With more commercial drone operators taking to the skies than ever before, it’s never been more important for unmanned aerial system (UAS) remote pilots to log their flight data because as we all know, data is valuable, and keeping a record of your flight logs, understanding the health of your drone and analysing your flight data will help ensure you maintain high levels of safety during your commercial operations, which is of paramount importance for any drone operator.
Thankfully, it no longer has to be a manual undertaking (paperwork is fun, said no one ever) since there are a host of flight data analytics platforms available to do the hard work for us.
In this article we’ll look at the importance of these platforms, what they do and how you can benefit from them, plus a closer look at the top drone flight management and analytics platforms on the market today.
Mission Planning and Compliance
Pre-flight planning is one of the most crucial steps prior to getting airborne, as it ensures you have checked and understood the airspace you’ll be flying in, you have your mission documents, procedures and checklists in place and that you’ve assessed and mitigated the risk.
Flight data software allows you to upload all of your documents into a centralised location, which is extremely helpful when you have multiple team members that all need access to view the documents and complete their own checklists.
Most good flight data platforms will also feature real-time airspace information, so you can check your flight area and gain the required permissions or exemptions from Air Traffic Control etc.
In-Flight Operations and Alerts
With SUA operators and remote pilots required to be hyper-aware of their equipment and environment whilst flying their aircraft, many platforms allow you to access real time information to maximise in-flight safety. This can include predetermined limitations such as height above ground level (AGL) and distance, or in-flight limitations such as wind conditions and battery level alerts.
Flight Logs and Post-Flight Analysis
You can now automatically log your flights and create detailed reports from the data. The beauty of these platforms is they will decode all of the flight data recorded by your drone, a task that would likely prove quite difficult – if not impossible – to achieve manually and the good news is most of them are free. However, this is often only up to a point and as with most software programs and apps, there is usually a subscription-based option to unlock every level or feature that’s available.
One of the most important parts of commercial drone operations is ensuring they are compliant. In the UK, you must ensure you are compliant with the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) regulations at all times, which is in line with your Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO). Platforms like DroneLogbook allow you to generate compliance reports (FAA, CAA, CASA, CAD, EASA, DGAC, TBST).
As a commercial drone operator in the UK, you are not only required to log your flights but you must also record your battery and aircraft maintenance to ensure your aircraft is airworthy. This task can be made so much simpler by using a flight data software platform, where the information is automatically recorded with auto-alerts and maintenance reports generated at the touch of a button.
Data Sync and Sharing
The ability to sync flight data between devices saves you time by automatically uploading the information and means you have complete visibility across the performance of your aircraft.
Most platforms will also allow you to share your flight data and reports with team members, and even to collaborate with others to notify one another about issues like signal interference in a flight area. The sharing of flight data is vital to achieving effective fleet management.
So, now you know what drone flight data analytics software is able to achieve, let’s take a closer look at – in our opinion – the top drone flight analytics platforms for commercial operators:
Based on a cloud infrastructure with secure data storage, DroneLogbook’s user-friendly platform tracks all of your flight data so you can generate customised reporting and government compliance documentation. Due to its usability, this is currently one of the most popular drone flight data platforms with our commercial customers and one we would certainly recommend to anyone starting off as a single operator.
There are three main subscription options that allow various levels of access and you can also enquire about a custom package for larger, global organisations.
|What's Included?||Standard (FREE)||Professional ($6.95/month/user)||Enterprise ($19.95/month/user)|
|Manage Flight Data|
|Unlimited Flights and Documents|
|Draw Flight Areas and Check Airspace Safety Status|
|Flight Log Upload and Import|
|3D View Replay and Flight Track Export|
|DJI GO App Sync|
|Automatic Flight Data Logging|
|DJI Battery Health|
The most popular option for UK operators is the ‘Enterprise’ plan, from which you can save up to 40% with these exclusive discount codes:
Enter code UPLIFT40 for 40% off an annual Enterprise Plan – valid until 31 March 2019.
Enter code UPLIFT25 for 25% off an annual Enterprise Plan – valid until 30 April 2019.
Disclaimer: Prices correct at time of publication (USD). Uplift Drone Training Ltd does not receive commission in relation to the discount codes provided by DroneLogbook and the provision of these codes has not influenced any product review or recommendation within this article.
2. Airdata UAV
Next up we’ve got Airdata UAV, formerly known as HealthyDrones. Branding itself as the ‘world’s most trusted flight data platform’ Airdata UAV boasts a host of well-known UK organisations as customers, including Surrey Search and Rescue.
