Published 4 May 2023
What is a Drone Preflight Checklist?
A drone preflight checklist is a critical exercise that helps ensure safe and legal operation of drones. From physical checks to validation of required documents, this checklist can be used by drone pilots to prepare everything before a drone takes flight. Drone preflight checklists help reduce the risk of physical damage to property, injuries, flyaways, and costly lawsuits.
General Drone Preflight Checklist (US FAA and UK CAA - Compliant)
A drone preflight checklist is used by drone pilots to ensure safe and legal drone operation. Drone preflight checklists also help them fulfill compliance with drone regulations, such as those by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
- Ensure availability of required drone operational documents (e.g., waiver, pilot license, airspace authorization)
- Capture photo evidence of supporting documents
- Easily update drone preflight checklists whenever drone regulations are updated.
- Customize according to your state or country’s specific drone regulations or drone code.
In this article
- Importance of Drones Today
- 5-Point Drone Preflight Check Guide for Pilots
- Ensure Compliance with a Reliable, Convenient Drone App
- Featured Drone Preflight Checklists
Importance of Drones Today
Over the past few years, drones (a type of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or UAV) have become widely adopted not only for recreational use but also for commercial and government operations.
Project managers utilize drones in construction to survey land more efficiently and collect real-time data on building projects. Agricultural drones help farmers acquire critical thermal imaging data for crops. E-commerce companies have also begun to develop logistics systems that use drone fleets to deliver goods to far-flung areas. Even some local government units use UAVs to improve mobility in enforcing the law.
It is evident that drones have enabled different sectors to improve productivity, research, and risk mitigation in their operations, which is why drone pilots should be more responsible in operating drones to continue reaping the benefits of drone technology.
5-Point Drone Preflight Check Guide for Pilots
Under United States law, drones are aircraft covered under the regulations of Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Small UAV rule. Drone regulations require pilots to conduct drone preflight checks to ensure that the equipment and the flying conditions are in the ideal state.
Here is a 5-point guide drone pilots can refer to for conducting effective drone preflight checks:
1. Check the flying conditions and the itinerary.
- Check the weather and temperature. Most drones are not suitable for flying in precipitation, windy days, and freezing temperatures.
- Never fly over stadiums, crowds, near emergency response efforts, and within the restricted zones of airports.
2. Secure the necessary documentation before drone operation.
- Pilots operating drones for commercial use should secure a commercial drone license (or remote pilot certificate) and keep this with them before drone operation; drone pilots operating for government use are not required to have a license.
- Drone pilots with specific drone flights not allowed under Part 107 can request operational waivers, which they can attach to the preflight checklist once granted.
- For construction project managers, make sure to secure additional permits, if any, before flying above sites.
3. Know and comply with specific drone operation laws in your area.
- Research the specific set of drone laws in the area you intend to fly your drone in and make sure to comply with them. See drone regulations for each state as they vary.
4. Ensure that the drone is fit for flight.
- Carefully go through the drone preflight checklist and check every part of the drone to see any signs of damage or obstruction.
- Ensure that batteries are adequately charged.
- Check camera settings and make sure that the memory card has enough space.
5. Keep your drone’s firmware updated.
- It is essential to upgrade the firmware to ensure that your drone is always calibrated in terms of connectivity, navigation, and behavior. Drone firmware is also important to ensure that your drone complies with no-fly zone requirements.
Ensure Compliance with a Reliable, Convenient Drone App
Drone preflight checks can spell the difference between a successful operation and a failed mission. With SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor), the world’s #1 inspection software, drone pilots can create digital drone preflight checklists and ensure compliance with safety regulations and proper procedures for smart drone operation. Drone pilots can use the SafetyCulture drone checklist app to:
- Create smart, intuitive drone preflight checklists for more efficient inspections
- Easily update drone preflight checklists whenever drone regulations are updated
- Acquire strong evidence of compliance with a cloud-based drone logbook of your completed drone preflight checklists
- Easily append attachments (e.g. picture of operational waivers, commercial drone license, and airspace authorization)
- Schedule preventive drone maintenance planning
- Develop a dashboard that lets you immediately see and address recurring drone defects to avoid downtime
Featured Drone Preflight Checklists
Drone Preflight - Phantom 4 RTK Checklist
This Drone Preflight checklist is designed for Phantom 4 Drones. It involves checking:
- pre-departure requirements
- DJI GSR settings
- Camera settings
- Advanced settings
- Larger sites & corridors
- Flight and post-flight