Checklist – Flying over open water

Checklist – Flying over open water


Flying over water with any kind of multicopter sometimes is tricky. Water reflections have an interesting effect on RC and video signals and reachable distances can be greatly reduced. A while ago we conducted a few tests putting three @Dji and two @blacksnapper copters in the air and over open water. We didn`t have any kind of serious problems just a few video signal losses. In our test report we mentioned that we follow a special checklist for all UAV work over open water that we developed over the years. We were asked if we could share that list so here is the short version of it, make sure that you hop on over to our blog for the full list and the explanations why we do it that way.[/vc_column_text]

  1. We walk along the shoreline as far as possible and try to get different angles on our shot, also we need to find obstacles. Yes obstacles, especially in a harbor environment there are quite a few lines, steel cables and other interesting stuff being a potential hazard to a flying copter but many times they are only visible from different angles. So we take this walkaround very seriously.
  2. We try to find points we can use for our own orientation while flying over water.
  3. Bring a landing pad.
  4. We use the RF Explorer for scanning all used frequencies. If the RC band is to crowded we switch to manual frequency mode or postpone the flight (see further info about the Phantom 3 and the Inspire on our blog)
    We make sure that we contact ATC and get permission if our flying area is within a CTR. Just because we are flying over water doesn´t mean that the airspace above it is exempt from a CTR.
  5. One of our firsts is a thorough FOD check around our Takeoff spot, especially on a ship.
  6. Don´t forget your life vest when flying off a boat.
  7. Don´t forget securing gear when flying off a boat.
  8. We use DHPS (dynamic home point settings) when flying off a ship. When not on a boat or a moving object we use the DHP settings just for emergency situations. Make sure that you fully understand your flight controllers DHP settings when flying off a moving ship since your takeoff point is not your RTH point after 10 min worth of flying.
  9. Especially over water there are situations where we get the best shots using the IOC CL setting. Course lock mode is also useful for orientation.
    In our crew all flights over open water are always conducted by the most experienced pilot available on that day.
  10. Obviously all batteries fully charged but we especially make sure that the Tx batteries are checked full.
  11. Also obvious but underestimated. Bring enough batteries when flying off a boat or ship. Charging might be possible or might not be but a day on a boat can become very long.
  12. We double check all antennas.
  13. We do a compass calibration before the first flight and always away from the water (see further explanation on the blog).
  14. We don´t use more than 60% battery capacity so we strive for a landing at around 30%-40% capacity.
  15. We always have a second guy watch the surrounding sky. Not so much for real air traffic (that we do anyways and all the time) but for birds. Birds can be a real hazard to us and vice versa. Therefore we always do a short test flight at the beginning of the session, see if birds are around.
  16. There are a few situations where it is very difficult to fly over open water since there are not that many orientation points for example when you can not see the other shoreline because of fog or we are flying off a boat over the ocean and the shot we need to get is real tricky or difficult. In these situations we like to use a trick in that we point the nose of our copter perpendicular to the shoreline or the side of the boat and switch on over to CL mode. This way we put a grid out there that sits perfectly at a 90° angle to our shoreline or boat. Makes life a whole lot easier.
    But usually we fly our copters in Atti or manual mode and avoid any GPS mode.
  17. We avoid to overfly any radar antenna or fly in close proximity to one. Radar emitters and copter flight controllers are not best friends to put it friendly.
  18. We use small flotation devices from waterbuoy, they keep our copters afloat, should the need occur.
  19. On the Phantom 3 and the Inspire we switch off the GVS (Ground Visioning system). This system has a tendency of being disturbed by water. If on and flying a straight shot at a very low altitude above water level you get all kinds of erratic altitude changes. The copter will slightly change altitude but you never changed it on your tx.
  20. We switch cards or SSD´s in between flights. We use an empty card for every new flight in order to save the material that we already shot in case we lose the copter for whatever reason.
  21. We make sure to clean the lens in between flights. It always gets sprayed on from your own prop downwash when flying at low altitude.
  22. We try to use high contrast yellow sunglasses, we avoid any blue sunglasses.


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