Gather information about the flight environment
Avoid unpleasant surprises by gathering as much information as possible about the flight environment before you are on site. Ask for blueprints, photos, or descriptions of the flight area. You should be able to answer the following questions:
Is the environment in which the Elios will be operated safe?
Drones are sensitive to its surroundings. The mission environmental conditions must be within the specifications listed in the user manual of the drone. Think about conditions such as: temperature, presence of water, wind speed, explosive atmospheres etc.
What Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is needed for the operators?
Flyability drones are relatively safe to fly close to humans provided that adequate precautions are taken. The following PPE must always be carried:
- Eye protection
- Hearing protection
- Protective gloves
Also list the dangers posed by the presence of hazardous materials in the flight area, this might can range from corrosive chemicals to bio-hazards caused by untreated sewage.
You must be aware of the effects of flying in your working environment and prepare accordingly by taking additional measures. For example if the environment is dusty, wear respiratory protection.
Pilot Skill Requirements
Some flight environments are more demanding on the pilot than others. You can use the difficulty assessment sheet to estimate the skill level of the pilot required. Bear in mind that the ELIOS2 is much less demanding to fly than the original Elios drone.
Prepare the Paperwork
The Method Statement (MS) lists all the different steps that will be performed during the inspection. It will also specify all the required equipment to fulfill the mission. The “Method Statement – Template” document offers a template to establish your own. An example of a filled in document can be found here.
This document will be required on most industrial sites, and is used to communicate the scope of your work to the local work coordinators.
The Risk Assessment (RA) is a document which breaks down the steps taken and specifying all the risks that can occur during the progress of the mission. It also states the mitigating measures that can be taken to limit the likelihood and/or consequences of a mishap. The “Risk Assessment – Template” document offers a template to establish your own. You can also download an example of a completed document here.
Do you have the proper flight authorization?
If you perform outdoor flights, depending on the area and on the country in which you will conduct your flight, you will need a specific authorization. Make sure that you satisfy all requirements of the Civil Aviation Authority to go ahead with your flight.
Note that in most countries, indoor areas are not in the civil airspace, so drone flights conducted inside are not regulated.
Once the objectives and risks of the inspection are known, you should proceed with the flight planning stage. During visual inspections, all areas of interest must be systematically visited and filmed. A well defined and executed flight plan will help you get the most out of a flight. Flight planning and systematic inspection is covered in a dedicated article.