Drones are aircraft, and running a profitable, safe, and effective commercial UAS program requires careful attention to detail and sound organizational processes. If you’re new to aviation, you may also be new to some of the processes and best practices needed to ensure safety, meet regulatory and insurance requirements, and avoid waste.
Here’s the good news: Taking full advantage of Skyward features will help you streamline your commercial drone operation, communicate more effectively with your crews, and establish efficient and effective workflows.
Regardless of industry, to accomplish its business goals, every commercial UAS program must perform certain essential functions:
With Skyward, you’ll be able to perform these essential functions, manage your pilots, and scale up as your program grows.
Skyward helps you control the risks of running a UAV operation.
Skyward’s Airspace Map shows the different categories of airspace that are present at the altitudes typically allowed for UAV operations. It simplifies airspace rules so that even non-aviators can tell at-a-glance if your crew is clear to fly, or if an operation is planned at a location that requires special airspace permission. The tabs to the left of the map explain how to obtain the necessary permission. Temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) can arise at any time, so the Skyward Airspace Map updates every five minutes. Your crew should check for TFRs just before starting any flights.
Hazards are anything that could present a risk to the UAV, the crew, people or property in the area, or something that keeps you from getting the job done. The Skyward Airspace Map allows you to show your crew hazards to avoid in advance of the operation. These may include power lines, high-traffic areas, freeways, pedestrian paths, playgrounds, and sensitive areas.
The Skyward Airspace Map makes it easy to collect and share information about the flight job site in one place.
Control risks by dealing with the hazards in your operations plan (for example, by blocking pedestrian access).
Every flight involves a series of complex processes composed of hundreds of individual actions—which means there’s lots of room for error. Pilots depend on checklists to ensure that procedures are performed correctly every step of the way.
Use the Skyward Document Library to attach essential checklists to each flight. You can ensure that the same procedures are carried out each time.
If you don’t have a general operating manual and checklists: These are essential for any professional aviation operation, and they may be required by your airspace regulator. Find an aviation ops expert to help you create these as soon as possible.
See this page for information on purchasing customizable versions of the Skyward General Operating Manual and operational, flight crew, and equipment control checklists.
Skyward helps you keep your aircraft airworthy, whether you have one UAV or a fleet. Manage inventory, maintenance schedules, report incidents, and track firmware updates for both drones and batteries with Skyward.
Pro tip: Don’t take disciplined maintenance for granted. It’s one of the things that separates professionals from the rest: If you treat it like a toy, it is a toy.
Insurance is an essential component of controlling risk.
UAV insurance covers physical damage to aircraft and liability arising from the operation of aircraft. Your executives, legal team, and customers will likely require you to have liability coverage before you undertake flight ops. In some jurisdictions, such as Canada, UAV insurance is required for commercial operators.
Skyward does not sell, broker, or underwrite insurance. However, many UAV insurers give Skyward customers preferential rates on insurance premiums because of the Skyward platform’s emphasis on safety, accountability, and maintenance documentation. Skyward also enables you to prove that your program is operating as safely and responsibly as possible, because all of your essential procedures and policies (eg, preflight checklists and general operating manuals) are in one place.
No matter how large your operation grows, Skyward makes it easy for you to show your crew exactly where and when they need to fly, what the customer wants, what to avoid, and how to access the site.
Skyward makes it easy to share the details of an operation to multiple pilots, crew members, clients, and other stakeholders. An essential part of this collaboration is creating flight areas that are visible across your organization.
On the Skyward Airspace Map, find the job location and use the drawing tools to designate the area of your operation. Use the circle, pencil, rectangle, or polygon depending on the type of site or operation.
Use points of interest to show your crew where to fly, the rally point, and potential staging areas. For example, this wildlife survey entails photographing separate areas, three times per day, over the course of a week.
Mark hazards to avoid, such as power lines, high-traffic areas, parking lots, and roads.
Then, share the planned flight with your crew.
The Flight Areas section gives step-by-step instructions for creating flight areas in Skyward.
Skyward allows you to easily see details on your crew, including credentials, and flight hours. You can use custom fields to keep track of the aircraft each pilot has been trained on. You can assign pilot-in-command, operator, observer, and other crew members to specific flights, so that everyone can review the job in advance. A professional commercial UAV operation depends on pilots being well-trained on every UAV they fly. Use Skyward to record training requirements and see which pilots have been trained on the different aircraft in your fleet. In aviation, logged flight hours are the benchmark of a pilot’s experience and professionalism.
Use the document library to store pilot’s licenses, insurance policies, operating agreements, and work orders, and associate these with individual pilots or flights.
Depending on your insurer and regulator, your company will have a unique set of regulatory and insurance requirements. You can configure Skyward to meet any number of compliance needs and create a complete system of record for each flight job.
One of the toughest parts of scaling a business is managing the extra paperwork created by new clients and additional assets. Skyward’s document library makes it easy to manage all the documents required and produced by insurers and regulators.
Use the document library to upload your insurance policy, manuals, operational checklists, and other documents and attach them to specific flights so you have a complete system of record.
Many airspace regulators audit pilot flight logs. Flight logs can also show insurers that your operation follows safe, consistent processes.
Skyward enables your pilots to log each of their flights, including special details required by an insurer, regulator, or your own internal processes. You can also upload csv files to import multiple operations and flight at one time.
Configure custom fields to ensure that any data or process gets recorded.
Use the document library to attach any regulatory permits, landowner permissions, pilot licenses, or insurance policies to specific flights.
By keeping all of your logged flights and the documents associated with your operation in one place, you’ll have a straightforward way of addressing regulatory audits, meeting internal compliance requirements, and providing proof of process to regulators and insurers.
Use the recommended naming conventions outlined in the specific sections of this guide under the Manage section to establish clear, easy-to-understand conventions. This may save you more time and confusion down the road.
Show your crew job requirements and complete details of a flight job in advance so they can get right to work when they arrive at the location. The Skyward Airspace Map allows you to analyze airspace and mark the complete details of a flight job.
No matter how many pilots and aircraft you work with, you’ll be able to see flight hours, maintenance history, and firmware updates at a glance. Use custom fields to track things specific to your business (eg, training schedules, physical location).