Drones crashes are sometimes inevitable and may be caused by a mistake or an unseen event. Crashes are not uncommon even with the most experienced drone pilots. As much as being cautious with your drone is essential, being prepared for a drone crash is equally crucial. So, what do you do when your drone crashes?
After a crash, you can recover your drone either by using its GPS or any other tracking device you might have attached to it. Once you have your drone in hand, remove its battery first, then check for visible damage. Do not overlook anything, including dents, external or internal swelling, etc.
Keep reading to learn more about how to check your drone for damage, where you can have it repaired, and how to report a drone crash. I will also guide you on when and how to report a drone crash and most importantly how to prevent one in the first place.
Check your drone for damage
As mentioned earlier, the first thing to do when you crash your drone is to recover it. You should not have any issue with this if you adhere to the proper protocol for drone flying. Once you’ve recovered your drone, the next step is a detailed damage inspection.
Here are the steps you should follow to establish how damaged your UAV is.
1. Drone body inspection
When you crash your drone, you will most likely find some dirt on its body after recovering it. Clean any dirt you see because that’s the easiest way to establish any hidden damage. Be meticulous to check out any cracks, dents, or breaks on the entire drone’s body.
2. Propeller inspection
Propellers create the air movement and lift that enables the drone to fly. Therefore, they have a high rotation speed, and it is for this reason that the propellers are carefully balanced. This ensures that there will be no creation of vibrations due to the high speeds that could hinder your drone from flying.
Therefore, you should take care of any damage, including chips, dents, or cracks in the propellers. Repair them regardless of how severe or minor they might be. The propellers are the biggest victims when drone crashes occur because they are protruding from the rest of the drone body, and are relatively fragile.
Your attention should primarily be on the propeller’s leading blade edge because if it’s not in good shape, the propeller will not be efficient in its performance.
3. Fittings inspection
The focus in this step should be on the motors. This is because if your drone has a motor with loose mounts, its vibration will be higher than usual. The rotating parts, including the propellers and motors, can shake or roll due to loose fittings. This might cause your drone to become unstable, and that’s a risk.
Therefore, when your drone crashes, establish whether all the fittings are okay so that everything will be intact during the next scheduled flight. If you notice some instability in the flight, repeat the fittings inspection.
4. Wiring inspection
Drones consist of lots of wires that transmit power and control signals to the whole device. As you check your drone for damage after a crash, ensure that all wiring connections are tight. Sometimes the visible wires might have been exposed to cracks, breakages, or burns when the crash happened, and therefore you should check on them too.
Whenever a drone crashes, there could be leaking fluids, and if they come into contact with such wires, your next flight might also be cut short, and your drone can be permanently damaged.
Where to send/take your drone for repair
If the drone repair is beyond DIY, don’t worry because there are a number of options when it comes to repairs.
The first option is to send it back to your drone manufacturer. But before doing that, it would be wise to check online if they have their authorized centers for drone repairs or retail partners within your locality. If they have one near you, it will probably save you time and money to reach out to them and see if they can have your drone repaired quickly.
If they don’t have a listing for local dealers, you can send it back to the manufacturer for repair service. Nevertheless, you must confirm if the drone had a warranty. If it doesn’t have a warranty or is expired, you will have to pay for the repair cost. This is why drone owners are advised to ensure their devices are insured because, in case of a crash, the insurance will cover the repair damages.
In most cases, drone manufacturers take a long time to repair drones because of the backlog of drones waiting for repair services. You might end up having a long wait. If your drone is not under warranty, and you don’t have insurance, it’s not a bad idea to search online and find a guide to learn how to repair it by yourself.
How and when to report a drone crash
As a drone operator, you need to know that your device can significantly harm someone or someone’s property in the case of a crash. If you’re a commercial drone operator and you crash your drone, you may need to report the crash. How do you know if you need to file a report?
- If the crash caused injury to any person or people
- If the crash caused physical property damage worth over $500
Such cases are reported to the NTSB (link) or FAA. Here are the steps to follow when reporting a drone crash.
1. Preparation of an Emergency Response Plan
This is the first step to take in reporting a crash, and you should actually have the plan formulated before a crash happens, although it’s technically the action you take immediately after the crash happens.
In this step, you should have an effective plan to deal with the injuries and damage that your drone caused. You should also have a fire extinguisher and a first-aid kit near you. Additionally, you are required to have a cell phone with reliable coverage so that you can contact 911.