As Simon Green, Surrey SAR’s Head of RPAS explained; “We’re dealing with a group of volunteers who have day jobs and other responsibilities, in addition to the very important work they do for us. So, we needed to find a system that was very intuitive to use and didn’t create loads of additional work for our volunteer pilots. Airdata makes the collection of all the flight data we need extremely easy, taking a significant burden off our pilots of having to gather or record their flights manually.
“The advanced analytics has been particularly important for us to spot anomalies in the batteries and ensure everything will work as expected in the field. We’re operating in a wide variety of conditions and unless you’re trending this data over time, you might miss something.”
With such a robust platform at their disposal, it’s easy to see why Surrey SAR have come to rely on Airdata UAV to ensure their UAS operations are completed safely and reliably.
|What's Included?||HD FREE (FREE)||HD 360 Lite|
|HD 360 Gold ($6.99/month)||HD 360 Pro ($14.99/month)|
|Number of Active Flights||100||400||1200||3000|
|Resolution of 10 Records/sec|
|Battery Minor/Major Deviations|
|Volts and Amps Reports|
|Sensors and Control Health|
|Take-off Address Detection|
|Above Sea Level Altitude|
|CSV and KML Downloads|
|Flight Sharing Options|
|Shared Access Pilots||1||1||2||4|
|Prioritised Flight Processing|
|Wind Calculation Reports|
|Number of Drones||8||16|
|Number of Batteries||16||48|
|One-off service items|
|Download Original Log Data|
Airdata UAV are offering Uplift Drones’ readers a generous 20% discount when signing up for Airdata services. Simply use code UPLIFT20 to redeem your exclusive discount (valid until 26.03.2020). Pricing can be viewed here.
Disclaimer: Prices correct at time of publication (USD). Uplift Drone Training Ltd does not receive commission in relation to the discount codes provided by Airdata UAV and the provision of these codes has not influenced any product review or recommendation within this article.
With safety being their number one priority, Kittyhawk bring a multidimensional platform to the table. Geared towards larger organisations with UAS fleets, this pioneering enterprise drone operations platform leads the way with additional features such as Dynamic Airspace, Live Streaming, automated airspace authorisation processes through LAANC (for operations in the USA) and extensive team operations management.
“We were blown away by the quality of Kittyhawk’s enterprise customer base: Fortune 500 companies who themselves are leading the way in enterprise UAS adoption,” said Jim Andelman, Managing Partner at Bonfire Ventures and who is now on the Kittyhawk Board of Directors.
With support from investors like Bonfire Ventures, Boeing HorizonX Ventures and Travelers, it’s easy to understand how they have developed such a robust product that continues to make commercial drone operations safer and more accessible.
As described by Joshua Pruitt, Chief Pilot for Abroadened Horizon; “Kittyhawk is indispensable for all our flight operations. With Flight Deck we now have a hyper-accurate and real-time air map with detailed forecasting in addition to tracking and documenting all of our flight records, managing our fleet maintenance schedules, and sharing checklists with other platform users”.
Kittyhawk is available for organisations with large fleets, with custom enterprise subscription packages built based on your organisation’s requirements.
Another robust enterprise system available is Centrik. Originally developed for the civil aviation industry, Centrik is a powerful operational management system that allows you to easily evidence the effectiveness of your UAS operations.
Previously applied mainly to manned aviation operations, Centrik has evolved its software to unmanned aviation and now has a dedicated CAA/EASA/ICAO-compliant UAS Safety Management System. Used across a diverse range of sectors, including inspection, survey, security and defence, the Centrik UAS SMS helps businesses manage their fleet and people on every scale.
James Arnott, Principal Systems Officer at Texo DSI explains;“ Centrik is a far smarter, more efficient way to manage our fleet. Instead of relying on disparate spreadsheets, documents and emails to manage our processes, we have a fully integrated management system that automatically ensures all evidence of our operational excellence is kept up-to-date.
“Every element of the system is interlinked, so we can compile information packs at the touch of a button. That means when a regulator or client audits, we can provide almost everything they need in advance and avoid them having to spend hours on-site trawling through paperwork.”
So, where do I sign up?
As we’ve covered, there are many reasons to introduce a flight data platform to manage your commercial drone operations; the main reason being increased levels of safety but also because it makes managing your workflows so much easier.
There are plenty of platforms out there to choose from, so why not try signing up to a free version or trial period so you can work out what you do and don’t want from the software before committing to a monthly/annual subscription. To get you started we’ve included some exclusive discount codes from DroneLogbook and Airdata UAV, simply scroll up to the blue boxes.