Long winter? Pre-flight checklist for drone pilots

Long winter? Pre-flight checklist for drone pilots

By Scott Simmie

Depending on where you live in North America, it’s that time of year when many of us are dusting off our drones for the first time since we put them away last fall.

Some pilots are meticulous about this process. But we suspect – given the large number of recreational pilots who fly only occasionally – they’re in the minority. So we thought it would be useful to pull together a quick guide for those preparing to return to flight.

For that, we contacted our resident expert, Kate Klassen. Kate is widely known in the both the traditional aviation and drone worlds. She’s a mult-rated commercial pilot, a pilot instructor – and a drone expert. (In addition to flying and creating one of Canada’s most popular online drone courses, Kate is also a member of Transport Canada’s Drone Advisory Committee, or CanaDAC.)

Kate has also created and fronts the excellent new FLYY online drone learning resource portal, which is fully up-to-date for those seeking drone skills (including those who want to obtain their Basic or Advanced RPAS Certificate) in 2022. Here she is:

Because of her wide-ranging expertise, Kate is one of the best people we could think of to help us safely return to flight.

“The fact your drone hasn’t been flown, and you haven’t been flying, increases the risk of your first flight. So I think it’s good to have a plan,” she says. “You want to make sure that you’re setting yourself up for success by taking the time to prepare for that first flight and the ones that follow.”

Makes sense to us. And while it’s tempting to simply charge up and hit the sub-400′ skies, Kate says a more methodical approach will save you from unnecessary problems.


What do pilots of real aircraft do?


Well, whether they’re flying a Cessna or an Airbus, they have a rigorous protocol to ensure everything is looking good prior to takeoff. And the same systematic approach applies to flying drones (which, of course, are also aircraft).

We’ll have a full checklist in a moment, but Kate recommends that you think of this overall process in terms of systems. Those systems include software (ie firmware), power (batteries), propulsion (props and motors), fuselage – and even regulatory (Transport Canada or FAA authorization, where required).

“Regardless of whether you’re using commercial off-the-shelf systems or standalone flight packs, you’ll want to do as much as you can to confirm the battery’s health before you trust it in flight,” she says. “So that would be not just charging, but balancing the cells and using any resources like the battery health tools within a flight app to confirm their reliability before you get airborne.”

Kate also recommends a physical inspection of the batteries themselves. This is great advice. A couple of years ago, we pulled our own Mavic Pro from the basement, updated the firmware and pulled out the charger. But something about one battery caught our eye: There was a hairline crack in the plastic shell itself. The battery had never been dropped, so we had to assume there had been some swelling. Better to safely dispose of such batteries than risk charging them.

Mavic Pro
This also happened to us with a different drone.

We had loaned out a Phantom 4 Professional to a trusted and experienced friend. When it was returned, we simply put it away without checking it. Come spring, we noticed one battery was sticking when inserted. A close inspection revealed, again, a hairline crack. (There was also a really fine sand stuck to the lens protector.)

Phantom Drone
Had we not been looking carefully, we could have easily tried to charge – or even put the drone in the air – with a damaged battery. If there’s any physical damage like this, particularly in conjunction with apparent swelling, safely dispose of the battery at a municipal electronics waste facility. Don’t simply throw them in the garbage, unless the possibility of putting out a rogue garbage-can fire appeals to you.

Firmware and cards

We don’t want to rain on Kate’s checklist parade. But we do feel it’s worth emphasizing the importance of ensuring your drone and app are fully updated before you get to the field. It’s a real drag if you get out there and are faced with a 356 megabyte download by phone before you can fly. FPV pilots might also want to do a firmware version check for their goggles and look for any updates for their flight controller etc. via Betaflight Configurator. Ensure you have the NAV Drone app and manuals on your mobile device and that they haven’t been sent to the cloud due to their disuse.

Also – and we’ve been bitten by this one – be sure to have your MicroSD cards with you. If you’re anything like us you may have borrowed a cable or card from your drone kit while it sat and you’ll want to make sure you’re stocked up before you head out.

That’s not all. Just because you’ve passed your Transport Canada exam and have your Basic or Advanced RPAS certificate – that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re legal to fly.

“If it’s been 24 months or more since your last recency exercise, like getting your certificate in the first place, you’ll need to complete a recency exercise before you’re legal to fly,” says Kate.

Drone Delivery

On with the show!

Okay. You should have the basics by now. Kate has been kind enough to put together a full checklist that you can print out for your pre-flight checks. Here’s a screen grab, and you can download the file here.


Drone Checklist

And come Fall?

We hate to think that far in advance, but the reality is that winter will again come. But that doesn’t mean you need to shelve your flying skills. Kate recommends you consider practicing indoors or use a simulator during the off-season.

“A non-GPS cheapie micro-drone that you can fly around inside will keep your thumb and stick skills fresh. Some drones even have a simulator that can be used to practice your skills as well, and there are also wireless dongles available for practicing FPV skills on your laptop or desktop.


InDro’s Take


We fly professional missions on a regular basis. Most of these flights involve large, expensive heavy-lift drones. Whether Kate is at the sticks or someone else, we always go through a thorough pre-flight checklist. We do a preliminary check before heading out to the field, and a more thorough examination prior to arming the drone. We’ve caught a few things while doing this that saved us from having issues in the air.

We hope you make this a regular part of your own safe piloting pratice, if it isn’t already. Once again, you can download Kate’s pre-flight checklist here. And, if you’re interesting in upping your skills (or obtaining your RPAS certificate), check out Kate’s outstanding FLYY program.

