About UAV Forecast – A Simple Yet Amazing App for Drone PilotsAugust 16, 2019
How many apps do you need as a drone pilot? For the purist, you’ll probably hear them say “One”. For the tinkerer, geek and so on, that answer would probably be something like “As many as you can fit on your device”. Either way, when it comes to selecting apps for your drone, there’s no shortage of options.
The hard part is trying to weed out the crap and find the few true gems that are the must-haves for your drone app collection. To that end, I want to tell you About UAV Forecast and let you know why it’s listed as one of my Top App Picks.
We’ll discuss if you really need another weather app, learn about UAV Forecast, find out what makes it so special and talk about some other apps that might be a better fit for your needs.
Table of Contents
In the end, I hope this post helps you find the right app that provides the features you want and gives you the information you need. Let’s get started…
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Do I Really Need Another Weather App?
Ultimately, no. Of course, you’re getting that advice from someone who has 9 weather apps on his phone, not including UAV Forecast, so really 10. Now, that’s just me being a bit lazy…
I used to check the weather on 3 different websites, back in the day and when their corresponding apps were released I just downloaded them. Then I had the 1 that came with my phone’s OS and I added a few more because I liked their features or the way they present certain data (I used to live in South Florida so hurricane information was important to me).
I really just need to take the time to go through each, once again, and narrow it down to two or three max.
In the end, it’s up to you to determine how many weather apps you need. I recommend you consider features, display/presentation (what you get at a glance) and accuracy (there’s no point in using a weather app that’s always wrong). That’s one of the reasons I used AccuWeather for so long. They just seemed to get it right.
Tell Me About UAV Forecast?
UAV Forecast is another weather app but it’s tailored to the drone pilot. It provides the necessary information that a drone pilot would find useful and it displays that information in an easy to understand format that’s really more of a snapshot that you can glance at and know what’s what.
It’s not only an app but a website as well and offers both a free and subscription option. The free option allows you to use all the features the app and site have to offer but limits you to a 24-hour forecast. The pay-for option expands the forecast range to 7 days.
For most of us, we’re more of the “I’ll check it just before I need it” mentality and the 24-hour limitation on the free option isn’t an issue. For others, mainly those of us who are part 107 certified and planning a job a few days out, the subscription service makes more sense. Still, I recommend checking again just before the flight to be sure the weather hasn’t changed significantly since the last time you checked it.
Now let’s talk about the actual features and information provided by UAV Forecast…
What Makes UAV Forecast So Special?
There’s a lot that makes UAV Forecast special. Here’s a list of some of my favorite features:
One of the best things about UAV Forecast is the ability to set your own thresholds for various categories. Set the maximum wind speed, minimum and maximum temperatures, cloud coverage, visibility, minimum visible GPS satellites, and more! You can even choose whether to include GLONASS, Galileo individually!
UAV Forecast does a pretty good job of picking the default settings but it’s nice to be able to customize them to your specific preferences.
How many times have you used an app and it’s locked to a specific speed or temperature reference? You don’t have that problem with UAV Forecast. Set your wind reference unit to mph, km/h, knots, m/s and more. The same goes for altitude, temperature, and visibility. Mix and match to your heart’s delight.
When you open the app, you’re presented with your current weather information in a 3 x 4 square grid with a bar at the top telling you if it’s good to fly or not. This screen is called Conditions. What’s nice about this is square is also color-coded. If everything is in the green, you’re good. If something is marginal, it might be displayed in yellow to draw your attention to it. Guess what the next color is… Yep, red. Anything in red is a warning that it’s not good.
The squares are divided up as follows:
This shows a little icon of the basic weather you can expect. A sun means it’s sunny, clouds mean it overcast, etc.
This square simply shows you the sunrise and sunset times for the selected location. This can be great information to know when operating under part 107 as sunrise and sunset play important roles in the rules.
As you’d expect, this one shows you the current temperature in the format you’ve selected (Fahrenheit, Celsius, etc.).
This one shows the current wind speed. Good to know if you are uncomfortable flying in higher wind speeds. It will also help you calculate how far you can go and still be able to return safely within your drone’s and battery’s flight range.
Wind speed is one thing but gusts should also be considered. If you’re flying near your drone’s wind speed limit and gusts come up exceeding them, you can be in a world of hurt.
A little arrow shows you the wind direction relative to north. I wish this offered a direction based on your flight path but UAV Forecast has no way of determining that so north it is.
This just shows you what the chances of any precipitation are. This isn’t just a rain prediction. It’s really for all forms of precipitation such as rain, snow, hail, sleet and so on.
I’m pretty sure you can guess what this one is for. It will let you know how much of the sky is covered by clouds.
You might be concerned with how far you can see, especially for jobs that require you to fly long distances. The visibility square has you covered.
Ever wonder how many GPS satellites can be seen from your location? Wonder no more. This shows you the raw number of satellites that you should be able to see barring any obstacles like mountains, buildings, etc.
I really like this one. It’s an index that measures geomagnetic disruption caused by solar activity. The more activity, the higher the chances that it will interfere with your GPS lock and even your controllable range.
This one is much like the Visible Satellites box but takes into account elevation mask, time of day (believe it or not GPS actually is worse at night), location (interference increases as you get closer to the equator) and the current Kp index information. When it crunches all of that information together, it produces a pretty accurate count of how many GPS satellites you should be able to lock onto with your drone.
The forecast is pretty accurate. I have yet to see a major deviation from what was predicted. What’s nice is you get that “what’s going on now” snapshot look but you can also click on Forecast and get an hour-by-hour forecast, color-coded just like the blocks.
This is another great feature. You can get wind speed, gust speed and temperature information for multiple altitudes. These include 33ft, 100ft, 250ft, 500ft, 1000ft all the way up to 5000ft! This can come in handy if you’re planning to fly and various altitudes.
Like many other drone-related apps, UAV Forecast has a map view and overlays colored circles representing different warnings and notifications. These include; TFRs/NOTAMs, DJI no-fly zones, large airports, medium airports, small airports, seaplane bases, heliports, and a range guide. You can even adjust the no-fly zone options such as radius or even turn off specific categories!
As you can see UAV Forecast has a lot to offer and presents it in such a way as to make it easy to decipher not only each individual square and associated factor but to get a quick overall picture as well.
What Are Some Other Apps I Might Consider Instead?
Now, UAV Forecast isn’t the only app out there. That said, it’s designed for one thing and one thing only and it does it very well. Still, here are some other apps you may want to consider instead or in addition to…
This is not a weather app. It’s a full-on drone solution app. Flight information, LAANC authorizations, logging and so on are all part of this solution. It does, however, offer some basic weather information such as temperature, wind, gusts, visibility, humidity, cloud cover, daylight/sunset, Kp index, and expected GPS signal. That said, it’s a right-now snapshot and doesn’t offer any type of forecasting.
General Weather Apps
If you don’t need satellite information or maybe even the Kp index info, then any of your other weather apps should provide most of the information you need. Ones I particularly like are AccuWeather, The Weather Channel, and WeatherBug.
So really, as far as done-specific apps go, there’s only 1 that I would consider instead of UAV Forecast and that one only offers a right-now look. I’m sure there are others out there. I just don’t know who they are or what they have to offer.
So, now that I’ve told you About UAV Forecast, what do you think? I for one love it. It’s my go-to app whenever I even think about flying. I just love the quick-look feature that the Conditions screen presents and I know right away if I’m good to fly or not.
Now I’d like to hear from you… Do you use UAV Forecast? If so, do you like it? Is there a feature I didn’t list here? Do you know of an alternative that you think should be listed here? Please let me know by commenting below.