Keeping track of drones on paper is important. Not only does it help with creating maintenance plans, but if there is a legal dispute, having receipts will help your case enormously. In this section, the reader can find a few different ways to approach flight logs and maintenance plans.
While creating flight logs is always a good idea, it can create a hassle for users and fleet managers. There might be multiple drones that need to be maintained and logged at different times. The good old-fashioned way is to use Excel sheets. If you’ve never used Excel before, a template might look like this:
|PILOT||DAY[FLIGHT START AND FINISH TIME]||LOCATION||BATTERIES USED||DRONE USED||STORY SLUG|
This will allow the pilot and supervisor to sort categories to find data more easily. For instance, how many flight hours does drone A have? If this is the best policy for the pilot and manager, be sure to keep track of time in the air for the pilot, how much airtime this drone has had, how many times that particularly battery has been used and any unexpected bumps or bruises accrued in that day’s flight. There are also paper logs available on Amazon, and any number of templates provided by really experienced drone pilots. Choosing a template is a matter of convenience and need for the pilot. Some templates allow for flight planning, others are very sparse and include only minimal detail. However, this opens up the field for human error. In addition, we are in the age of technology, and technology has provided an answer:
AirData: Easy fleet syncing with DJI products (unfortunately, this is only available for DJI products at this time), keeps track of data on battery life, charges held, time spent in the air, drone error warnings, and geographic use all sortable by pilot and drone.
KittyHawk: An iOS app that allows a single pilot to check airspace, weather, and TFRs in the area, and enables easy switching between drones when logging flights via timer or manually.
There are a lot of options for flight logs. These are just a few; many more can be found with a Google search. The idea is that you use them. By logging flights, not only will pilots be able to monitor the status and problems with their drones, but also keep receipts for experienced flight hours.
Maintenance can then be determined according to flight logs, and be integrated into record-keeping processes. How many propellers are used a year? At what rate are batteries being burned out? This sort of record keeping will also help any budgetary decisions made by the department. The FAA dictates all maintenance and repairs should be made according to the drone manufacturer’s guidance. Until then, it’s best to keep this in mind:
Batteries will keep a charge for a week, before depreciating in power as a safety measure. If being stored for a long period of time, they should be stored in Li-Po safe bags, in case of fire.
Drones themselves should have designated containers to keep them free from damage in transit. If drones get dusty or fly in environments with dirty air, clean them with pressurized air-dusters from the hardware store, with a microfiber cloth, or with plastic-safe cleaning supplies.
Keep track of how many propellers are used and how many spares there are in case of accidents.
DJI, a major drone manufacturer, has also put out a guide on drone maintenance. As with any product, regular cleaning and care will extend the life of the drone. If problems arise, defer to manufacturer guidance. If a drone needs more intensive repair, it’s best to let the manufacturer fix the problem. Often, tinkering with it yourself will void the warranty.