Drone Flight Planning with Skyward

Skyward is built from the ground up specifically for drone operations. Planning and logging flights is simple, yet captures the information you need to track and maintain compliant operations. Use these tips and tricks to get started planning your flights in Skyward:

1. Building the shape of your flight area

  • Consider the objective of the mission and the boundaries you will need to achieve it. Draw your flight area large enough to perform the mission but no larger.
  • Are there residential areas near this location that are not part of the operation (non-participants)?  How will you make sure that you avoid those areas?
  • Take note of the terrain or man-made features immediately north, east, south, and west of this location.  Lakes, rivers, shopping malls, sports facilities, etc. Look for visual references that you can use as boundaries when creating your flight area in the app.

If available, use some of the visual references described above as boundaries.  If there are none, a rectangle is a good choice. An irregular flight area without obvious visual cues will be more difficult to reference when you’re on the ground. 

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The parking lot in the southwest area provides a visual cue for the operators on site. This designated area of operations allows pilots to stay clear of non-participants.

Avoid high risk areas when possible:

  • Roads with heavy traffic
  • Pedestrian walkways
  • Areas of open water
  • Large areas of inaccessible terrain

2. Planning and marking your takeoff and landing zone

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Make sure there are at least two clear areas with a radius of 30 feet (A road lane is 10-12 feet wide, a three-lane road is 30-36 feet wide). This is to allow for GPS/GNSS error which may be as much as 16 feet (5 meters) during a return-to-home profile. Mark and label these locations.  This may change once you get to the flight area but you should have a plan. Ideal locations have vehicle access to the planned launch and recovery areas and a shelter or a building nearby that can be used as a staging site.

Pick an obvious visual cue from the map that you can use as a direction reference.  For example if there is an easily identifiable building or terrain feature in the northern part of your flight area, make note of it.

Mentally place yourself at the launch and recovery area and imagine yourself looking north, east, south, and west.  What do you expect to see?  Are there any sections of the flight area where the line-of-sight with your drone might get blocked?

3. Points of Interest & Hazards

Points of Interest:

  • Primary landing and takeoff zone: We recommended 30ft of clearance on all sides from any obstacles.
  • Alternate landing zones: We recommend having at least one, and doing an inspection of it before takeoff
  • Points of interest: Leave detailed notes for the pilot and crew on what data you want to capture

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Hazards:

  • Call out any major obstacles: Especially something that might not be easy to spot visually – like a source of RF interference.

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  • Non-participants: It’s important to anticipate if people could enter your area of operations.  If so, post notice or take measures when on-site to minimize the risk. We recommend staying no less than 100 feet away from any non-participating person, vessel, vehicle or structure

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Taking this careful and methodical approach and adding markers and hazards to your flight areas is an ideal way to comply with the procedures outlined in your General Operating Manual or internal best practices.


Sign in to your Skyward account to start planning and logging flights.

Next, we’ll look at attaching documents to individual flights, operators, or your organization’s library in Skyward.

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