How to Make Drone Operations Reliable

Logan Campbell -

Last week, I spent a day in the field getting a client trained on their new UAV equipment. Naturally, I thought this would be a great chance to test out a new aircraft that we recently received. Unfortunately, I made a mistake that is all too common in UAV operations: I left all of my batteries sitting in their charger back in the office. I was grounded for the day, and will have to test out the equipment another day, wasting my time in the field and costing the company money. Normally, I bring my checklists out with me for every flight, but given that this was new equipment, I thought I would run the operation without checklists. Turns out I wasn’t going to be running it at all.

Stories like this are common in UAV operations for both professionals and novices alike. There are countless small errors that you can make that will either keep you from flying, keep you from getting good data, or in the worst case, cause your aircraft to fail. Thankfully, these are all avoidable errors. Having good operational procedures and good training is the solution to prevent these type of mistakes. That means using checklists on every mission, in order to remember everything to do. And always, always adhere to your procedures. 

The use of checklists is something that drone operators picked up from the traditional manned aircraft industry. Checklists help operators remember every step in a process, and remember the right order to perform them. There are many small errors, like forgetting to pack batteries, tablet cables, or memory cards, that can ground an operation; using checklists helps ensure none of them happen. Even seasoned professionals can forget simple steps, leading to disastrous results. Thankfully forgetting to pack batteries will not do any damage, and only negatively impacts yourself. However, forgetting to properly check airspace restrictions could result in legal trouble, or even an accident. 

Every line on a checklist or procedures manual has a story behind it, and most of them involve a crash. Over the past five years, the UAV industry has become dramatically safer and more reliable, primarily because of the lessons from hundreds of thousands of operations. However, to benefit from these learnings in your own operations, you have to follow the procedures. Every. Single. Time. Many procedures on a good checklist are meant to prevent 1 in 1,000 errors. But over time, those odds add up. Even if an error isn’t mission critical, following procedures helps you save time and money, and run the most efficient operation possible.

Proper training and procedures are not particularly complicated, but they should come from a professional. Otherwise, you risk having to learn from your own mistakes. Aerotas has helped the industry develop the best practices and procedures for flying drones safely and effectively. The Aerotas Map Package includes operational procedure guides, checklists, and training specifically designed to ensure your mapping job is as safe and reliable as possible. We have curated a best-in-class package of technology and operations that removes the guesswork for surveyors who are ready to start owning and operating their own mapping drone. Learn more about the Aerotas Map Package here, or contact us with questions at


Logan is the founder and CEO of Aerotas. He graduated from Harvard Business School in 2015 and brings experience in a broad range of industries, including agriculture, real estate, and finance. A lifelong tinkerer and avid UAV enthusiast, Logan also has hundreds of hours of flight experience over a broad set of different UAV types.