Most people don’t realize how much behind the scenes work goes into a successful drone operation. Things like flight planning, insurance certificates, client education as well as our own internal documentation are just some of the many important steps involved in prepping for a drone job. In this blog post, find out what goes on behind the scenes at DroneBoy for every drone mission that we perform.
Whether you end up working with us or not, one of the first things that we like to do with any new potential client is educate them about safe practices and effective drone use. To this end, every person who contacts us receives our Drone Safety and Security Info Package. This document outlines what you should know before you hire a drone team, the basic rules and regulations enforced by the authorities (Transport Canada & NAV Canada), safety guidelines, and, the often-misunderstood security perimeter restrictions.
The next thing we do is perform our initial site assessment and risk evaluations. For this task we use web based tools such as Google Earth Pro which enables us to really check out the details of your site, make rough measurements and look at all the site details from afar. Many potential locations will have limitations or restrictions that may make them a challenge. It is in everyone’s best interest to figure all this out as early as possible so we can come up with the best plan of action. In some cases a site visit is required in advance of the actual shot to ensure there are no surprises on the day. Sometimes we will be asked to fly from a location that has restrictions, such as proximity to an aerodrome, minimal distance from the public, or a major roadway (remember – 100’ minimum to the public and roads etc.). Usually we can make alternative plans, modify the mission and find a way to work within these restrictions to make it a safe, legal flight. Sometimes we may determine that a drone will not be the best tool for the job, but either way, the sooner we know the details and access your site the better! Hint – call early…
Sometimes clients will want us perform operations that are outside of our current Special Flight Operations Certificate (S.F.O.C.). Requirements like flying higher than the standard 400’ ceiling or operating in Restricted Airspace such as Niagara Falls. Most of this IS possible BUT it will often require us to apply for a custom, one-time use Special Flight Operations Certificate (S.F.O.C.) from Transport Canada. At DroneBoy we can make almost any flight a reality but the more complex the operation is, the more lead time will be required to get the paperwork in place to do it legally. In very complex cases this can take months!
Once we have all determined that the job is achievable and that it is a GO we will ask you, our beloved client, to sign back our simple agreement form so that we can commit to the job and move on to the next phase.
Once the agreement is in place our client will also receive a copy of our current Special Flight Operations Certificate (S.F.O.C.) for the region that the flight it is occurring in. This is a legal requirement for all commercial drone operations here in Canada and DroneBoy was one of the first Canadian operators to have this in place.
Next, we will get all the appropriate information from you to enable us to obtain insurance certificates specific to the project. To get certificates from our broker we need some basic information such as the legal name and address of your business, project date(s), project address(s) and any unique details about the job if it is at all out of the ordinary. For insurance certificates, we are often asked to add additionally insured parties which is not a problem but we do need their legal names as well as their relationship to you the client. We provide you with a form to fill out with all this. We then prepare this package and send it over to our broker. Within 24 hours we receive a Certificate of Insurance (COI) that gets forwarded to you for your files. When working on film productions, we are often required to provide your insurance broker more technical details about our operation for the production company’s insurance which is not a problem at all.
For the next step we create a detailed flight plan for the operation. The flight plan will contain a map or drawing of the site with key features noted including roadways, powerlines and any potential obstacles and security considerations (ie: near a hospital etc.). The site plan will also have the date and time of the operation, GPS coordinates, the radius of proposed flight path, altitude of the proposed flight path in feet above ground level (AGL), operator location, distance to nearest aerodrome and security perimeter details.
Google Earth is used for the GPS coordinates, our radius of operation, and distance to the nearest aerodrome. Google Earth also allows us to get a better idea of where we are flying, what we are potentially flying over, and to see if there are any restrictions for this location.
After that, we submit this information package to NAV Canada and, depending on the jurisdiction of the site, other controlling agencies such as The City of Toronto etc. NAV Canada requires at least 2 days notice and municipalities will usually want more time than that. They will review our plan and may have some amendments or ask for further clarification on the details of the operation.
48 hours before the job, we will file our flight plan with the local NAV Canada Flight Information Centre (FIC) which gets us our NOTAM or Notice to Airmen . The NOTAM details will show up in various publications that other pilots (airplane and helicopter etc) use to plan their flights. It is a way of notifying everyone in the shared airspace of any potential conflicts, obstacles and threats and is a very important aspect of the operation.
Next up, internally, we create a ‘Current Ops Info’ sheet for our team to use leading up to and on the day of the operation. This package includes site location, mission timing and NOTAM details with the reference number. We also list ALL pertinent contacts including client contacts, local aerodromes, the NAV Canada Area Shift Manager and anyone else who may need to be contacted before, during or after the mission. It also contains flight crew information, weather, emergency contacts, a map of the location, any personal protective equipment (PPE) that is required for the site, camera settings, parking, travel and accommodation details (if out of town). This package is distributed to our crew and a copy goes into our operations manual which is on site at every operation we perform.
Next up is the prepping, testing and inspection of all equipment to be used. Software and firmeware updates happen quite frequently with a lot of the equipment and these must be tested thoroughly before going out on a mission. We also need to ensure all batteries are fully charged and that the flight control system and all its component interactions are working perfectly.
Last but not least we load up the gear, head out and actually get to fly the mission. This is usually the easiest part of the job and it certainly is the most rewarding. Once the job has been satisfactorily completed, we aren’t quite done yet. All the gear needs to be checked again after the operation to ensure everything is in order and any part that require scheduled maintenance will need to be addressed. All operations are required to be logged for future reference and so once we are back at the office we record all the flight data, document any issues or problems, and complete all the documentation required in our flight logs.
Obviously, none of this would happen without our diligent staff working hard behind the scenes. As you can see, a lot of work goes into “a simple drone job” but it is absolutely necessary and totally worth it. Hopefully this blog post helps you understand how things look from the administration side of things.
Contact us today for further information or to plan your next drone job. Remember – call early so we can come up with a good plan!