Introduction:

A thorough safety checklist template for the commercial application of drones forms the backbone of a highly efficient and well-organized operation.

Drone flight can incorporate a wide range of circumstances, and it's important that all personnel are adequately versed in the proper safety procedures to minimize risk and downtime in certain unforeseen or undesirable circumstances.

If you're aren't utilizing a safety checklist like this one, not only do you run the risk of wasting resources dealing with damaged units and suffering delays due to poor planning, you also put the rest of your team and the general public at risk.

This checklist will enable you to prepare for the worst by putting in place a system which factors in common weaknesses and points of failure typically seen in commercial drone applications.

Preparation:

Record basic details

First, record the details of the pilot and drone for this operation.

Identification is useful for cross-referencing and maintaining databases of flights and who operated them. It is also essential for compliance regulation.

Use the form fields below to input the information.

Check pilot is properly certified

Licenses and certifications should be reviewed and approved ahead of the operation, allowing the pilot time to renew or re-train if necessary. 

The two main documents necessary to pilot drones commercially in the USA are:

Be sure both are valid and tick them off the sub-checklist. You should also upload copies of the certificates and note the full name of the pilot in the form fields below.

  • 1
    Part 107 Remote Pilot License is valid and in-date
  • 2
    Airworthiness Certificate is valid and in-date

Check pilot is fully trained

Regular training and re-training mitigates error and provides assurance that the pilot fully understands all operational procedures.

The FAA provides comprehensive training resources including FAA Industry Training Standards (FITS), technical certifications and advanced qualification programs.

Whether you're performing in-house training or approving a recent FAA certification, the pilot should have received some kind of competency assessment within the last 6 months.

Public awareness:

Provide adequate public notice

Be sure that there is clear notice given of site operations well ahead of time.

This can take the form of local sign postage, cordoning off an area (where permissible), or seeking relevant public approval.

You should always consider that flight operations may intrude upon public space or activity, and exercise utmost respect and caution to prevent incident or upset.

Inform local emergency services

You should notify local emergency services and be sure they are clear on the full scope of operation, including personnel, site location, duration and any additional factors.

Establish point of contact

A designated public relations officer or equivalent means the general public will be able to quickly and easily get in touch should they have any comments or concerns about the operation. 

Feedback is very important for revising future process; the contact information should be accessible from the company website, social media pages or even as part of the public announcements or notices.

Site survey:

Establish launch site

You should do this ahead of time so that preparations can be made for adverse or unpreferable conditions.

A second site should also be located, and the topography of the wider area surveyed to get a clear understanding of the kinds of risks and hazards present.

Confirm all subtasks have been completed below.

  • 1
    Launch site has been designated
  • 2
    Secondary launch site has been designated
  • 3
    Pilot and all relevant personnel have been informed of site locations

Establish landing site

As with the launch site, this is best established ahead of the operation.

Additional landing sites for contingency help reduce the chance of failure or equipment damage.

Ensure each subtask is completed before proceeding to the next task.

  • 1
    Landing site has been designated
  • 2
    Secondary landing site has been designated
  • 3
    Pilot and all relevant personnel have been informed of the landing site location

Evaluate local hazards

The complete site area should be assessed for potential hazards before the flight takes place.

These include objects and structures, people, animals, bodies of water, power lines, airports & flight paths, residential housing and industrial activity.

Record your findings in the form fields below.

Assess line of sight for whole site

There may be unexpected or unpredictable obstructions present which compromise the established flight plan.

You will need to assess the whole site and decide whether or not the flight plan needs to be adjusted or special precautions taken to mitigate risk.

Adjust flight plan accordingly

If unforeseen circumstances obstruct the line of sight for flight operations then adjustments will need to be made. 

Provide additional comments and suggestions in the form field below.

Drone flight regulation:

Ensure pilot is compliant

When flying a commercial drone in the United States, it is your responsibility to understand and abide by the rules.

Check the pilot is fully compliant with all of local, state and FAA specific regulations.

Depending on where you are, regulations for may differ, so you must investigate each requirement separately.

You can check out our checklist for everything you need to make sure you and your drone are fully compliant.

You must not assume that the same regulations will apply between local and state jurisdictions.

  • 1
    Researched local regulations
  • 2
    Researched state regulations
  • 3
    Researched FAA regulations

Ensure drone is compliant

You need to perform similar compliance checks for each drone involved in the operation.

Beyond the airworthiness certificate, drones must also comply with regulations for local, state and FAA jurisdictions depending on the nature of the operation, the size and weight of the model and the payload. 

Always perform extensive research to ensure you comply with local, state and FAA regulations. 

Obtain contact information of regulatory bodies

In case of uncertainty or the need for verification on specific compliance issues, it's a good idea to keep a record of the local, state and FAA regulators.

Make a note of the email address and contact number for each of the jurisdictions below.

Flight plan:

Upload flight plan document

Upload the flight plan document to the file form field below so that it is ready to be sent off for approval.

Confirm flight plan has been approved

Before the operation takes place, and before additional personnel informed, the flight plan will need to be approved.

Once the final plan has been approved, it's ready to be sent off to the rest of the team.

Ensure all personnel are properly informed

After the plan has been approved, it will need to be forwarded to all relevant personnel.

