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What is pre-flight check and why you need it?

Drone pre-flight check list can be a very complex or a very simple process. Everything in it depends on what you are flying and what for. Commercial drone flight check lists are the ones most complex. This is because those records get audited at various occasions, such as applications for certifications, insurances etc.

For private and hobby flights, especially flying small drones where risk to others is very low, the list can be very simple. But it still should be done, as it can save you your drone when things go WRONG.

Typically, the preflight check list will consist of the below steps.

Location info

Wherever you are flying, you need to be aware of the cardinal directions. You also need to know what is in those directions – like lake in the north, airport in the west, hill in the south. This awareness will allow you to bring the drone back in the event it kicks out of GPS into ATTI mode. You are facing north and the drone is flying north? It is flying away from you towards the lake. Hit the “back” stick or turn it around if you want to bring it back, ideally try to avoid flying towards the airport in the west as well 🙂 . You will need to know the elevation of the hill (or just have some idea). If the drone flies towards the hill, you will want to fly above it (or bring it back). Typically you will want to fly above the obstacles and make sure that there is nothing between the drone and the remote controller. No hills, no trees and no buildings. When flying in completely new location, I usually use Dronelink to plan and virtually pre-fly my mission. Dronelink is a paid application, but it’s not expensive at the moment and absolutely worth it. You can also plan your flights on Litchi website and pre-fly using Google Earth, but I have ot tested that yet.

Planning and pre-flying missions in Dronelink

Weather conditions

The most critical one is the wind (direction and speed). Do not fly in wind that is above what your drone can handle. You will very likely lose your drone if you do, and it will be a “pilot error” – do not count on manufacturer sending you another one (log analysis will show all errors). Although drones can generally handle a bit of moisture, unless your drone is waterproof, do not fly in rain either. Another one to watch out for is temperature – most drones have operating range between -5 (or -10 C) and +40 C. flying outside extremes may cause failure. Flying in extremely hot weather may cause the battery to explode. One last one to watch is KP index which may impact accuracy of compass. There are mixed opinions whether it actually does, but rather don’t risk it. There are many apps to use for checking weather, I often use Safe2Fly, which will also show some info about restrictions.

Condition of the drone

Make sure your gear is in working order, SD cards inserted, batteries charged, no lose wires. Gimbal cover off, props in good condition. No lose screws, pieces that could get tangled into propellers (important when flying with any payload). If you want to make a firmware update this is good moment. Make sure that you have proper GPS lock and enough satellites before you take off – this is to correctly record home point

Drone settings!!!

You should always be very aware of what your drone settings are. I suggest you check them each time, especially if you fly with different apps. Some apps can reset the settings (I had that when flying with VR app). The key settings are the maximum height, maximum distance, critical battery warning and fail safe procedures. It is absolutely essential that you know what those settings are so that you can predict drone behavior IF something goes wrong. Whether you decide to adjust them or not (from the factory defaults) is something that you have to take a call on, you can use my post on settings as guide line. I have covered this topic quite extensively here, so please, have a look!

There are many printable check lists in the Internet, so you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. The one below is from DJI for Inspire 2, but they mostly follow same logic.

DJI Inspire pre-flight check list, use it as guideline
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