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The Importance of Drone Maintenance Procedures

27Apr2023

Carrying out ongoing maintenance on your drone is a robust way of ensuring that it remains serviceable and in the best condition in order to undertake commercial tasks safely. This blog aims to give you some general guidance on the procedures that should be listed in your Operations Manual, the type of maintenance to be conducted by you or the manufacturer, the records that should be kept, and the expectations of the CAA when you apply or renew your Operational Authorisation.

You should always refer to the user manual and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on how to maintain your drone in the best possible manner ensuring that “you are reasonably satisfied the flight can safely be made”. Whilst this statement is not solely about the drone it also ensures you check your environment is safe to fly in (Weather, Interference, personnel safety etc) and you as an individual or crew are fit to carry out the task.

If you hold an Operational Authorisation (OA) from the CAA it has always been a requirement to carry out regular and routine maintenance activity on your drone. More recently when you apply to the CAA for your Initial OA or on renewal, the CAA now ask for a copy of your maintenance record for each aircraft to review during their oversight checks. A separate maintenance record for each RPAS needs to be kept and uploaded individually as a .PDF during the application process.

The CAA will expect you to state in your Operations Manual how you will conduct ongoing maintenance and the following text is an example of the type of procedures you may be expected to follow:

Maintenance Procedures

The Remote Pilot (RP) should have read and understood the user manual paying particular attention to the maintenance regime recommended by the manufacturer. The Accountable Manager is to ensure that the RP is trained to a sufficient standard to conduct these basic maintenance procedures and should record this. In addition to the maintenance regime listed in the user manual, the following maintenance procedures are to be followed:

Each Flight: Prior to flight the RP is to review the RPAS maintenance log to ensure they are content the aircraft has a serviceable history. The RP is to ensure that the pre-flight, In-flight and post-flight checks are conducted for each flight. If the RP is in any doubt as to the integrity of the RPAS they are to report back to the Accountable Manager for advice or use an alternate aircraft if available.

Routine Maintenance: This involves basic maintenance which includes changing propellers, carrying out firmware updates and test flights, and calibrations etc. On each occasion, these are to be recorded in the maintenance log with the initials of the RP who carried out the action.

Deep Maintenance: In circumstances where a more detailed inspection and/or repair is needed then staff are not authorised to conduct these. In these instances, the RPAS is to be returned to the manufacturer and / or an approved repairer. In many instances, the opening of the drone shell may invalidate a warranty so is not authorised. On return of the RPAS a flight check is to be conducted prior to conducting operations.

If, during any of the above maintenance checks, an RPAS is found to be unserviceable the RP is to inform the AM and ensure that the RPAS is visibly marked as unserviceable and it is abundantly clear that it should not be flown.

The example Maintenance Record table below is also an example of the types of maintenance that should be recorded.

APPENDIX L – MAINTENANCE LOG

AIRCRAFT: Mavic 3 Enterprise – DPA M3E #9

DATESERVICE / PARTNOTESINITIALS
24 Feb 2023Unboxed, Checked and all Firmware updated including No Fly database. Batteries charged successfully.Labelled with OP ID Batteries numberedJI
24 Feb 2023First Flight Check. Fully functioning as advertised. Manual (Incl. ATTI) and Automated Flight check completed.NilJI
XX Mar 2023Post Flight Check – Propeller cracked – ReplacedPossible crack from loose gravel on landingJI
XX Apr 2023New Firmware issued. Updated. Test flight conductedSatisJI
XX Apr 2023Battery Firmware UpdatedSatisJI

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