Consider These Points When Planning Your Company’s Drone Flights
As representatives of 3DR technology, initial.aec is often asked for advice – not only on how to use the 3DR SiteScan technology and UAS platform (either from 3DR or DJI), but, advice on how to prepare a safe, well-organized flight plan. Safety is a primary concern in the industry. Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) technology can add another layer of complexity to a company’s safety planning. However, with a few reasonably simple steps UAS technology adds outstanding value to the job site.
First, make sure your company has proper liability insurance, or if you decide to use a UAS contractor, make sure that they can provide a certificate of insurance. This link contains much of the information you will need concerning UAS insurance. Also, check with your firm’s liability insurance provider.
The other primary concern is making sure your pilot – either employee or contractor – is fully licensed under the FAA part 107 regulations.
Once your firm has established these essentials, flight planning can proceed. The 3 key terms are, Plan, Capture, and Process. This article will be focused on the planning phase. During this phase, you will want to decide on the types of imagery and data your team wishes to capture – photogrammetry, LiDAR, Thermal, point cloud, etc. You will also need to understand the area you wish to collect imagery from. For example, a vertical or horizontal construction site, existing structure, power lines or pipelines, croplands, mapping, etc.
The next step is the development of your flight path. The path pictured was developed very easily by adding parameters into 3DR’s SiteScan UAS control system. This will allow you to determine the most efficient route for collecting the required data and imagery. You will also be able to determine other crucial factors such as battery life, line of sight issues, takeoff and landing areas, emergency landing areas, coverage area challenges and other important in-flight considerations.
Best practice is to use a flight log as well (in some areas flight logs are even required). Keep a record of all procedures and occurrences before during and at the wrap-up of the flight.
Once the flight path has been established there is a sequence of things to take care of before the proposed flight:
- Check with the FAA to make sure there are no permanent or temporary flight restrictions in place for the area of the proposed flight. There also may be altitude restrictions for flights in some areas.
- Filing an official flight plan is often required. Plan ahead as these can sometimes take several days or even weeks for approval, especially if a specific waiver is required.
- Along the same lines make sure you have “permission Acquisition Forms” on file, signed by the property owners of the project you are flying and any adjacent property that you may be required to traverse during the flight.
- Send courtesy notices to any neighbors in the project area letting them know that a flight or flights will be taking place and exactly what the objectives are.
- Determine the requirements for filing, “Notice to Airmen” (NOTAM) reports that give a heads up to pilots traveling in the area of your flight to be aware that your flight is taking place.
- Have available and be aware of regulations and procedures for flying within 500 feet of people, structures, and vehicles. These documents are available through dronelaw.org.
- Make sure that any required control points have been surveyed and positioned in the project area.
Once these requirements are taken care of – some well ahead of the flight and some just before the flight, you are ready to go. The day of the flight continue to be prepared:
- Have your pre-flight checklist ready and follow it through just as a pilot on a manned aircraft must do. Among other things this covers:
- Motor Startup
- Take off
- Final Landing
- Shut Down
- Emergency Landing
- Emergency During Flight
- Emergency on Ground
- Check FAA airspace again to make sure no Temporary Flight Holds (TPH) have been put in place.
- Place warning signs in the area around the project letting people know a flight will be in progress. Also, let project site work crews know of the flight.
- Locate your take-off and landing spot(s) and your emergency landing spot(s). Note: place a piece of carpet or a sheet of plywood at each location. This will keep dust from getting into the motors and causing possible complications.
- If required, notify nearby air traffic control that you will be flying, the area you will be flying, the maximum altitude you are planning to fly, and the takeoff time and flight duration.
- The pilot must monitor air traffic control always via radio, during the flight.
- Always have at least one observer or more depending on the size of the site. Lay out the logistics of the flight with them during preparation. Make sure everyone on the team and even site superintendents have walkie-talkies and stay in effective communication.
8. At the end of the flight, a best practice is to fill out a record of the equipment and maintenance and perform any needed maintenance. Just as a pilot in a manned aircraft must do these things, it is excellent practice for the UAS pilot. If there were some sort of accident, the maintenance records, and UAS servicing can help you troubleshoot the cause.
We will be hosting a free live event with 3DR on August 24th to go through this process and more. If you are interested, contact us to register. Happy Flying!