Getting ready for your first aerial shoot? Not sure what to do before you fly your drone? Here’s our 5-step pre-flight checklist.
Check your local drone regulations
It’s always better to err on the side of caution. Yes, just taking the risk and taking off may get you the shot, but prison time and fines are also consequences of ignoring the law. Whatever country you’re in, find out what their civil aviation authority guidelines are for UAVs or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Some countries require a private pilot’s license, where others simply require that you follow a few safety rules. Either way, check what the guidelines are.
Scout your Location
Another part of your preparation process is scouting your location. I found a great way to do this and save time is with Google Maps in satellite view. Google Maps is a great tool to search for places of interest such as bodies of water, mountains, rock formations, urban viewpoints and the like.
Head to Google Maps and change over to Satellite view. Switching to satellite mode will give you a bird’s eye view of the landscape or cityscape. Handy tip – click the globe icon in the bottom right-hand corner to view the landscape in 3D. Once activated, hold shift while dragging and you’ll be able to see the topographical structure of the location you’re looking at.
Another great way to use Google Maps to scout the area is to drag the little yellow man in the bottom left-hand corner on to the map. You’ll see blue lines on roads and dots in other locations which mark where Google Street View, Photo Paths or Photo Spheres have been scanned and set up. This will give you a good, although not always accurate view of the area on the ground. Alternatively, you could just head out and see what you find!
Another one that should go without saying, but check the forecast for your location before you head out. Windy.com is an awesome tool to do this. Humidity, wind speed and temperature are all factors that affect the performance of your drone and should be taken account of pre-flight. If it’s set to rain, be prepared to accept that sometimes, you don’t get what you want, and that’s part of learning.
Charge, charge, charge
This should go without saying, but a key part of a successful outing is having your batteries charged. All of them. Plug in all your batteries and your remote the night before your expedition so that when you head out, you’re at maximum capacity to capture the aerial perspective you’ve been dreaming of.
Prepare your storage
The first thing to do is empty your SD card before the shoot to make sure you have enough room for your video or photos. Most drones available now will easily shoot 4K video and raw images, both of which are great quality and thirsty for space.
Secondly, make sure your SD card is installed in your drone – before you leave home. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken off in a great location and found the shot I wanted only to find that my SD card is sitting on my desk. That’s a wasted trip and valuable battery time out the window – not ideal.
Check your propellers
This doesn’t have to be done frequently, unless of course you fly your drone in stormy conditions on a regular basis. It is important though, more especially for beginner drones with folding propellers. Ensuring your propeller joints are firm and tight will give you more stable flights, crisp images and smooth footage if you’re shooting video.
For both foldable propellers and fixed ones, make sure they’re locked in place and installed correctly before take-off. Check your user manual or guide for instructions on how to do this.