2. Estimate the severity of the drone crash damage
Not all drone accidents must be reported to FAA. For instance, reporting is unnecessary if the crash hurt nobody or didn’t severely damage any property. On the other hand, you are subject to reporting if someone was hurt or property was severely damaged.
3. Immediately report a major drone crash to FAA/NTSB
Some severe drone accidents include collisions that happened mid-air and severely hurt someone. You must report such accidents immediately because, according to NTSB, such are classified as severe.
However, if your drone crashed into a tree and no property was damaged, you don’t need to report it. Importantly, do not interfere with the evidence if the crash was severe.
4. Report the crash on the FAA Drone Zone
You should report within ten days. The report involves any drone crashes that brought significant financial or physical damage. Also, a report to the FAA should be done on all damage that exceeds $500.
How to report a drone crash?
One of the reasons drone crashes must be reported to the FAA is that the report about the incident helps them regulate and promote air safety. This is more so when they identify what caused the drone crash.
If a drone pilot fails to report a drone crash, they will face civil penalties. Also, as you report your drone crash, you must provide the FAA with all the details about the collision as requested. Failure to report all relevant details can cause a delay in the report processing.
Reporting drone crash is not difficult, and the best part about it is that you can report online. There are FAA accident/incident reporting forms (link) that you can fill out and submit in no time. Here is the information you should provide when reporting.
- The aircraft registration number of your drone
- Name of the drone pilot, email address, and phone number.
- Exact date and time of the drone crash
- Location of the drone crash.
- Basic description of the accident.
How to prevent drone crashes?
As much as drone crashes are common, we should not normalize them or just accept them, but instead work to prevent them. Besides, you can’t compare the cost of buying a brand new drone with something preventable.
Although things beyond your control can cause accidents, paying attention to what you can control is wise. Here are ways you can prevent the incident from happening.
Inspect the drone before flying
Failure to check a drone over before flying is the leading cause of drone crashes. As a drone pilot, you must ensure the propellers, compass, and motors are functioning properly. Also, you must check whether the video transmission is working well.
Launch your drone from level ground
Trying to launch a drone from tall grass or uneven ground will make it difficult for it to orient the drone to lock onto the GPS. You can also help the drone with an easy coordinates registration if you permit it to hover briefly after launching.
Moreover, some drone models do not lock onto their GPS immediately, and flying them before they are locked reduces the chances of a safe flight or a successful return to home.
It is also wise to reset the lock when you change your drone flying location to prevent saving coordinates from previous flights.
How well do you know the area you intend to fly your drone in? Most crashes are caused by pilots who launch their UAVs in areas they aren’t familiar with. Therefore, it is critical to assess your intended drone flying site and ensure that there are no tall buildings, trees, or power lines that can interfere with your device. This way, planning your route will be easy, and you will know how to avoid such barriers.
Check the weather conditions
Not all weather conditions are ideal for flying your drone, and that’s why you need to know what to expect. You can use weather apps to know when it’s safe to fly your drone.
You need to know how long your drone battery can last so that you avoid pushing it when it’s time to come back. If pushed, it will land forcefully, especially when far from the base station.
Also, avoid starting your drone when the battery is not fully charged to be on the safe side. Many drone operators are used to flying their drones with less charge, but that’s risky because it might switch off when you’re not expecting it.
Another tip is to plan to land your drone before the charge goes below 30%. This will give you time to establish where you will land if there is an issue.
Avoid over speeding
Drone flying is exciting, and at some point, you might be tempted to fly it at high speed. However, unless you’re highly experienced you should avoid this and fly it at a safer speed because it can crash if it comes upon an unexpected obstacle.
Lots of regular practice
Unsurprisingly, newbies have been reported to cause drone crashes more than skilled pilots. This is why it is advisable to regularly practice drone flying, whether in areas with obstacles or in open places. However, that doesn’t mean even the skilled pilots don’t need to practice, as sometimes they will fly their drone in areas they are not conversant with, and the experience will be of great help.
Avoid bringing down the drone at high speed
For a drone to fly, its propellers must rotate to cause lift, and they do this by pushing up on the air under them. For this reason, you should avoid descending your aircraft quickly. A fast descent can cause a downwash, which translates to a loss of pressure. If this happens, your drone will begin to fall too quickly, thus resulting in a crash.
I have discussed what to do when you crash your drone and the steps you should follow to identify any damage. Additionally, you now know where to take your drone for repair and when and how to report the crash. I’ve also discussed some tips on how to prevent drone crashes. I hope that all the information has been helpful and you will safely fly your drone without any unfortunate incidents.