This is a guest post from SkyWatch.AI. SkyWatch.AI provides risk analysis and on-demand hourly insurance for professional drone service providers.

Many freelance pilots and small businesses are looking to provide drone flight services to major corporations and government agencies. In order to secure these types of contracts, you’ll need to take a few extra steps to meet their expectations and prove that you’re going above and beyond to mitigate risks—however small—associated with flying a UAV.

In this article I’ll break down everything you need to consider before any drone flight mission into to-do lists:

  1. Pre-flight
  2. During flight
  3. Post-flight

Drone Pre-flight Best Practices

Understand the Mission

Objectives and time tables

Make sure you understand the end goal and the deliverables your customer expects you to provide. Even if it takes some back-and-forth, it’s better to invest that time before starting a job than regretting it later. Consider all parts of the operation and make a clear timetable for it, as well as all the associated costs (unique equipment, special preparations, insurance, editing, etc).

Preliminary tour

Our data shows that flying in an unfamiliar location is almost twice as risky as flying a recurring job, and a preliminary tour can significantly reduce this risk.

Visit the flight location before the actual job takes place. Survey the area and plan where you’re going to base your operations, what equipment you’re going to need, and examine the environment. Pay special attention to things you can’t see in a digital map—structures, powerlines, and specific topography.

Drone flight risk analysis

Use a digital tool, such as Skyward, to plan your flight and examine all aspects like no-fly zones, congested roads, and the weather forecast. Insurance is also highly recommended, and in fact, it’s usually required by enterprise clients. The company I work for, SkyWatch.AI, provides a platform to get instant per-flight coverage, with the price based on the risks specific to the planned flight area. Our app focuses on flight safety, risk-analysis, and on-demand hourly insurance up to $10M.

It’s Time to Gear Up

As a professional pilot, be prepared for the unexpected! Examine your equipment, and make sure that the propellers are secured. Get extra batteries, a charger, and ideally a backup drone.

Professional, protective wear

Don’t forget to treat yourself as well! Bring sunglasses, sunscreen, and wear appropriate clothing that identifies you as a professional. Remember—your eyes are your most important tool, so make sure you can look at the sky without being dazed by the sun.

Great, so now preparations are over and it’s time to actually get the job done.

Best Practices During the Drone Flight

The right setup for the mission

Once you reach the location, unpack and set up properly. Don’t find yourself rummaging through a backpack or the back of your car to find that extra battery or different lens.

Make sure to bring a foldable table or even just a matt and spread all the equipment you’re going to need so everything is within arm’s reach.

How do you operate your drone?

Flying means paying attention to a lot of small details while focusing on the drone, the object, and the camera—that’s hard! Keep your focus on the telemetry by using dedicated control apps that give you real-time alerts and warning.

Our data shows that flying a long distance from the pilot and especially cruising in low altitudes increases the chance for crashes dramatically because of the higher risk of hitting a ground object.

Smart risk taking

Getting closer to get the best shot or measurement? Challenging your drone’s range to follow your object? We’ve all done it at some point! Making decisions in these situations is often so fast that we think about the possible outcome only after it’s too late. Try to take a moment before you rush and return to your objectives: Ask yourself if it’s a “must” or another “nice-to-have.”

Avoiding the routine

Routine is the enemy of awareness, and that’s exactly when mistakes start to pop up. Be rigorous and disciplined about following checklists and flight procedures. Don’t put your guard down even when it’s a recurring job.

Post-flight Best Practices – It Ain’t Over till It’s Over

Debriefing as a culture

Before you leave the flight location, run a short “post-mortem” analysis. Compare your plan to your final performance and check that you obtained all the data you need. Mark everything that went well, and more importantly, what didn’t!

Drone flight logging and reporting

Whether you are a single pilot or manage a fleet with tens of pilots, keep your flight logs stored and digitally organized. Flight log analysis reveals powerful information, enables you to track your performance, and discover technical issues.

Drone maintenance

Like every mechanical device, drones need care and maintenance from time to time. Run a technical inspection once the mission is over, including a clean up to keep dust and moisture off. Also, schedule a timely maintenance session for your drones and other mechanical equipment to keep it in top shape.

Planning is a crucial part of every job, and even more so when flying a drone for a living.

Treat every mission as if it’s your first, and always prepare for the unexpected.

Visit us at SkyWatch.AI to learn about our safety, risk assessment, and on-demand insurance capabilities.