Pre Flight check List of system Integrity

How we do pre-flight safety and validity checks prior to beginning autonomous flight:


I must admit I was a little flabbergasted at the realization that most of the 'autonomous' flights reported here are in fact relatively 'blind' - I was really under the impression that the 'check-list' concept that now appears as a forum of bright Ideas was a fundamental implementation in the GCS system and a basic part of all operation - Imagine my surprise when I discover that  such pre-flight safety and integrity test are not a prerequisite to launch....

In our SurVoyeur system we have a very extensive pre-flight check procedure - I have attached an excerpt from our user manual which gives some of the basic tests that are performed before the system will allow any launch command.

These tests include:

ALL sensor tests ( Gyros, Accelerometers, pressure sensors, GPS, ultrasound rangefinder for autoland)

All moving surface tests ( flaps, ailerons, rudder/elevator)


Payload ( camera - focus/snap - video camera)

Ground antenna ( tracking antenna positioner, etc)

There is also a pre flight mechanical checklist the user must manually fill in, as well as a post flight checklist, to check for any mechanical damage, servo damage, etc.

A battery checklist has also to be filled in - cell voltage after flight , with a minimum 1 hour ' rest ' period before measuring, ( shows very quickly if a single cell is starting to fail), and the flight time and Ah recharged must be filled in.

Perhaps some of this is onerous for a 'hobby', but it lays solid ground for any authoritative investigation into any flight incident.  

We also record the entire flight and ALL A/C attitudes and flight path, all outputs of all PID control loops, battery, throttle settings, etc, all to aid post flight incident analysis.

At least we would be able to stand up against any investigative authority and have a fighting chance...

Here is the doc, for interest - it is just a small extract..

I believe this sort of approach - tailored to suit the end use, of course, should be mandatory, if only to breed good manners and safety within users.


The Nampilot.

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  • Don't forget emergency procedures!

  • Simon, I support you completely - I am really not trying to burden a hobby with process rigours that detract from the 'fun' . I suppose these processes and the understanding of the need for them is somewhat ingrained since I hail from a long standing military development environment, so it was a basic premise that such processes be followed - now its natural in all my design and development, and follows through to our products', whatever that may be..And when its is natural in your daily application, it is no longer burdensome, merely part of the exercise.



    The Nampilot

  • The check list is very important for unmanned missions or fpv, a big number of my crashes had origin on wrong preflight check. Would be great that Mission Planner add this funcion.

  • Hi John,

    No problem, but why do you want it in PDF? Is it a Word format problem? I can convert the excerpt to PDF if it helps you - although the excerpt in itself is not that useful as it is out of the core of the document - not sure if you want to use text from it or something?.  Just let me know.



    The Nampilot

  • Moderator

    Perhaps we ought to put in voluntary maintenance schedules.

    Check ABC every 5 flight hours

              DEF every 25

              major service at 100 

    Checklists and maintenance should happen and are of course voluntary when nobody is looking at your field miles away, but if you are serious they will allow your equipment last longer and missions happen more smoothly. If you want to make a profit an important concept.


  • This is very nice Joe. In fact, the APM telemetry logs contain most of the information needed to document sensor and UAV health in general (there are probably some gaps). But there is really not much help to go through procedures ATM. The intention of my yesterday's post was to move this forward.

  • Developer

    You might want to also check join this post from yesterday, which has a few of us constructing a plan for apm based drones:

  • Could you provide the doc file in PDF format?

  • Justin, sorry you felt insulted - not intended.

    However, in kind.. I have be in RC for 32  years, and have designed and led the build team on large UAVs, ( 140kg  600cc engine systems), catapult launched and net recovered, so not quite wet behind the ears... I don't think this draws the thread of topic - its about check lists and what makes sense. I still do not agree with your take on not using a physical checklist - that made sense in the 'old days' of simple RC - where the crowds were small, the fields large, and certainly no autonomous flight or FPV flight in sight at all! The required attention to safety related issues has simply not kept up at all with the advances in technology and flight capability. And the situation is made worse by the fact that anyone can do it without having any RC experience at all, so that non of the basic schooling takes place. Why do you think there is an increase of these 'noobs' ( I hate that word..) that fly into building with their COTS quads, etc? Simple, because they can - the technology has enabled them to do so without any training or schooling and thus without the forethought that would go into such flying.

    I never said a checklist must be on a computer or mobile device - a checklist is just that - maybe a piece of paper that in the heat of flight makes you slow down and think and check. I fail to see how ones building style should affect how well the aircraft is checked before flight...If you mean that you have to check each time before flight to make sure the wheel did not fall of because it is so badly built....not sure that plane should be in the air at all.

    As for the worn wheel bearings, etc, that is precisely what I was referring to - larger planes have regular  inspections to verify integrity of those sorts of issues - why should the small plane not also be checked? Does your pre-flight check that the aileron moves up and down, or do you also check that the servo linkage will in fact last the flight and is not about to fall from the hole in the horn..

    I hope more people come to the fore and lambast me - that was the purpose of my blog - to try and at least make people think...

    The Nampilot

  • I am un following this thread as I do not feel I have more to add that will be constructive. 

This reply was deleted.