Whether it’s your first flight or your 78th, getting advice from a seasoned drone specialist can provide some insight that may offer a fresh perspective.
To help, we asked our ag drone specialists for their top tips in the field to help maximize UAV success. Check out their catch phrases – and overall advice for more successful flights throughout the season.
Air on the Side of Caution
Any ag drone specialist will agree – safety first!
Brushing up on key regulations, procedures, and requirements outlined in Part 107 should be part of your pre-season flight routine; it never hurts to refresh your memory on key requirements.
Focusing on learning around your drone and sensor is also important; and using training materials provided by the manufacturer will be useful. While our ag drone specialists emphasized doing this at the start of the season, it doesn’t hurt to have these resources on hand to reference during your flights as well.
While at the field, always be alert and aware of your surroundings – and how they may impact your flight. This goes beyond making sure you are flying with drone regulations; but also looking at things like whether your technology is performing well in the conditions at hand or caring for your technology in the field.
To Go Faster, Slow Down
If you’re a sewer or handyman, you may be more familiar with the phrase – “measure twice and cut once.”
The same philosophy applies to flying a drone. It starts the night before by mapping your flight plan and making sure you are taking key factors into consideration. From an external perspective, knowing the weather, the time of day when you’ll be flying, and where you’ll be going are important.
It’s also important to map out your mission, as this will give an indication of how long it will take (and how many batteries you will need!). Evaluating your inventory, such as if you have spare parts or the right attachments to offload data, are also important.
It doesn’t stop there – once you get to the field, our ag drone specialists recommend taking an extra minute before taking off. It’s tempting to set up, hit go, and watch the flight progress. But, take an extra minute to look at flight parameters, your flight plan, and ensure that the drone is flight ready.
Once the flight wraps up, it may be tempting to pack up and zoom away from the field – but take a minute to look at the data you captured. Is it blurry? Are there dark or shaded areas? Making sure the quality meets your standards will ensure you don’t have to come back to fly the field again, potentially missing a particular growth stage window.
Always Be Prepared
Perhaps an adage that many use in their day-to-day, preparation for flying a drone is key. While we covered a number of these elements in our first section, this goes beyond the drone and means that you prepare yourself for what the day may hold.
One of our ag drone specialists recommended packing what he called a “go bag” – or a stash of extra clothes, snacks, and sun protection items. Making sure you have water and electrolytes on hand can be a game changer on sunny, humid days. Others recommended having a tool kit or even a computer repair tool kit on hand to make sure you can quickly fix any issues that may derail your flight plans. (And, it never hurts to have spare parts, especially if you’re flying a PHX!)
Lastly, a drone flying in a field – especially in a rural area – may draw some attention. Wearing a reflective vest may be a company requirement; but it can offer some safety benefits. Signage to indicate what you’re doing may also be helpful (and validate that you are approved to be there with a drone).
Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst
Before heading to the field, you likely have a view in your mind: You’ll get to the field, have a perfectly even surface to set up with a nice parking spot (that coincidentally is shaded by the one tree that doesn’t impact the flight path), and it’ll be ready-set-go.
The flight plan will go off without a hitch, with all technology cooperating from start to finish. And, the flight itself will take just the amount of time that you planned – meaning that your day will progress as you anticipated.
While it’s great to have hopes and a plan in mind, several of our ag drone specialists agreed that it works better to plan for the worst. What if you get to the field, and there’s not a great place to park? What if the wind picks up, so you must hold off on your flight? Or the weather shifts even more and brings unexpected rain?
Or, your drone – even after meticulously planning and preparing the night before – doesn’t power on; or the batteries that showed they were charged the night before, suddenly have a low battery status.
Now, it’s likely that not all these things will happen during your time out in the field. But, having a plan in place for managing issues if they come up will result in a higher chance for mission success.
And, it’s important to know that not all issues can be predicted or prepared for – sometimes, things happen. This is where the best preparation and packing can come into play and make a world of difference.