Written by James Davis
Costing as much as they do, ensuring your drone is in good condition needs to be a top priority for all pilots.
By following the tips covered in this article, you will ensure that your investment is taken care of as long as possible, and most importantly – as safely as possible.
Tips For Taking Care Of Your Drone
Carry Out a Full Pre-Flight Checklist
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; always carry out a pre-flight check. By doing so you will greatly reduce the chances of anything going wrong whilst your drone is in the air. It may be a tedious task, but it should only take a minute and is well worth the effort!
To perform my check, I have a note saved on my phone of everything that I need to do before I take off. This way I don’t need to remember to bring any spare sheets of paper, as my phone is always with me. Your pre-flight checklist doesn’t need to be anything fancy, just a list of the tasks that you need to carry out every time you pilot your drone. If you’re wondering what sort of things you should be checking, you can see an example of a pre-flight checklist here.
I can honestly say that carrying out a pre-flight check has saved my drone a number of times. Just a couple of months ago I was filming in New Zealand and I asked my partner to attach the props to my Phantom whilst I went back to the car (she’s done this a thousand times).
I came back, finished setting up and read through the list on my phone, one item being ‘check props are attached correctly’. It was then that I noticed that some of the propellers were not attached to the correct motors and one wasn’t even fully screwed on!
If I hadn’t carried out a pre-flight checklist, that could well of been the last time I ever flew my beloved Phantom (and the end of my relationship)!
Top tip: After take off, hover your drone a few meters above ground for 30 seconds to a minute. This way if anything does go wrong, it doesn’t have far to fall and minimal damage will be sustained.
Take Good Care of Your Batteries
Taking care of your drones’ batteries is extremely important for a number of reasons. Firstly, the battery is what powers the aircraft to stay in the air; if this breaks mid-flight then you can say good-bye to your drone! Secondly, misusing these batteries can actually be dangerous; therefore you should make a conscious effort to handle them with care. Even if you have the smallest inkling that your battery may be damaged, DO NOT use it. With LiPo batteries, you can expect a lifetime of about 300 charges.
Here are some steps that you can take to ensure your batteries are safe and last for as long as possible.
- Only fly with fully charged batteries
- Remove the battery from the drone when it is not in use
- Don’t fully drain LiPo batteries
- Do not leave your batteries fully charged for longer than 2 days. If you’re not going to be flying your drone, make sure you deplete them.
- Read this guide article by Drone Girl on maintaining LiPo batteries.
It is also especially important to look after your batteries when you are flying in cold weather. When LiPo batteries are exposed to cold temperatures, they tend to last significantly less time and stand more of a chance of malfunctioning. I’ve got a full article on flying a drone in cold weather on my blog if you want to a bit more information on the subject.
Have a Suitable Backpack or Case
A lot of people get so caught up in the excitement of buying their first drone that they forget to consider how they’re going to carry it around.
Having the right backpack or case for your drone will make sure that it is safe whilst you are on the move. I personally use the Manfrotto D1 backpack for my Phantom and it does a great job!
Of course, a hard case offers a lot more protection, but they also tend to be more difficult to transport, due to the fact they’re heavier and less flexible.
Only Fly in Good Conditions
Before flying your drone it is a good idea to look at the weather conditions. As annoying as it is, the option of when we can fly our drone is very dependent on the weather.
In your drones’ user manual it will usually tell you the maximum recommended wind speed for flying. For example, you are not recommended to fly the DJI Phantom 3 Standard if the wind speeds are greater than 10m/s (36kph).
Similarly, any other adverse weather conditions such as snow, fog and rain shouldn’t be flown in.
Top tip: If you’re keen on shooting aerial photography, a great way to make the most of the weather conditions is to fly in the golden hour. This is the first hour after sunrise and the first hour before sunset. It will tint your shots with a natural looking orange colour as well as making them a lot easier to expose.
Take Care of Your Motors
Keeping your motors clean and dirt free is a great way to ensure that your drone is sufficiently maintained. Once you’ve finished flying you should remove and clean your propellers and use canned air to blow out any debris caught inside the motors. This prevents dirt from building up inside the motors, which can later cause them to stop working mid-flight!
As you probably know, flying a drone can be incredibly addictive. If you’re flying for long periods of time, giving your motors a break will also prevent them from over heating or wearing out.
Keep Software up to Date
Before you fly, make sure you check that your drone software is up to date. This is important as drone manufacturers often release updates in order to fix bugs or provide enhancements.
As well as this, if you’re firmware isn’t updated you may not even be able to fly. DJI released an update in September for their DJI Spark and any drone that wasn’t updated was unable to take off.
Make Sure Your Propellers Are in Good Condition
Always pay attention to the condition of your propellers, as they are incredibly important as they obviously play an important role in keeping your drone safely in the air.
If a propeller is misshapen or chipped, it’s best to just replace it. This isn’t too bad as replacement propellers are relatively cheap and can be found pretty easily online on websites such as Amazon.
If I’m going away for a while and know I wont get a chance to stock up, I’ll grab a few spare sets just to be safe.
Regularly Clean Your Drone
Cleaning your drone on a regular basis is a great way to make sure that there’s no harmful debris or dirt inside. Cleaning a drone is extremely easy and doesn’t take long at all, so there really are no excuses!
You should clean the motors as we discussed earlier, by inspecting them for anything inside. You can then use a soft brush, or canned air to remove anything inside, whether it be dirt, sand, hair, grass… just get it out of there!
To clean the drones’ body, you can take a damp-soft cloth and wipe down the drone and transmitter. To give it a really good cleaning, you can make use of isopropyl liquid.
Listed below are some handy pieces of equipment for cleaning your drone:
- Canned air – For blowing debris out of motors
- Micro-fibre cloth – Good for whipping down the shell of the drone
- Isopropyl alcohol – For cleaning your drones shell and can be used alongside a micro-fibre cloth
- Spare set of propellers – Always good to have some spare props to hand
- Spare battery (at least one) – Great for extending your flight time, and gives you a back up option if anything goes wrong with the primary
- Soldering iron – If you know what you’re doing with your drones’ electrics, a soldering iron is a great tool for repairing the damage from a nasty crash.
- Small tool kit – Some drones come with all the tools they require for maintenance, whilst others do not. Either way, it’s a good idea to have a set of tools that are suitable for your drone.
Thanks for taking the time to read my article, if you’ve got any questions at all, please feel free to comment below.