shadows and other issues. That means you can show straight down into the snow on a bright day, without worrying about harsh shadows.
PolarPro makes a variety of filters for many drones including the DJI Phantom and Zenmuse camera.
6. Landing pad: I typically think landing pads are a waste of money. However, it is imperative you avoid moisture (abundant in the Arctic!), which can damage or short out the motor, gimbal, or camera. If you are taking off on ice, you need a drone landing pad.
7. An anemometer: A what? This is a tool for tracking the wind speed. The Arctic is likely windier than the spots where you are used to flying due to the terrain. It can be highly dangerous to put your drone up in windy conditions, and many drones have limitations on wind resistance. Test the wind speed before you even unpack your drone with an anemometer. At just $17, this portable device is worth keeping in your drone bag.
8. Waterproof, light backpack: Arctic weather conditions can change at any time. Rain can come from nowhere. If you travel in the Arctic through a trip like the one I did with Quark Expeditions, you’ll pack up your stuff for the day, go out hiking, biking, or ATV riding for the entire day, and not get back to camp until night time. That means, you don’t want to be stranded miles out from camp in the rain with a wet drone. Keep your drone protected with a waterproof backpack. You want a backpack that is light and not too bulky, but also big enough to stow your other gear like scarves and gloves if it gets too hot during the day.
LowePro has really high-quality, durable packs that are designed specifically with drones in mind.
Is there an item you would add to my essential Arctic drone packing list? Leave a comment below!