Launching Commercial Drone Operations?

Director of Business Development Skyward

One of the reasons I love working at Skyward is that I get to help businesses launch the drone operations that will transform their industries in all kinds of innovative ways. Once they’re up and running, our cloud-based platform helps them fly safely with a validated airspace map, plan and log flights, manage assets, and collaborate with crew members for optimal efficiency.

But there are a few hurdles businesses have to overcome first. 

Make Regulatory Compliance Part of Your Workflow

We quickly realized that in order to help our customers run safe, efficient drone operations, we needed to help them navigate the regulatory landscape.

The primary goal of a national regulator such as the FAA (United States), CAA (United Kingdom), or CASA (Australia) is to ensure safety in a way that encourages and enables the legitimate use of airspace. The goal of any business or agency that uses UAS is to provide value to customers or colleagues at a cost that allows a business to make or save money and an agency to operate within budget allowances.

So, if compliance is an afterthought, a business will sacrifice a certain level of efficiency. At the same time, if compliance is priority #1, quality and customer service may suffer. The secret is to integrate regulatory and internal compliance into a workflow whose primary goal is quality.

High Reliability Organizations are organizations that conduct consistent, sustainable, and low-error operations based on informed, high-quality decision making and practices. Operating complex equipment, with large numbers of people involved, in adverse conditions, a High Reliability Organization is able to not only avoid mishap but to produce consistent results.

Skyward’s chief pilot, Tariq Rashid, goes in-depth on High Reliability Organizations in this article.

Set Up a Safe, Professional UAV Operation

Through conversations with literally thousands of businesses and drone operators, we recognized that most understand the importance of obtaining regulatory approval and waivers but haven’t considered what comes next: the day-to-day management of their business.

For more than four years we’ve been consulting with customers to help them build safe, efficient program policies and operating procedures. These companies are now running highly sophisticated done programs and adding value to their business’ bottom lines.

If your company doesn’t already have a general operating manual and standard operating procedure’s, Skyward’s Take Flight package gives every company the opportunity to benefit from the same experiences and best practices.

Take Flight includes:

  • Multi-level Training Protocols
  • Risk Management Procedures
  • Crew Coordination Standards
  • Standards for Operating in Remote and Densely Populated Areas
  • Flight Dispatch Checklist
  • Aircraft Maintenance
  • LiPo Battery Handling Standards
  • Job Safety Standards
  • Before-Launch Checklist
  • Before Takeoff Checklist
  • Final Landing Checklist
  • Accident Response Checklist
  • Control Link Failure Standards
  • Loss of Visual Awareness Standards
  • Advice on Obtaining Property Permissions

“Skyward has provided invaluable help in setting up our business to operate safely and efficiently,” said Stuart Sholwater of Hover Solutions, a Skyward client. “Not only have they helped to prepare and submit our documents, they have also offered many useful seminars on the details of running a drone business. Their work has saved us much administrative time and allowed us to focus on what we love to do: provide amazing aerial images and videos using drones.”

Now that Hover is up and running, they’re using the Skyward platform to manage ongoing compliance and efficient, safe flight operations.

Why Commercial Drone Operations Need Program Policies and Operating Procedures

No matter what the industry, every business depends on policies and procedures to structure day-to-day operations, ensure safe conditions for employees, maintain compliance, and ultimately to deliver the highest quality products and services to customers.

The stakes are especially high in aviation because of the inherent complexity and potential risks involved to people and property. Every flight involves dozens of tasks that must be completed during different phases: preflight planning, execution, and post-flight logging—which means there’s lots of room for error.

General operating manuals and checklists standardize these processes and provide a consistent workflow and transparent operating environment for your employees, customers, and other stakeholders. They also provide evidence to insurers, regulators, and customers that you are running a safe, trustworthy operation.

General operating manual: This is your UAV program’s central guide. It provides a glossary of every function, piece of equipment, and term; explains roles, responsibilities, and safety protocols; provides policies for pilot training and equipment maintenance; and gives step-by-step instructions to create predictable, safe, standard results time after time.

Operations checklists: Just as in traditional aviation, your crew uses checklists for every step of an operation to ensure that all of the processes spelled out in the general operating manual are being carried out. Usually there are several:

  • Operational checklist: used by the operations director, dispatcher, or lead pilot to schedule operations
  • Flight crew checklists: used by the field crew to ensure that proper processes are carried out preflight, prior to launch, and postflight
  • Equipment control checklist: used whenever you add new equipment to your fleet or aircraft are taken into the field

Download a preview of Skyward's standard operating procedures and checklists for drones