InDro Robotics hits the podcast circuit

InDro Robotics hits the podcast circuit

By Scott Simmie

It’s been a busy week for InDro Robotics on the airwaves of the internet.

Two of our best talkers were asked to be guests on two separate industry podcasts, and the final products of both were released within two days of each other. Our CEO, Philip Reece, was the first up to the microphone, followed by Strategy and Implementation Specialist (and widely recognized training professional) Kate Klassen.

Because Philip went first (and because he’s the boss), we’ll start with him.

Philip was asked to appear on a podcast called Inflection Points. The highly rated podcast (Five Stars!) describes itself as exploring the “vision of the future of network-based technology.”

Because many of our products (and much of our R&D) focus on connected devices, Philip was a good choice for that broader topic. But the show’s hosts wanted to a deeper dive into an area where InDro’s CEO is an expert: The world of drones.

Here’s the synopsis for the episode:

“Just a few years ago drones were about hype. The reality is that this network-based tech is making a real difference in our lives today. Join hosts Carla Guzzetti and Tim Harrison as they hear from Indro Robotics CEO Philip Reece exactly how this change is happening and just when those drones will be dropping those shoes you just bought right to your door.”

Philip had an answer for that – and much more.


Philip Reece

It’s always great when a podcast reveals something new or unexpected. And we can tell you there were more than a few gems in this episode. But perhaps the most entertaining was when Philip explained how he switched from the world of running a seaplane airline to the world of drones (and, eventually, other robotics).

We’d love to tell you that story here, because it’s really entertaining – but we’ll let Philip tell you instead. There’s much more, of course, including a deep dive into the future of networked devices, including how aerial and ground robots will routinely be working collaboratively.

Before we get to the show, here’s a snippet that gives you an idea what to expect (and also flags that there’s cool stuff about Uncrewed Ground Vehicles, as well):

On with the show…

Okay, enough preamble. Time to hear Philip, Carla and Tim – and learn when a drone might actually deliver Carla those shoes.

Wait, there’s more!

Philip is a great and knowledgeable talker. But he’s got some competition from Kate Klassen.

Kate is widely known in Canadian circles for her contributions to both traditional aviation (she’s a multi-rated commercial pilot and instructor) as well as her immense impact on the drone world. Both Kate and Philip serve on Transport Canada’s CanaDAC Drone Advisory Committee and as board members on the Aerial Evolution Association of Canada (formerly Unmanned Systems Canada).

And Kate, who previously created and fronted a highly successful online drone course in Canada, recently outdid herself with FLYY – a brand new and fully updated set of online courses you can read about here.

FLYY is on track to become the new leader in online learning, and even includes a supportive internal social network where pros like Kate share tips with beginners on everything from safety protocols through to nailing the perfect aerial photograph. When we say it’s a comprehensive learning and resource portal, we mean it.

With a background like that, it should be no surprise that Commercial UAV News wanted to hear more from Kate about FLYY, the importance of solid training – and much more. Here she is, on the latest edition of Beyond Part 107:

If you just skipped that podcast but are considering checking out FLYY, we’d encourage you to go back.

Why? Well, let’s just say there’s a little Easter Egg (perfectly timed!) waiting somewhere in that show – a discount code for FLYY. Plus, of course, it’s likely you’re learn something from Kate.

Hope you enjoy the podcasts; both Kate and Philip are real pros.

New drone instruction portal lets new pilots go ‘FLYY’

New drone instruction portal lets new pilots go ‘FLYY’

By Scott Simmie

Thinking about earning your Basic or Advanced RPAS Certificate but don’t know where to start? Want some tools to help prep for your Transport Canada required Flight Review? Looking for some answers in a friendly, supportive community of drone pilots?

Look no further. InDro Robotics is very pleased to announce FLYY, an online drone learning portal with an incredible amount of offerings and features. What’s more, the person behind this major initiative is none other than InDro’s Kate Klassen, a highly respected professional and instructor in both the traditional aviation world as well as the drone sector.


If seeing that image of Kate in a studio rings a bell, that’s understandable: Kate developed and fronted one of the most successful online drone courses in Canada. Now, she’s taken all of that experience and expertise and put it into a comprehensive learning platform with multiple course offerings. There’s something for everyone, ranging from the absolute beginner to seasoned pros looking to up their game. There’s even a brand new and supportive Forum, where Kate and others can weigh in with helpful tips or answer questions. No trolls here; just a collaborative and growing community eager to learn and share.

We’re excited. And so is Kate.

“I’ve constructed the FLYY courses and guides to ensure success for those seeking to become Basic or Advanced RPAS pilots,” she says. “It was so fun to get back into content creation mode and then into the studio to record this training – no promises my jokes have gotten any better though!”

Special FLYY launch discount


We could go on and on. But we also issued a news release about this – so no point reinventing the rotor! We’ll paste that release in a second so you can see all the details, but wanted to point out that FLYY is offering 15% off until March 1. So if you’re in Canada and want to be ready for spring piloting, hop on over to the FLYY website and take a look at some of the course offerings.

Believe us, there’s something for everyone, including helpful FLYY Guides and even Flight Reviews. Once you’ve made your selection, apply the code FLYY15 at checkout.

Drone Training

The news release


Okay, for those of you looking for even more information, you can see our news release below, or download it here.

Happy piloting…and congratulations, Kate Klassen. Having been through the site, we can tell you she has done an absolutely amazing job with these comprehensive, Transport Canada compliant course offerings.

Drone Training