Before you head out with your drone to shoot that real estate job or powerline inspection, having the right equipment is paramount to conducting a successful mission. One piece of equipment can bring the whole operation crashing down – and not in the cool, cinematic way. I remember one of my very first jobs, I threw my gear in the truck, drove an hour to the job site only to find out that I had left my SD card wallet laying on my desk at home. That is exactly why I want to provide you with this checklist of the essential equipment and materials you absolutely need to pack for your next drone operation. So let’s dive into the equipment and materials you need to ensure that your drone operation is a soaring success. [pun intended]
Before we dive into the checklist, I just want to note that we’ll only be discussing the basic equipment and materials needed for a basic drone operation, such as a real estate or photogrammetry shoot. Depending on the type of drone operation, there may be additional equipment and materials that are specific to your particular mission or operation, I just want to ensure that you have everything you need to fly the job successfully.
Your Drone Gear Checklist
It’s worth noting that most prosumer-grade drones, like your DJI Mavic 3 or Skydio 2+ will already have a 4K camera integrated. However, you will need to pack the following items:
- SD Cards (recommended UHS Speed Class 3 or higher for maximum performance)
- Lens Filters (I recommend a set of ND Filters for varying sunlight conditions)
- Lens Cleaning Kit (there is nothing worse than getting home and discovering a smudge across all your footage)
- Spare Propellers (you never know when you might break a prop)
- Spare Batteries (factor 3 batteries for every 1 hour of flight time)
- Battery Charger (this should have come included with your drone)
- 12v Power Inverter (this will save your life when you’re in a crunch to charge a battery)
- GPS Tracker (protect yourself from losing a drone to fly-away. It happened to me!)
Your Drone Controller
Keep in mind that while newer drone controllers may have an integrated screen, some do not. If not, you will need a screen device such as a tablet, and don’t forget your cable!
- Drone Controller Display (I recommend using a tablet with a high brightness, and for screen size, I like the 7″ profile)
- USB C Cable (to connect the display to your controller)
Your Field Gear
- Launch Pad (Protect your drone and sensors from dust and dirt during takeoff and landings)
- Communications Radios (Communicate with your Visual Observer and team)
- PPE’s: Hard Hat and Vest (PPE’s are great for presenting yourself as a professional drone operator)
- First Aid Kit (just in case of an emergency)
- Binoculars (great for maintaining awareness of your surroundings)
- Handheld Anemometer (I use this to monitor weather conditions, primarily wind speeds, especially for aerial surveying or mapping)
- Folding Table (is super handy when conducting an all-day operation)
- Canopy/Tent (I keep a tent in the truck for shade on all-day operations)
- Generator (For the all-day operation, powering fans, charging batteries, and any other electrical needs)
Just for FUN!
- Ice Cooler (bring along some snacks and drinks for yourself and the team!)
Now that you have created your drone equipment checklist for field operations, let’s talk about some best practices to ensure a successful drone operation. First and foremost, always conduct pre-flight checks to ensure your drone is in good working condition and all equipment is properly set up. Click here to use my pre-flight checklist. It’s also important to follow all of the protocols and regulations.
In the event of unexpected situations, such as weather changes or technical issues, it’s important to remain calm and make decisions based on safety and regulations. Do the best you can to prepare a backup plan in case of unplanned situations.
I’m also a stickler when it comes to maintaining my gear. Just the other day I was heading out to fly a quick job with my Phantom 4 Pro, and noticed a crack in one of the arms. A little dab of super glue and it looked ok to fly. Upon completion of the job, the glue held, so that’s great. Your equipment is key to conducting successful drone operations on a consistent basis, and ultimately keeping your clients happy!
Click in to my article “How To Professionalize Operations for your Drone Startup Business” where I go into to how gain credibility as an aviation professional and stand out from the crowd with potential customers, regulators, insurers, and investors.
In this article, I have provided you with my checklist of equipment and materials needed for a successful drone operation. By using this checklist and following all of my tips for a successful drone operation, you’ll be well-prepared to take on any drone project with confidence.
I encourage you to use this checklist as part of your own drone operation. With the right equipment, preparation, and knowledge, you can take your drone business to the next level. So, get out there and start flying!