Make sure the plan is clearly communicated, and where possible access to documentation and additional resources provided.

Local emergency services should also be informed with up-to-date information on the flight plan.

Using the form fields below, confirm that all concerned have been adequately briefed and, where applicable, have access to relevant resources.

  • 1
    Pilot fully informed of flight plan
  • 2
    All concerned personnel given access to flight plan documentation
  • 3
    Local emergency services fully informed of flight plan

Forward the flight plan document to relevant parties

In case of emergency:

Communicate emergency process to all personnel

Plan for the worst.

Despite all safety precautions and preventative measures, you should never take for granted that things won't always go as you expected.

Emergency procedures and backup resources are important failsafe mechanisms that help ensure mission success. 

Everyone involved with the operation will need to be fully informed on the emergency process, including access to emergency services, the location of relevant safety and rescue equipment, and the full scope of flight operations.

Attach the document detailing the emergency procedure to the form field at the bottom of this task.

  • 1
    Emergency procedure clearly defined and documented
  • 2
    All concerned given access to emergency procedure documentation
  • 3
    All concerned have completed hands-on emergency training exercises

Check first-aid kit

Having a first-aid kit on hand in case of emergency is absolutely necessary before any operation.

In addition to first-aid training, personnel should be familiar with the first-aid manual so that they understand how to use the contents of the kits.

Additionally, check off the contents of the kit to ensure everything is fully stocked. 

First-aid kits are useless unless somebody knows how to use them. Make sure the pilot has received basic first-aid training. 

Remember to check the contents of the kit regularly and replace any missing components

  • 1
    First-aid manual
  • 2
    Sterile gauze pads of different sizes
  • 3
    Adhesive tape
  • 4
    Adhesive bandages in several sizes
  • 5
    Elastic bandage
  • 6
    Splint
  • 7
    Antiseptic wipes
  • 8
    Soap
  • 9
    Antibiotic ointment
  • 10
    Antiseptic solution (like hydrogen peroxide)
  • 11
    Hydrocortisone cream (1%)
  • 12
    Acetaminophen and ibuprofen
  • 13
    Tweezers
  • 14
    Sharp scissors
  • 15
    Safety pins
  • 16
    Disposable instant cold packs
  • 17
    Alcohol wipes or ethyl alcohol
  • 18
    List of emergency phone numbers
This video shows basic first aid kit contents and explains how each item is used.

Obtain local emergency services contact information

Make a record of the contact information for local emergency services. This should be on hand and made easily accessible to all personnel in case of emergency.

Equipment check:

Inspect all components for visible damage

Ideally, this will be incorporated into its own checklist to run before every flight and as part of a routine maintenance process. Either way, it needs to be done. 

Both the drone and the controller unit must be inspected. If you're 

Check each component of the drone and controller system thoroughly and check off the subtasks below.

If you're in need of a straightforward and thorough process for checking each of your drone components fully, check out our drone testing and drone troubleshooting guides.

  • 1
    Drone has been inspected
  • 2
    Controller has been inspected

Replace or repair damaged components

If your drone needs to have certain components repaired or replaced, state exactly what requires servicing below.

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

Once you've specified repair work to be done, you'll want to export or print this checklist and send it over to your maintenance technician.

Test unit components

Power on the control station modules and update software/firmware where relevant. 

After carefully unpacking the drone unit and configuring onboard systems, perform tests for each of the unit's functions and mark the subtasks as complete as you go, making sure everything is working properly.

This will include checking the unit's compass and Global Positioning System (GPS) for proper configuration, making sure the propellers and motors are working correctly, checking the charge levels of the batteries and making sure the storage card and camera are functional.

  • 1
    Camera
  • 2
    Landing gear
  • 3
    Global Positioning System (GPS)
  • 4
    Compass
  • 5
    Return to Home (RTH)
  • 6
    Motors

Check fail-safes

Failsafes include the Return to Home (RTH) system, general maximum flight altitude, and safety chute deployment.

Each system will have its own fail-safes in place, so it's important you make sure that everything has been set up, tested and confirmed working.

  • 1
    Set RTH coordinates
  • 2
    Test RTH working properly
  • 3
    Set maximum flight altitude
  • 4
    Check safety chute is present

Improving safety procedure:

Obtain feedback

Next, gather feedback about operational successes and failures from everyone involved. This information can be used to refine the checklist template and continually improve on your safety processes.

  • 1
    Obtain internal feedback
  • 2
    Obtain public feedback

Address concerns raised from previous operations

Looking at the data gathered from previous operations, you should address immediate concerns and resolve outstanding issues, such as damaged or missing equipment, public complaints, operation-specific problems or difficulties and all issues that were not covered by the current safety procedure.

  • 1
    Outstanding complaints have been addressed
  • 2
    All equipment has been repaired or replaced

Determine whether policy revision is necessary

The checklist will not always need to be revised, but feedback should be taken into consideration and a decision made as to whether or not things could be improved for future operations.

Describe policy revisions

Finally, after gathering feedback and resolving issues, the template checklist can be revised to incorporate necessary changes and improve on safety process.

Describe the specific revisions in the text field below.

Sources:

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