What’s in the Drone box?

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Drone photography box contents

What should a commercial drone pilot/operator carry in their equipment case? I guarantee you’ll be surprised the length of the list.

Everyone is different but I use storage totes to carry all my production equipment around my patch, mostly Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire etc and I’m opening the drone one to let you see why a good commercial operator is worth their weight in gold. Not just because you’ll get what you need, but also you know you, your property and those around you will be safe. If it’s for your Wedding photography you’ll have your nearest and dearest so need the best, if it’s for a commercial job or your property you need the reassurance your property and people are in safe hands.

Drone photography box
Drone photography work tools

Some of these items are for safety, some for redundancy and others to ensure you’re delivered a professional job. No one item is more important than any other, to be prepared for any eventuality is critical to ensure the job is done and done in the right manner.

Drone photography box contents
Drone photography box contents

Content list with a description of why it’s needed…

Log Books – As part of the insurance requirements all jobs should be logged, flight times, usage of batteries, repairs and maintenance, all are logged to ensure records are kept for your safety.
Wind Sock – Although forecasts are used to predict wind speed and direct these often change and local conditions can be different from those due to obstructions and turbulence so a simple visual indicator helps considerably for landing and take-offs, and shows bystanders that flying in being undertaken.
Landing Mat Pegs – Simply to hold down the landing mat as the wind can flip these very easily.
Windsock Stand – Used to elevate the windsock to about 2-3m from the ground. Often with sandbags to hold it down.
Landing Pad – A necessity for all flying as it indicates where you’re working from and gives a smooth landing area for both take-off and landing.
Cordon Stakes – For the safety of the public and those working on the project a 30m cordon is created to prevent access during the flight and projects.
Operational Evaluation Manual – Every flight must have a document created to evaluate the scope of the job, potential risks, procedures in the event of an accident, authorisation from local authorities, landowners and local residents. Mine is approx 11 pages specific to a flight and the conditions, weather etc.
Tape Measure – Minimum distances are required for all flights and this is a backup to laser tape measures to ensure the project continues even is a technical issue occurs.
Laser Tape Measure – The most cost-effective method to ensure exact distances for cordons and safety areas.
Anemometer – As with the windsock wind speeds are critical and this allows for a locally specific, accurate measurement to be taken. Allowing for alterations to the plan to be made and a job to continue in a safe manner.
Fire Extinguisher – The batteries in a commercial drone have been known to fail with spectacular results, although every effort is taken to monitor batteries and log their use, it’s a requirement to be able to tackle a fire should it happen, so I carry at least one at all times.
ND Filters – These are used to effectively put sunglasses on the camera, allowing footage to be taken in the brightest conditions.
Team Radios – For safety reasons, it’s common to use a spotter to ensure no unauthorised people interfere with the working area, pilot or encroach in the safety zone, this isn’t just on the ground, as we working in a 3-dimensional workplace other aircraft, drones or objects could cause hazards so a spotter and their ability to communicate over distance are essential.
Accident Book – One of those, never wish to use documents but accidents can happen, including those with no involvement of the drone, so as is required for all companies this is carried to all jobs.
Air Horn – In the unlikely event of an incident the airhorn is used to communicating over large distances that there is an issue, much better than shouting which some do.
Eye Protection – Purely a precautionary tool, with high-speed blades and the potential of insects in eyes etc eye protection is available for the pilot to ensure their vision is protected at all times.
Gaffa Tape – Everyone that works remotely has had a break or need to have a third hand and gaffa tape is great to keep a project on track when without it could stop a job.
Hazard Tape – Use with the stakes to ensure a visible cordon is maintained to prevent those inquisitive passersby from inadvertently putting themselves at harm or jeopardising a project.
Binoculars – Gives a spotter more chance to identify a problem before it becomes a critical issue
Hi-Vis – Used to identify the crew from distance, I carry about six in various colours to ensure we stand out from others and ensure a client can also use whilst to project is underway.
Local OS Maps – Although most of my planning is undertaken with digital tools, having a traditional map often gives more detail than can be seen online, especially overhead power lines and tall structures.
Collapsible Hazard Cones – Another tool for identifying the work areas and excluding those from entering. I use the collapsible version to reduce space and weight.
Spares for Drone – Although a catastrophic crash wouldn’t be repairable, most common issues can be and I carry considerable parts for the most common issues, replacement propellor blades, cables, legs shock absorbers etc
Spare Propellers – As mentioned above, rarely needed but worth having plenty just in case.

additional items not in the box are…

First Aid Kit – Always carried, I’m personally a trained first-aider and rescue diver (not that diving will be needed)
Drone – Not shown as depending on the project an appropriate drone is used, often my own but we have the facilities to hire others if required for those non-standard projects.

I hope this gives a small insight into why commercial drone pilots are the right way to get your aerial footage, not just because it’s the only legal way to get it, but because they have been trained to follow the safety processes needed for you, your property and those around you. I carry all this equipment to ensure I can deliver my projects safely, whatever may be thrown at me. The weather can delay a project, but with the right planning, I can guarantee that in a moments notice when that weather lets up, if it’s safe, we’ll get your footage in the bag.

If you’re interesting in discussing this subject further or need advice on a project please do not hesiate to contact me.

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