Becoming a Better Drone Pilot – The Preflight Checklist
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Becoming a Better Drone Pilot – The Preflight Checklist

There are a lot of things remember when you’re flying a drone. If you’re shooting video and/or photographs, then there are even more things to remember and set. Having a preflight checklist makes this much easier. Here are some of the things to check on the ground, prior to takeoff and immediately after takeoff, while in the air. Note that some of these options depend upon which drone you’re flying.

Remember that whether you are a recreational pilot or Part 107 commercial pilot, you are responsible for checking and setting up the drone so that it is safe to fly.

On the ground

  1. Do a visual inspection of your drone and surrounding area
    • Are there people, buildings, trees, or cars around where you’re going to take off?
      • Will this impact the flight/mission? If so, consider moving to another location.
    • Is the landing/takeoff area clear of debris, rocks, and stones?
      • If you have a landing pad, put it down, otherwise move to another spot.
  2. Are all the propellers securely attached?
    • Never hurts to recheck (losing a propeller causes more crashes than you might imagine).
  3. Is the drone’s landing gear locked into place?
    • If not, correct it.
  4. Are the drone batteries fully charged and locked in place?
    • If they aren’t fully charged, do they have enough power for this flight/mission?
  5. Are your remote-control batteries fully charged?
    • If they aren’t fully charged, do they have enough power for this flight/mission?
  6. Camera/Gimbal
    • Is your camera gimbal mounted and secured?
    • Is your gimbal lock removed and/or unlocked?
    • If you have a lens choice, do you have the right lens on your camera for this flight/mission?
    • Do you have the correct ND filter on your lens for current lighting conditions?
      • Make your best guess and recheck it once you are in the air. You might have to land and change. Remember that the smaller sensors on these drones require a lower f-stop to get the sharpest image.
    • Is your SD and/or SSD card inserted correctly?
      • If not, reinsert and recheck.
    • Is your Phone or Tablet fully charged?
      • If not, do you have enough charge for this flight/mission? 

Getting ready to fly

  1. Power up the remote
  2. Power on the tablet and connect to the remote
  3. Start the Go 4 app or whichever application you are using
  4. Power up the drone
  5. Check all the indicators forHD visual /telemetry link
    • Battery levels on drone and remote controller
    • GPS/Satellites
    • Sensors
    • Visual/telemetry link to your drone. DJI shows this by way of the HD icon
  6. Camera relatedVideo settings
    • your SD or micro SD card formatted?
    • Is your SSD card formatted?
    • Are you’re shooting video?
      • What is your frames per second set to (FPS)?
      • Is your shutter speed twice what your frames per second are (FPS)?
        • 24fps = 1/50 | 30fps = 1/60
      • What is your Style set to?
      • What is your SD/Liveview set to?
      • What is your White Balance set to?
      • If you are using an SSD
        • What is your RAW or Prores settings?
        • What is your SSD Looks (Normal or RAW)?
        • Are you shooting in Normal Mode or El Mode?
  7. Are you shooting photographs?
    • What kind of shot are you taking?DJI Go 4 App Photography Screen
    • Single, multiple, AEB, Timed, Raw Burst
    • What is your Image Size?
    • What is your Image Format?
    • What is your Color set to?
    • What is your Style set to?

In the air 

  1. Lift off the drone into a hover approximately 15 feet in altitude.
  2. Test the controls on the remote. Are they responding correctly?
    • If not, land and correct them.
  3. Test the camera for both photo and video. Is the camera working correctly?
    • If not, land and correct it.
  4. Check or recheck the exposure levels for the camera for both video and photographs and adjust as necessary.
    • For video this is where you may need to change your ND filter to get that lower f-stop for a sharper image.
  5. Recheck all the indicators for GPS/Satellites, HD, Remote Battery, Drone Battery, Avoidance Sensors.

HD visual /telemetry link

If everything is a go, fly the mission. If not, land and correct the problem. Then lift off and check again.

Here is a PDF version of the checklist to get your started Becoming a better drone pilot – Preflight Checklist.

Fly safe and have fun!

DJI Mavic Air at B&H

DJI Mavic Pro at B&H

DJI Phantom 4 Pro at B&H

BJI Inspire 2 at B&H

All Drones at B&H

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