You’ve got a brand-new drone. Congratulations! And with spring finally arriving you can wait to get out to fly free the fresh air.
Picking the right drone for you and learning how to operate it safely and securely is a strong start to your career as a licensed commercial drone pilot. Maintaining your drone will help you get the most out of it, ensuring it is there to serve you and your clients when you need it.
At RBS, we keep a DJI Inspire 2 and a DJI Phantom 4 in our fleet to use for our hands-on training. These tips apply to these current top models for professional-level drones, but also serve as a good checklist for general drone care. Here’s how we suggest taking care of your drone:
Things to check before and after each drone flight:
- Your flight details — Keep a record of the basic details and purpose of your flight.
- Your license — Make sure your commercial drone license, waivers, and authorization forms are on hand and valid.
- The overall structure — Take a close look at your drone before each flight to check for any damage to the structure. After your flight, do another visual inspection. Be sure to wipe your drone down.
- The propellers — Inspect the propellers to make sure there are no bent blades or cracks.
- The gimbal/lens — Thoroughly check the gimbal for damage and make sure your drone’s lens is clear of dust and debris. (Note: for the DJI Inspire 2, you’ll want to replace your rubber shock absorbers after every 120 flights or 40 hours of flight).
- The weather — You don’t want to fly in or expose your drone to inclement weather or windy conditions. Most drones are not waterproof or even water resistant. Snow is a little better–although the white sky on white ground makes it harder to navigate. And landing in snow is not good. Flying in high wind is more difficult and can drain the battery. Temperature plays an important role as well. If it’s too cold, your battery will lose charge faster. Extreme heat also can put unnecessary wear and tear on batteries and computers.
- Your battery and motor — Having your cell phone battery die on the go is annoying. Having your drone battery die mid-flight is a disaster. Make sure both are fully charged before your flight. After your flight, be sure to allow the battery and motor to cool before storing.
- Your calibration — You want to be sure your firmware is up to date, your antennas are positioned correctly, and all compasses, GPS, max flight altitude, RTH (return to home) and other internal settings are updated. During the flight, stop flying immediately if you see anything abnormal mid-flight.
- Your memory card — make sure your memory card is formatted and has enough space before your flight and be sure to download and transfer your data after your flight.
Things to do regularly to maintain your drone:
- Fully charge the batteries — Every 10-20 battery cycles or every 3 months, completely drain your battery and fully recharge it. And as a side note: don’t charge a battery right after your flights because its temperature might be too high.
- Inspect the charging cord — Look over your charger and cord regularly to make sure there’s no damage to the cord, plug, enclosure, or any other component of the charger. If there’s any damage at all, do not use it to charge your drone.
- Change the propellers — Around the 200-flight mark, you should change your propellers.
- Perform a deep structural check — every couple of weeks (with regular flying), you’ll want to clean the chassis and inspect it for cracks; make sure all screws and wiring are tight and in place; clear motor and lens of debris; and check the condition of the landing gear, propellers, and antennae.
Things to seek a registered dealer or professional about:
- Routine maintenance: Remember — your drone is a machine. Just like a car or plane (or human!), your drone needs a checkup every so often to make sure everything is working properly and to catch any budding issues before it’s too late.
- When troubleshooting fails — while your drone will give you warning indicators and status confirmations, if you’re not able to fix the problem on your own, don’t go it alone. Seek the help of a professional.
Keeping these important maintenance tips in mind will help keep your drone in top shape and ready for peak performance flight after flight. Happy flying!