Checking the weather is a vital step in analyzing a flight area, but it’s more than just sticking your head out the window.
There are a lot of resources out there to help you evaluate effectively. I’m here to familiarize you with them and increase your confidence in assimilating data, including speaking to NavCanada agents for a briefing.
The Aviation Weather Website (AWWS)
Being the official weather website for aviators in Canada, AWWS has some great resources—if you know where to look.
Step1: Check NOTAM to see if there are any restrictions to your planned flight. There’s no point checking the weather if there is temporarily restricted airspace! There’s a lot of coded info on here but once you get used to the format, it’s pretty easy to pick out relevant ones.
If this doesn’t work for you, you can always call NavCanada at 1–866-WX-BRIEF, give them your location relevant to an airport (16NM NE), and ask if there are any NOTAM for the area.
Step 2: To get a high level view of the overall weather system, check out the Graphical FA. This tool gives an overall summary of what weather to expect and if there is a turbulence or icing forecast.
Step 3: If the GFA makes you question the possibility of precipitation or thunderstorms, go to the radar next. By watching the hour-long progression, you can try to forecast the arrival in the planned flying area.
Webcams are especially handy when flights are somewhere that you’re not. Reading forecasts or written observations is one thing, but actually being able to see the area is extra confirmation of what you’ve interpreted.
Note: METAR and TAF are essential (especially TAF). If you want some pilot cred, you can learn to read the standard format (I’ll show you an app below that will help).
Even if your certified for day and night operations, it’s always good to know when the sun sets so you can make sure you are prepared with the right equipment, like extra lighting.
This app is amazing. I used it every day as a flight instructor and when I finally sprung for the $3 paid version, it was definitely worth it. The decoded option is what makes this so user friendly. You can flip back and forth between the raw and decoded to assist your learning of the TAF and METAR.
This tool presents the NavCanada weather in a simple, easy to read format. I even use it to check for precipitation when planning outdoor activities.
UAV forecast and Hover both provide location specific information including your KP-index, which lets you know about solar radiation that might interfere with your GPS strength and reliability—always a good thing to include in your weather check!
Things To Note
I know this sounds like a lot, but I promise that after a few times through, it goes quickly.
If you ever come across anything that you need clarification on, such as timing of thunderstorms, icing potential, etc., call NavCanada for clarification. It’s best to call them with specific questions in mind rather than to ask, “What’s the weather going to be like?!” It can be intimidating to call the first few times but this is what they’re trained to do. That being said, I have a few tips:
- Greet them like humans. Try opening with, “How are you doing today?” instead of just jumping into what you need.
- State, “I’m a UAV pilot and I’ll be flying…” and then reference your location relative to an airport or two.
- Have your SFOC file number ready. They’ll use this to track who is using the service.
- Don’t forget to ask for any applicable NOTAM while you have them on the phone.
At Coastal Drone, we’re here to educate and make drone piloting as smooth as possible. Feel free to contact me at [email protected] if you have questions or are looking for more in-depth knowledge.