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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

My drone pre-flight checklist

Since I shared my hiking checklist I thought I’d also share my always-a-work-in-progress drone pre-flight checklist. Not every question on this applies to every single situation and some of these rules you may be willing to bend or break depending on the circumstances. But, having a checklist may help to reduce the number of mistakes you may make.

  • Are batteries in drone fully charged?
  • Are batteries in controller fully charged?
  • Are batteries in phones or tablets fully charged?
  • Are the drone’s props in good repair?
  • Are the drone’s props fully secured?
  • Am I near anything that could cause signal interference; lots of metal, radio towers, buildings?
  • Will I have line-of-sight for my entire flight?
  • Do I have the maps of the area I’ll be flying downloaded to my device?
  • Would it be good to have a spotter keep an eye on my drone while I look at the video output?
  • Are my camera settings set for the video or photos that I’d like to take during this flight?
  • Is the memory card empty?
  • Is the area I am flying legal?
  • Is the wind speed safe?
  • Is there any precipitation expected in the area during your flight time?
  • Check all settings in your app are what you’d prefer for your flight.
  • Have I unfastened the gimbal?
  • How high do I need to fly for my entire flight path in order to be safe?
  • Can I possibly get closer to my target area before taking off?
  • If something goes wrong, do I have a second landing area that I could possibly go to?
  • Is the area between my landing zone and my target an area I can access?
  • Will I be flying over private property or can I avoid that?

These simple checks can, perhaps, save you from making a mistake that could cost you a lot of money or battery time or frustration.

Creating your own hiking checklist

Have you ever bolted out the door to go hiking (or kayaking, photographing, cycling, it doesn’t matter) and when you arrive at your location you realize you forgot something at home? Say, a camera battery or a water bottle?

Here is a simple way to reduce the number of times this happens to you: make a checklist. It doesn’t matter what app or method you use or what is on the list at first (because you can tweak it over time). Just start a list.

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Here is my hiking checklist that I’ve made over the last few months. I use Apple’s Reminders app since it is already on all of my devices and I can make adjustments to it whenever I want.

  • water
  • UAV (flight and controller batteries)
  • UAV camera (cable and memory card)
  • phone
  • waterproof watch
  • camera (battery and memory card)
  • socks
  • shirt
  • hoodie (if temperature will dip below 70)
  • shoes (if it had rained the night before)
  • map (digital or print)
  • snack (if hike will be longer than 3 hours)
  • pocket knife

Most of what you find on my list is pretty self-explanatory but there are a few things that you may wonder about. I list socks, shirt, and a hoodie for a few reasons. First, I sweat when I hike. You probably do too. So if I ever want to do something after the hike on the way home – like grocery shop or get a bite to eat – I am doing everyone else a favor by bringing along a clean pair of socks and a shirt. Second, if the temperature gets chilly and my shirt is wet with sweat I get cold fast. If that happens I will switch to a dry shirt on the loop back to the car just to be warmer. It works remarkably well.

The snack is usually a granola bar or two. I’ve been on a few hikes lately that I had underestimated the amount of effort needed and on more than one occasion I felt myself get a bit shaky. A short rest, a granola bar, and some water and that does the trick. Something I’ve heard of is to bring good quality chocolate along. Not just any candy bar. If you’re really feeling in a lull you can eat some chocolate and it will take quick effect. I believe the pros call this “summit chocolate”. I haven’t done this yet but I might consider it as I’m beginning to get into longer and steeper climbs lately.

A few of the items on my list require power. So, it is important to not just bring the batteries but I must be certain that the batteries are charged. I ensure all of my equipment is powered up before every hike by doing one simple thing; plugging in all of the devices the moment I return from every hike. Even if I only used the UAV for a few minutes I recharge the battery when I return. Once you’re in that habit you won’t find yourself without power.

Make a list, make changes to it as you see the need to, and check the list right before you go out the door each time, and you’ll always be well equipped to get out and explore.