The excitement that comes from flying a drone is hard to beat. Whether you’ve been building RC airplanes for years, or want to get the perfect selfie, it can be tempting to put a drone in the air as soon as you get your hands on it. But for your own safety, the safety of the people on the ground and in the air around you, and to protect your investment, you want to make sure you use a pre-flight checklist. Here’s why:
Pre-flight checklists are an essential exercise for safe drone operations. Veteran pilots and first-time drone users alike can use a pre-flight checklist before the aircraft leaves the ground to reduce the risk of flyaways, injuries, and damage to property or aircraft. It doesn’t have to be a long and involved process, and it doesn’t have to cost anything. Most drone manufacturers include a sample checklist with the aircraft, and the FAA offers their own set of safety guidelines.
But if you find yourself in the field without a checklist handy, just remember this phrase: Loose, Juice, and Roost.
Loose: Is anything on the drone loose? Check to make sure all the aircraft’s hardware elements are secure. Check that the props are properly installed and the battery is secure. If nothing’s loose on the drone, you’re in good shape.
Juice: Does your equipment have enough juice? Make sure the drone’s battery is charged to an acceptable level. Your transmitter and phone should be charged as well, so that neither fail during flight. Take into consideration how environmental factors like temperature or density altitude may affect battery performance, and keep this in mind while the drone is in the air so that you have enough battery to return to home and land safely.
Roost: Where will the aircraft come home to roost? Almost every drone has settings that determine what will happen if your transmitter loses its link with the aircraft, or if the aircraft loses orientation and triggers a return-to-home action. Make sure you’ve set a safe GPS location as the home point, have a calibrated compass, and that you’ve set a high enough return-to-home altitude so that the drone can fly over any potential obstacles along its path of return.
Flying a drone is like driving a car; operation comes with responsibility. But that responsibility doesn’t have to be difficult. A pre-flight checklist can be as easy as putting on a seatbelt and looking both ways before you pull out of the driveway. Make it a habit, and you’ll be that much safer.