Drone operation planning can be divided into 5 simple stages
Stage 1: As soon as you get the project
The first thing a pilot should do soon after getting a project is, check the area of operation. A convenient and quick tool is Google Maps. Look for all information you can get about the area. Check for No-Fly zones if any and apply for permission with CAA and ATC if required. For bigger and more complex operations pilots also prefer to visit the location in person and check the area thoroughly and also sometimes to place GCPs to match the exact coordinates with the flight plan created in the office.
Stage 2: 10 days before operation
Usually, pilots start tracking the weather 10 days prior to the estimated flight day. UAV Forecast, Hover, AccuWeather (all are available on Android & iOS both) are a few go-to apps for the pilots. Flykit is a new web app which also provides weather information and they even send daily weather updates to your inbox directly.
Stage 3: 3 days before operation
Once a pilot selects the best suiting flight day considering weather conditions and availability, 3 days prior to the date, they check the weather again for any changes, as most weather apps are not very accurate in predicting the weather in long term. A decision to go ahead or not is usually taken during this time. One should always keep a week in the buffer just in case flying conditions are not preferable. The term preferable might differ from pilot to pilot depending on the drone’s weight (there is a difference in flying a drone weighing 250gm than one weighing 2kg in same weather condition). One good thing about Flykit is, you can set threshold limits for temperature, wind speed, visibility, etc. favourable to your drone and get notified in the emails if limits are breached. In case you are an organization, you can set the standards for your pilots too.
Stage 4: 1 day before operation
Run pre-flight risk assessment. Check if there are any TFR or NOTAMs in the area of your operation. Do a thorough device inspection, if everything looks fine. The camera you are using, condition of propellers, no. of batteries required to complete the operation and if they are fully charged. Checking the space available in your SD card is also very important.
Stage 5: On-site
Once you get on the site, make sure you notify the police station in the area about your operation. You should run an on-site risk assessment, which is mostly checking and making note of the structures like telephone towers, buildings or trees which might obstruct the drone’s path. Notifying people if any in the vicinity. Selecting the optimal point from where you’ll fly the drone as the whole operation area should be visible from there. Pilots also maintain a checklist which is considered as a good practice and for some organizations it is a standard procedure. A checklist usually includes all the checks mentioned above and ensures all the safety measures are taken during the flight. Some prefer maintaining a checklist on paper while few use apps to do the same task. It is mostly convenience or the standards in case of an organization.