You’ll want to complete a few important steps before leaving home. Forgetting this can set you up for disappointment when you get to your flight area and realize you can’t fly.
First and foremost, is your anticipated flight area in any restricted airspace? Is it near any airports, hospitals, or heliports? Military bases? Other restricted areas like National Parks? The FAA’s B4UFly app will tell you some of this, but not all. Always be familiar with the area you’re expecting to fly in, and any restrictions nearby.
Next, you’ll want to make sure the weather is suitable for flight. There’s no use in going out if the forecast calls for heavy rains, strong winds, thick fog, or low clouds.
And what about Notices to Airmen, or NOTAMS? The FAA’s B4UFly app can tell you if you’ll be near any Temporary Flight Restrictions or TFRs. These come up for firefighting operations, sporting events, Presidential visits, and so forth.
Check your equipment next. You’ll want to make sure that your batteries are charged before leaving home – this goes for your aircraft batteries, remote controller, and tablet or phone.
Power on the DJI Go App, remote controller, and aircraft. Check for any available firmware updates or app updates, and update them if required. This will ensure the most up-to-date programming available.
Finally, make sure your MicroSD card is properly formatted and has enough room to record video and photos.
Unpack the Mavic for a thorough fuselage inspection. Unfold the arms, and if you have the Mavic Air, unfold the antennae on the front landing gear. As you unfold the arms, look out for any strange noises or resistance to motion. Check the integrity of the arms; they should be straight and have no cracks.
When you’re done inspecting the arms, check the propellers. Try lifting them off the motor – they should be installed securely. Also look for any cracks, broken tips, or dents. Anyone of these irregularities could lead to a catastrophic propeller failure during flight. Small hairline cracks may be especially difficult to see.
Move on to the battery next. Press the power button once to confirm that the battery is at least be 75% before starting a flight. If the battery is installed in the aircraft, take it out for a thorough inspection. There shouldn’t be any bulges, cracks, or dents in the battery. It should also not feel hot. These things could possibly lead to a fire.
Check the rest of the fuselage for the same kinds of damage you were checking for with the arms, propellers, and battery. The rest of the Mavic should be in excellent physical condition.
Now remove the gimbal cover and gimbal clamp for inspecting the gimbal. Give it a gentle tap in all directions. It should swing freely and not be stuck in any direction. Is the lens clean? Now would be a good time to wipe it with a lens cloth. If you have a filter over the lens, make sure it’s secure.
Finally, open the MicroSD card door and verify that the memory card is indeed installed in the aircraft and pushed all the way in.
Remote Controller Preflight
Just as in the aircraft preflight, press the power button once to check the battery level. Inspect the entire controller for any damage. Install the control sticks if you have the Mavic Air, and extend the antennae. They should more or less point straight up. The controller should be in P mode for takeoff (not Sport). Plug in your tablet or phone to the controller.
Power Up & Takeoff
The recommended order is: open DJI Go App, power on the controller, power on Mavic. Other combinations can prevent a connection. If you haven’t put your phone in Airplane Mode, do it now. You don’t want to be in a critical phase of flight when a phone call pops up on the screen.
DJI recommends that you only calibrate the compass when the app says it’s required. If it does prompt you to calibrate the compass, make sure you’re in a clear area free of metallic objects, and follow the directions on the screen.
Go through the app settings. Make sure your Home Point is set, as well as your Return to Home altitude – will it clear all obstacles? Go through your camera settings and ensure that your photo & video modes are set the way you want for this flight.
Almost ready to fly! Make sure that the takeoff area is clear of other people and any obstacles – especially trees and power lines. When the status bar turns green and says “Ready to Go”, start the propellers and climb to about 20 feet. You just want to make sure that the Mavic is under control and not doing anything you’re not telling it to. Give it control inputs in all directions and make sure it follows. Then go fly your mission!
You can’t quite call it a day yet after you land. You’ll want to inspect the Mavic for any damage, just like you did before the flight. Before you do, make sure that the controller is set down somewhere secure and then power off the drone. This will prevent any accidental engine starts while you’re holding it. Then check the propellers – are they in good shape still? Is the lens still clean? Are the batteries warm (not hot) and without deformities?
If you follow all of these simple checklist steps before, during, and after each flight, you’ll get a lot of safe & fun flying out of your Mavic Air or Mavic Pro.