Field Safety Procedures
It is now the day of the flight. You have packed up all of your equipment and headed out to the site. When you get out to the site there are some regulatory and safety measures you have to take. First being to notify any and all persons at the site that we are going to be conducting drone operations over-head, that being any persons in the direct vicinity, or people who are clearly not going anywhere and will be flown over, it is not necessary to stop a guy riding his bike across the flight path to notify him.
Next, we will check the flight area visually once more to confirm that we have accounted for all obstacles on the site and ensure that nothing has changed since our last visit.
Once this is complete we have to identify a takeoff and landing zone. Ideally, this zone should be in a place free of overhead and lateral obstruction, ideally not in tall grass or debris, as the gimbal and camera can get caught on debris during its preflight calibration and damage it.
Once the takeoff and landing zones have been established, the wind speed, temperature and visibility should be verified one more time to make sure we fly within established aircraft safety parameters.
pre flight inspection
Before we take off, we need to conduct a Visual inspection of the aircraft. This is an important risk mitigation step, checking for damage prior to flight guarantees that at least you won’t take off with a malfunctioning component giving your flight success likelihood a healthy boost. Starting with the hull of the aircraft, follow the seam in the middle around the vertical axis of the drone all the way out to the arms. Check to make sure the two plastic cowls are aligned; misalignment is an indicator that the drone was put under a good amount of stress and should be inspected closer. Check the skids to make sure they are sturdy and well connected to the drone.
Next check each propeller by running your fingers from the base of the propeller to the tips, checking for any chips, or cracks. Take the tips of each propeller in your fingers and gently twist; this will show any cracks in the propeller that may have been invisible prior. The propellers and motors are what keep the drone in the air, if there are issues with either, flight should not commence until repairs have been made.
Next are the motors. You’ll want to make sure each motor bell is free moving and free of any dents or dings. Dents or dings are indicators that the aircraft has been struck; that force can disrupt sensitive magnets on the inside of the motor bell. If you see any dents, proceed with extreme caution, as motor failure almost always results in catastrophic failure and best case scenario, some equipment damage. Debris from the drone being in a workshop or just out in a dusty environment can get inside the motor bells and cause engine issues. Blowing air into the bell with your mouth is plenty of air to clear any debris that might be in the motor bell. Using an air compressor can damage the sensitive apparatus, so it is best to avoid them.
The only component left to check is the camera and gimbal. Check to make sure the camera lens is clean; after all, this is the money maker, without good pictures, we wont get good data! The lens should not be touched and if it needs to be cleaned, be very careful and use a microfiber cloth. The same goes for the gimbal. Gently examine the gimbal to make sure it is free of obstruction and able to operate normally. While rare, gimbal failure can compromise a mission. Preflight inspection is absolutely essential, but is definitely not the only time these checks can be done. In fact, checking these physical parts on a regular basis is good practice.
Next, we will pre flight the controller. Be sure the antennae are extended and if applicable, the tablet is connected to the controller, be sure the stick controls are free moving.
Next we check the batteries. Start by checking the charge of the battery, your batteries should be fully charged before using. Next inspect the battery vents; you should be able to see clear through them if all's right with the battery. Not being able to see through the battery is an indication that something is wrong. It is important that these vents stay clear, as the battery needs to be cooled properly to work optimally, blow through the battery to clear any debris that might have collected, if this doesn’t clear the vents, the battery should not be used.
Now that the battery has passed inspection, it is time to discuss the flight plan with all participants, be it co workers, clients or other persons involved in the operations. This check in will make sure everyone is on the same page and is ready for the mission to begin.
Now it’s time to insert the battery into the aircraft and power on in order, our controller, aircraft, and (if applicable) tablet. The green light on the controller indicates a connection with the aircraft, and flashing green lights on the aircraft indicate a connection to the drone. When the tablet is connected, the Ipad should indicate that it is charging; set the controller setting to “P”; now open the DJI GO app and enter aircraft. Check the overall status bar in the upper left hand of the screen, if it is green, you are good to go! If it is red or yellow, simply tap the bar to get a more detailed description of the issue. While still in the DJI Go 4 app, verify that your SD card on board the aircraft has sufficient space to take pictures for your project.
At this point you are cleared to fly manually, the next step in the process is to execute your auto pilot mission.