A pre-flight safety checklist is a must for every drone pilot. This checklist will help you ensure that your drone equipment is in good functioning order, and can prevent unnecessary mistakes that could lead to an accident. There are several important aspects to a pre-flight check that can help to ensure a safe flight, beginning with a literal checklist. Use the internet to find a pre-flight checklist that works for you and use it to perform your safety checks. Also, write down the date and location of each of your flights at the top of your checklist, in case you ever need to refer back to a specific flight. . There are also several useful pre-flight checklist apps to download if you do not want to print a paper checklist every time you are going to fly. Refer to your drone’s manual for specific pre-flight checks and requirements.
Beyond the literal checklist, there are a few key components to a pre-flight drone check which include the flying environment and equipment itself. You need to make sure that the environment you plan to fly in is safe, legal, and right for your drone. You also need to ensure that your drone and accessories are well maintained and in a safe condition to fly.
Open areas with minimal signal interference are ideal for piloting your drone. Choosing the right environment will greatly decrease your odds of having an accident.
- First, you want to be sure that the area you are flying in is legal for drone operations. Make sure it is not within five miles of an airport, near a government installation, near a current emergency situation such as a forest fire, near crowds, or close to buildings. Unless you have the proper permits or obtained a special waiver to fly in these locations, you cannot do so. The easiest way to ensure safe drone operation is to download an app that can keep you updated on changing events in the area and inform you if you are in a no-drone zone.
- Next, check that the weather is safe and favorable for piloting your drone. Depending on the type and design of the drone, the different types of poor weather it can handle will vary. Check your drone’s operations manual for specifications on things like maximum wind speed and temperature limits. Commercial drones are usually designed to handle high winds and freezing temperatures. Hobbyist drones, however, are much more susceptible to poor weather. You also have to be especially careful about the wind, as even slightly strong winds or a sudden gust can cause you to lose control of your drone. Also, keep in mind that even a return-to-home fail safe feature may not save your drone in strong winds. As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to fly only in wind speeds less than 10-15 mph and to avoid rain and snow. More than likely, cloud cover will not affect your drone’s connection, but they may be a tell tale sign of rain to come. Keep a close eye on local weather reports and land your drone immediately at the first sign of rain.
Before each flight, you must also inspect your equipment to ensure that everything is in proper working condition and ready to fly.
- Start by calibrating your compass. The compass is responsible for the drone’s flight orientation. Ensuring it is properly calibrated is essential for a safe flight.
- Next, check your drone for any loose connections, cracks, dented parts or anything else out of place. Take special care when inspecting the propellers, as they are a critical component responsible for the lift and thrust you need to fly. It is important that your propellers are free of chips, dents, cracks, and dirt. Replace any damaged propellers before flight. Remember to perform this inspection not only at the beginning of flights, but also in between flights if you intend to perform several flights in a row.
- Check all attached equipment or payloads such as sensors and cameras. Clean the camera lenses and check to ensure your gimbal is in good working order.
- Insert the battery (or batteries) and make sure they are fully charged. Check that the batteries are snug and won’t come loose during flight. It is recommended to use fully charged batteries and to rotate their use. Batteries that have been out of use for long periods of time may not perform as well.
Finally, inspect the drone’s connection to the controller and any other external equipment, such as a smartphone or computer. It is important to turn on the controller before you turn on the drone to ensure continuous control of the aircraft. Start with a hover to check that the drone is operating properly. Listen for unusual noise that could be a sign of wear and tear. Watch for any unusual behavior that may indicate problems with connection or impending propeller failure.
Once you are confident that your drone is safely ready for flight, you are free to fly.