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Why Your Drone Pre-Flight Checklist Should Go Beyond the Basics for Your Video Productions

Drone technology has revolutionized the world of videography, enabling filmmakers and content creators to capture stunning aerial shots that were previously only possible with expensive helicopters or cranes. However, flying a drone and capturing great footage is not as simple as it may seem. It requires careful planning, attention to detail, and adherence to safety protocols to ensure a successful and incident-free flight. One of the most crucial aspects of drone operation is the pre-flight checklist.

While it may require additional time and effort, investing in a thorough pre-flight checklist pays off in terms of improved footage quality, reduced risks, and overall professionalism.

While most drone operators are aware of the importance of a pre-flight checklist, many tend to focus only on the basics, such as battery levels, propeller integrity, and GPS signal strength. While these elements are indeed essential, a comprehensive pre-flight checklist should go beyond the basics to ensure optimal video production and mitigate potential risks. In this article, we will explore why your drone pre-flight checklist should go beyond the basics for your video productions.

Ensuring Legal Compliance

One of the primary reasons for extending your pre-flight checklist beyond the basics is to ensure legal compliance. Drone regulations and restrictions vary from country to country and even within different regions. It is crucial to familiarize yourself with the specific regulations in your area and ensure that you comply with them before each flight.

Some of the legal aspects to consider include airspace restrictions, permits or authorizations required for certain locations, and compliance with privacy laws. By incorporating these elements into your pre-flight checklist, you can avoid potential legal issues and operate your drone within the boundaries of the law.

Assessing Environmental Factors

Environmental factors play a significant role in determining the success and safety of your drone flight. While basic checks like wind speed and weather conditions are essential, a comprehensive pre-flight checklist should delve deeper into the assessment of environmental factors.

Consider factors such as the presence of electromagnetic interference (EMI), radio frequency interference (RFI), and magnetic interference that could affect the performance of your drone’s sensors, compass, or communication systems. Additionally, evaluate the presence of obstacles, both natural and man-made, that may hinder your flight or pose a risk to the safety of people or property.

Fine-tuning Camera Settings

To capture breathtaking aerial footage, it’s essential to fine-tune your camera settings. While many drones come with automatic camera settings, relying solely on them may not always yield the desired results. By incorporating camera setup and optimization into your pre-flight checklist, you can take full control of your footage and achieve professional-grade results.

Adjust settings such as shutter speed, aperture, ISO, white balance, and exposure compensation to suit the specific lighting conditions and desired cinematic effects. Experimenting with these settings during the pre-flight stage allows you to familiarize yourself with the drone’s camera capabilities and make necessary adjustments for your video production requirements.

Testing Video Transmission

Video transmission is a critical aspect of drone operations, especially when capturing footage in real-time or using first-person view (FPV) goggles. To avoid unexpected video dropouts or signal loss during the flight, it’s essential to test the video transmission system as part of your pre-flight checklist.

Ensure that the video feed from the drone’s camera is stable, clear, and free from artifacts. Test the range and stability of the video transmission system by flying the drone in various directions and distances while monitoring the video feed. Identifying any issues with video transmission beforehand allows you to address them and avoid disruptions during your video production.

Planning Flight Paths

Another aspect of the pre-flight checklist that goes beyond the basics is flight path planning. Instead of relying solely on manual control during the flight, consider utilizing automated flight modes or waypoint navigation systems to optimize your shots and improve the overall quality of your video production.

Plan your flight path carefully, taking into account the desired shots, points of interest, and any specific movements or trajectories you want to capture. By programming the drone to follow a predefined path, you can achieve smoother and more precise camera movements, eliminating the risk of shaky or inconsistent footage.

Utilize features such as Point of Interest (POI) mode, which allows the drone to circle around a specific subject or location, or Follow Me mode, which enables the drone to track and capture footage of a moving target. These automated flight modes not only enhance the quality of your shots but also contribute to a more efficient and controlled flight experience.

Checking Battery Performance

Battery performance is a basic aspect of any pre-flight checklist, but it is worth emphasizing its importance. While most drone batteries provide an estimated flight time, it is essential to account for other variables that can affect battery performance.

Consider factors such as weather conditions (e.g., low temperatures can reduce battery efficiency), payload weight (e.g., additional camera equipment), and flight maneuvers (e.g., aggressive flying or high-speed movements consume more battery power). By factoring in these variables and checking the battery performance beyond a simple voltage level, you can ensure a safe and uninterrupted flight without the risk of a mid-air battery failure.

Assessing Emergency Procedures

No matter how thorough your pre-flight checklist is, unexpected situations may arise during drone operations. Therefore, it is crucial to include emergency procedures as part of your pre-flight preparations.

Familiarize yourself with the drone’s emergency features, such as Return-to-Home (RTH) function or manual landing options. Understand how to initiate these procedures in case of a lost signal, low battery, or any other critical situation. Additionally, have a plan in place for handling emergencies such as sudden weather changes, equipment malfunctions, or unexpected obstacles. By proactively considering these scenarios and preparing for them, you can minimize potential risks and ensure the safety of your equipment, yourself, and others.


In conclusion, a comprehensive pre-flight checklist that goes beyond the basics is crucial for optimizing your drone operations and video productions. By extending your checklist to include legal compliance, environmental assessments, camera settings, video transmission tests, flight path planning, battery performance checks, and emergency procedures, you ensure a safer and more successful flight experience.

While it may require additional time and effort, investing in a thorough pre-flight checklist pays off in terms of improved footage quality, reduced risks, and overall professionalism. So, before you embark on your next drone video production, make sure to go beyond the basics and incorporate these essential elements into your pre-flight preparations. Happy flying and capturing stunning aerial shots!

Rob Haller 314-604-6544 stlouisdrones@gmail.com