Introduction:

In conjunction with a standardized pre-flight checklist, there are certain steps you should take each and every time you complete an operation.

This checklist will run you through a process for safely landing and disarming your drone, with simple preventative measures that you can incorporate into your routine to help you prepare for all outcomes and ultimately extend the life of your unmanned air systems.

Flight details:

Record basic details

Record pilot and drone details before starting with the main checklist. 

For the sake of compliance and general accountability, basic information about the drone and who piloted it should be kept on file.

Complete the form fields below.

Disarming:

Power down controller

Following the principle of first-thing-on, last-thing-off, you will want to power off your controller before anything else. This is to avoid configuration issues between the remote controller (RC) and aircraft (AC).

Fully power down the control unit and proceed with the checklist.

Disconnect controller battery

Once fully powered down, remove the controller's battery pack and place it in a secure location. 

Be careful when handling the battery, as overheating could have occurred during flight if the pack is faulty or damaged. 

Allow controller battery to cool

Once the batteries are disconnected, measure their temperatures and make sure they are within a safe range.

Usually, you will be able to gauge whether or not the batteries are overheating simply by feeling the heat emitted from them with your hands - but for contingency, measurements should be taken as part of routine maintenance checks, even if the batteries appear normal.

The ideal temperature for your (LiPo) battery pack is around 59 degrees Fahrenheit. Usually, your drone unit will provide you with methods for checking battery temperature, but not all of them will be inclusive of the remote controller's battery. For this, you will need an external instrument.

If the packs are overheated or damaged, they should not be re-used: they will need to be discarded and replaced.

Power down drone

With the controller and associated modules switched off, it's time to power down the aircraft. The exact method for powering off your drone will differ depending on your model, and you should always consult your manual beforehand.

Most drone units will have a simple on/off switch located on either the battery pack or the bottom of the chassis. Power off fully and wait for all indicator lights to go dim.

With many of the units from DJI, there are built-in joystick commands to start and stop the motors. One of these involves simply pushing the left stick down once the craft has landed, and another, known as a CSC (Combination Stick Command) is used to stop and start the aircraft motors in an emergency.

  • 1
    Manual consulted for specific drone model
  • 2
    Drone indicator lights fully dimmed
  • 3
    Propellers have stopped moving completely
Excerpt from DJI Spark manual depicting the two landing commands.

Disconnect drone battery

Ensure drone motors are completely run-down before accessing the battery pack.

Remove the battery pack from the aircraft. As with the controller battery, be careful that it is not overheated. Once the battery is completely disconnected, continue on to the next task.

Allow drone battery to cool

Measure the temperature of the battery packs in the same way you did for the controller.

If the packs are overheated or damaged, they should not be re-used: they will need to be discarded and replaced.

Once this is resolved, proceed with the checklist.

Allow motors to cool

Using the same method as for the battery packs, check the temperature of the motors beneath the propellers. The temperature of each electronic component should be taken as part of your routine maintenance and repair checklists to ensure that parts are replaced when necessary before a flight.

As a general rule for motor heat, you can expect them to be warm to the touch, but not too hot that you cannot touch them. Temperatures of healthy motors under expected load will be lower than that of batteries in normal conditions. 

Always check that motor temperature is within an acceptable range, and consider factors such as load weight, flight length, and ambient site heat will affect the temperature of motors as well as battery packs.

Inspection:

Inspect all components for visible damage

The drone may have been damaged during the last flight - check each component for small cracks or other visual damage and make note of any repairs that are necessary, if any.

If you don't already have a process in place, refer to our drone repair checklist for steps on how to deal with any problems you might find whilst inspecting the drone.

  • 1
    Chassis
  • 2
    Propellers
  • 3
    Motors
  • 4
    Gimbal
  • 5
    Indicator lights
  • 6
    Screws
  • 7
    GPS
  • 8
    Landing gear
  • 9
    Batteries
  • 10
    Electronic Speed Controller
  • 11
    Compass
  • 12
    Wiring
  • 13
    Camera

Wipe down drone unit

Anti-static cloths are recommended when cleaning electronic components.

It's worth quickly wiping down your drone with a cloth or rag to remove any built-up debris accumulated during flight. Bugs and other organic matter can easily cause problems when proper care is not taken to keep the unit clean.

Storage:

Prepare drone for next mission

After inspecting each component and performing any necessary checks, it's time to prepare the drone for its next operation.

Whether the drone needs to be stored for transportation or set up in anticipation for a back-to-back operation, you will need to perform certain functions such as the removal of a payload or the transfer of data.

With the form fields below, state whether or not the following is true.

Remove and secure payload

Your drone may have been carrying a specific payload other than information, and if so the load will need to be dismounted and properly stored for transport. 

Be sure that there is nothing left behind after dismounting that might interfere with the proper storage of the drone. 

Download or transfer data

Data gathered as part of a flight will need to be downloaded and backed up, or transferred to a secure location for processing and/or archiving. 

This can be done in a few different ways, but most likely the drone will have a removable storage card that you can connect to a computer.

There may be wireless transfer services available as part of your unit's control system, so be sure to check all relevant manuals and documentation so that best practice is followed. Data corruption may occur if proper transfer protocols are not followed.

DJI's tutorial on how to download flight data.

Sources:

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