The Elephant In The Room – UAV Maintenance & Equipment Monitoring

UAV maintenance and equipment monitoring is easily the most crucial element of a UAV’s operations that is either forgotten and/or neglected…BUT…ask anyone in the aviation industry, and don’t forget UAV’s are most certainly considered a player in the commercial aviation world now, just how important aircraft maintenance is in the overall safety and reliability of any flying machine and I am certain you will find a common answer amongst all.  

Whether you own a Phantom 1/2/3 quad copter as a hobbyist, are a single employee OC holder filming small real estate jobs or are an OC holder with multiple pilots flying multiple UAVs… monitoring and maintaining your flying machine/s must play an intricate role in one’s daily activities to ensure not only safe practices but the ability to sustain consistent flights in the commercial world.  

We are fortunate that we are in such early days of the commercial use of the UAV industry and are seeing a lot of new and creative ways to not only use UAVs but also ways in which to manage the hardware associated with it. With CASA providing the Australian UAV OC holder with ample resources of helpful information many software developers are now starting to bring to market devices paired with software that can now collate the aircrafts, and pilots, actual operational hours along with recording flight battery data and several other helpful components that allow for continual aircraft monitoring and scheduled UAV maintenance. It is just a matter of searching the internet for the right one that works for your application.   

Swarm UAV Battery maintenance

I often find myself explaining to either clients or curious onlookers why I am recording the flight battery voltage and each of the cell readings before and after each flight, why each of these batteries has its own unique ID number, and the most common question…why before each flight do I check the same cables & props I looked over one flight earlier…WHY…this, and many other pre flight system checks, contribute to our overall equipment monitoring and maintenance and allows all of our pilots within the company to confidently conduct operations knowing that their aircraft is in the best condition to perform the task at hand.  You would be surprised at just how much of a mental advantage simply knowing your aircraft is safe and ready to perform due to carrying out such simple visual checks of the aircraft apposed to just turning up and hoping for the best. Sure, the inspections occur well before you even get onsite and in fact “in-shop checks” are probably “the” most important times to carry out your pre flight checks of your aircraft.  

On numerous occasions I have heard of operators who have, for instance, performed a firmware update on the UAV’s flight controller the night before a job and not been bothered to test fly the aircraft afterwards to ensure everything performs as it should and signed off on the upgrade as ready to fly.  Instead they drive a half hour/hour to a job the next day and with client standing by their side in anticipation of the “flying drone”, all for it to not even start up, leaving the UAV operator embarrassingly scratching their head with no answers as to why and worst of all potentially losing the client’s faith in their ability to operate their equipment, along with future work.  As we all know “word of mouth” can be our best means of marketing but in the same instance it can be our worst, especially if our equipment is faulty and/or the cause of our inability to execute a job.   

During my RPAS licensing course I was told that “flying the UAV for commercial use is roughly 10% of the actual job”… the other 90% is made up of UAV maintenance/monitoring (≈50%), customer liaising (≈20%) & File delivery (≈20%).  I cannot begin to explain just how true this statement is and if you want to succeed as a UAV business, as well as build a reputation as a safe & reliable operator then adapting effective systems right from the get go across all aspects of the business (safety, maintenance, etc) is the only way to establish ones self in a rapidly growing industry.  As with any “new” industries, there are going to be those (cowboys) of whom will try drive prices of UAV services down to a point where the only way they can be charging so little is by cutting corners somewhere in their processes and this normally starts with the maintenance and equipment upkeep costs and as a result they are putting everyone’s safety in jeopardy.

Swarm UAV Aerial photography

Maintaining your equipment is the best way to familiarise yourself with the ins and outs of your aircraft, the one asset you may just be trying to utilise as your source of income.  Without this asset one can not go out and fly the jobs required to be successful, just the same as one must service and maintain the vehicle they rely on to drive to and from work everyday.  We at Swarm UAV are very fortunate to have many years of RC experience, as well as industrial knowledge shared across the team; due to this we have managed to formulate a finely tuned maintenance program for all of our fleet across multiple states, however as the conditions and tasks we are asked to perform change, so do our maintenance requirements.  It is important to continually monitor the use of your equipment and implement “preventative” scheduling where required, the key word here is “Preventative”…anything to help identify and prevent a potential safety hazard and/or equipment malfunction is a system well worth having in any business environment let alone aviation.   

It’s your investment…invest the time to get to know it and maintain it, and it will do the job you ask every time…

Our sister company Drone Doctor offers a maintenance and repair service within Australia – make sure to look them up for any local repairs or scheduled maintenance.

For more on Aerial Cinematography and how to’s, have a read through our recent blog: Bring it all together: What’s involved – a successful drone film shoot and subscribe to our newsletter below for more great reads and UAV updates.

Happy and safe flying!!

Swarm UAV

We are Australian specialists in drone aerial photography and aerial cinematography. CASA Certified Pilots. We are a business with our heads in the clouds, and our feet firmly on the ground.

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