No matter your industry, it’s no secret that documentation is essential for project execution and success. Because drones play a significant role in a wide range of business endeavors, documenting drone flights (and the vast amount of information collected on those flights) can only amplify progress toward overarching goals.
So, how can businesses ensure this documentation is incorporated into everyday practices? That’s where drone flight logs come in. In this blog post, we’ll cover how flight logs can benefit your drone program, the type of information that should be logged for each drone flight, and how to implement detailed, automated flight logs using Measure Ground Control.What are Drone Flight Logs?
Also known as drone pilot logbooks, drone flight logs are documents that contain important, predetermined details about your drone flights.
Some pilots log their flights using handwritten books, while others prefer to log their flights digitally using a drone flight log app. While flight logging software tends to be more convenient, detailed, and accessible, both methods are valid as far as the FAA is concerned.
How Flight Logs Can Benefit Your Drone Program
Not only do drone flight logs provide important information regarding the drone itself (such as safety and maintenance), but they also enable pilots and companies to track their level and type of experience in terms of carrying out drone missions.
Measure Ground Control makes it easier to keep a drone pilot flight log by enabling users to collect detailed, automated data. When using MGC with a DJI drone, flight logs are uploaded automatically, saving time for pilots and ensuring that no flight logs are missed. This documentation helps validate program compliance, track pilot and equipment performance, and showcase trends to stakeholders; thus providing the information needed to build a drone program that is safe and effective.
Reasons for keeping drone flight logs:
- Ensuring FAA Compliance
- Pilot and Drone Performance Monitoring
- Showcasing Trends
Ensuring FAA Compliance Through Drone Flight Logs
Logging flight information is not only a good business practice, but is highly recommended by the FAA. Take a look at this excerpt from the FAA, section 107.7:
“A remote pilot-in-command, owner, or person manipulating the flight controls of a small unmanned aircraft system must, upon request, make available to the administrator… (2) Any other document, record, or report required to be kept under the regulations of this chapter.”
Accordingly, Measure Ground Control’s automated flight logs provide detailed information such as:
- Max Altitude
- Total Distance
- Number of Images
- Aircraft Name and Type
- Firmware Details
- Accessory Information
- Flight Metrics
- Flight Playback
In the event of a safety mishap or a complaint, your flight logs serve as a source of information about safety practices, pilot performance, and equipment maintenance. For instance, you would be able to pinpoint the exact flight path of the drone in question to validate or invalidate a complaint. You could also confirm that the pilot completed a pre-flight checklist and followed company and government regulations.
In the event you need to request a waiver, your flight documentation will greatly help in the approval process with the FAA.
Pilot and Drone Performance Monitoring Using Flight Logs
Logging flight data means you have instant access to review pilot and drone performance. With manual processes, data can be subject to human error or even missed altogether. But when flights are automatically logged in a program such as Ground Control, you can easily monitor equipment usage as well as verify that pilots are adhering to flight plans and parameters.
MGC goes a step further and automatically flags incidents when a pilot operates the drone outside of customizable criteria like battery level or altitude. You’ll know when additional training or corrective action might be needed to keep your program operating safely.
With automated flight logs, you can quickly reference where pilots have flown and stats such as total flight hours logged. Flight logs aggregate data on drone equipment as well, such as battery use and firmware allowing detailed fleet reports to be exported for equipment tracking and management.
Showcasing Trends with Drone Flight Logs
In order to properly showcase your drone program’s performance to stakeholders, it’s helpful to aggregate flight information and present data in meaningful ways. Through MGC, you’ll be able to easily manage flight data at a program level to reduce risk, create reports, and maintain visibility on your drone operation.
At Measure, we take an open approach to data management by allowing users to easily integrate external tools they consider essential for reporting. For example, those who rely on industry-leading photogrammetry company Pix4D for data processing and mapping or Scopito for asset analysis, inspection and reporting can easily integrate these tools with MGC. Alternatively, if your organization has a standard data management system, it could be possible for us to integrate with that system as well. Our ability to operate as an open platform provides the flexibility for programs to get their data to the right place in a streamlined fashion.
When using Ground Control for your organization’s drone operations, you will be able to easily visualize flight data and export reports to PDF. Not only can this process be done with little advance notice, but it also eliminates human error as manual logging in Excel spreadsheets can produce complex, inconsistent, or incomplete data.
Having all of your flight data in one place makes it easy to showcase information such as the number of flights for a given time period, seasonality of work, mishap rate, drone and pilot utilization, and more.
Information to Track in Drone Flight Logs
At minimum, the following elements should be accounted for within drone flight logs. Depending on the purpose and nature of your flight, you may want to add items to this list. Also, keep in mind that coupling flight logs with proper flight planning further improves the success of your drone operation by accounting for equipment and airspace checks, authorizations, and other pre-flight logistics.
- Location and altitude. Logging exactly where the mission was conducted will make it easier to ensure local rules and regulations were taken into account when the flight took place, thereby avoiding FAA violations and other types of safety risks.
- From documenting flight hours to tracking progress on a particular project, it’s essential to log the date and time when carrying out drone missions.
- Total distance. Keeping track of distance traveled can help in terms of gauging maintenance needs and related expenses, which in turn keeps drone insurance costs down.
- Data collection. When reviewing flight logs, context surrounding the type and nature of the collected data can clue viewers into the mission’s purpose. If a particular drone flight captured photos that the client wanted to replicate in better weather conditions, for example, this type of information (coupled with timestamp, location and altitude) can help the pilot recall the exact angle and position of the drone at the time the photo was taken.
- Aircraft name and type, accessory information, and firmware details. This information helps with maintenance, reliability, and level of risk (and therefore drone insurance costs), and can provide information surrounding mission details. These details can also drive decisions around asset depreciation, which can be helpful when applying for waivers with the FAA.
- Flight metrics and playback. This information is important for improving sight operations, such as proving a drone was operating inside its designated area, or ensuring data/imagery coverage over a particular location.
As you can see, automatic flight logging is a huge benefit to drone organizations and is crucial to the success of a commercial drone operation. Still, some have concerns about data security surrounding these automated processes. For more information on data security best practices, please reference Drone Inspections of Critical Infrastructure.
While automated flight logs can save time, money, and build credibility among pilots and businesses alike, Measure Ground Control has plenty of other features suitable for companies that have implemented drone programs.
*This blog was originally published in 2018 and has been updated with current information in 2021.