Running a drone operation is not easy. Aside from the everyday business challenges, program leaders face shifting demands from the drone industry. Technology developments are accelerating, regulations are in a constant state of flux, and of course, the big data issue.
Luckily there are software solutions that can help you keep a handle on the flight operations side of your program. Below are a couple of features that your software solutions should have, use this list as a tool to evaluate them:
1. Flight Logging
Bread and butter flight operations management. You have to be able to log flights quickly and easily. There are no substitutes here; this is a core function that should be go/no-go criteria. The question will not be if the software does or does not do this, but how well does it do it? Does the software have single point reporting? Does the software attribute flight hours to both aircraft and personnel at the same time?
2. Maintenance Logging
Again, core function here. The question will be how well does the software do the job? Does the software accrue hours to the appropriate aircraft? Does it track periodic or routine / scheduled maintenance (think oil changes on your car)? Can you track maintenance issues on your aircraft and log corrective actions? Does it display the information in an intuitive, easy to decipher way?
3. Quick Field Reporting
A universal truth of services-based work (like drone flight operations), your teams are going to prioritize getting work done over reporting on their work. If the reporting functions are cumbersome or lengthy, they will be skipped. Reporting must be fast, easy, painless and accessible from pretty much any location.
4. Project Planning
If you run a drone program, then you are likely knee deep in operational planning at some level. To keep a drone program moving you must be able to pair up pilots, equipment and customer requirements – ideally balancing multiple projects at the same time with airspace awareness.
5. Equipment Agnostic
It seems simple, but can your solution handle multiple aircraft manufacturers without changing the processes your business uses? With the accelerating rate of tech rollouts, we currently estimate the lifespan of an aircraft to be around 18 months. If you must change hardware that often (and possibly or maybe even probably hardware manufacturers) do you also want to change software too? Make sure your software can handle any manufacturers equipment.
6. Certification Tracking
Not all of your drone pilots are created equally. Some are more qualified than others – make sure you can easily track who is qualified for what. As your operation increases in scale and complexity, easy to read and intuitive tracking of personnel will pay dividends. Also look at the ability to track routine training. If you are running a professional drone operation, you probably recognize a need for periodic training. Does the software monitor your personnel’s certifications? Can it alert you when renewal training are due?
7. Remote Real-time Tracking
You have got a complicated operation on your hands. Drone teams out getting work done, customers calling for new jobs. Flight reports, data to analyze, invoices and purchase orders. Undoubtedly, you have many moving parts to keep track of. Ask yourself this quick question – do you know where each aircraft is right now? Would you like to?
8. Weather Integration
UAV operations is a weather dependent business; there’s no doubting that. At a minimum, your software should provide a high-level overview of the current weather in the area you plan to fly.
9. Airspace Awareness
Airspace integration is now affectively table stakes for drone software. Airspace regulation is a complicated issue, which is further complicated by FAA regulations and the oft-updated TFRs. Does your software display current airspace in an easy to see format? How quickly do TFRs update?
Our Drone Management System™ (DMS) is a secure, patent pending, web-based application that provides any drone operator, whether a hobbyist or a corporation with hundreds of drones, with a fast and easy way to manage a fleet of UAVs. Users can input flight logs, aircraft maintenance needs and daily activities into HAZON DMS™ through the user-friendly software. Supervisors can view all entered information from a desktop computer or mobile device, without the worry of updating multiple spreadsheets. Your business will run more efficiently and effectively allowing you to realize a better return on the investments you’ve made in training and equipment. Read on to see how feature-rich HAZON DMS™ can make your workflow smoother, faster and more accurate. Learn more about our Drone Management System™ (DMS).
Can you predict when your equipment will fail? As a regular part of our maintenance program, we maintain a close eye on our batteries, one of the critical safety of flight elements of most unmanned aircraft. The total cycles (a single charge and discharge) have proven to be the most useful single metric for tracking wear and tear, tracking these in DMS has proven invaluable. HAZON, at our core is an end-to-end drone service provider. Access to relevant data on the performance and lifecycle of the equipment that enables your work is absolutely critical to any business.
We recently took an opportunity to do a study on the useful life of a sampling of some of our batteries. In this article, we will consider TB48D batteries in use on our DJI Matrice 100 fleet. By way of background, we have over four dozen TB48D batteries in service; this study examines a random sampling of those beyond their 50% life expectancy.
The ten batteries we investigated in this study were flown exclusively on Matrice 100s with a Zenmuse Z30 camera installed and configured for a single TB48D battery. The usage period was about six months. Our configuration, flight operations tempo and business demands result in a harder than preferred life of our batteries.
In consideration of this study, it is important to note that HAZON Solutions specializes in providing drone based services and training and not on maximizing hardware life-cycle. Often times the needs of our business’s operations requires a harder than preferred usage of our equipment.
Batteries that indicated 25% remaining
Batteries that indicated 37% Remaining
|TB48D #1, Current Cycles:135
||TB48D #6, Current Cycles:110
|TB48D #2, Current Cycles:125
||TB48D #7, Current Cycles:108
|TB48D #3, Current Cycles:132
||TB48D #8, Current Cycles:108
|TB48D #4, Current Cycles:127
||TB48D #9, Current Cycles:120
|TB48D #5, Current Cycles:126
||TB48D #10, Current Cycles:108
*Calculations used for SET 1:
- SUM:(TB48D#1-5 Current Cycles) =129 Avg. Used Cycles
- 129 Avg. Used Cycles / 75% (*Battery life used*) = 172 Lifetime Cycles
- 172 Lifetime Cycles X 25% (*Remaining Life*) = 43 Avg. Estimated Remaining Cycles
- 172 Lifetime Cycles – 129 Avg. Used Cycles = 43 Avg. Estimated Remaining Cycles
*Calculations used for SET 2:
- SUM:(TB48D#1-5 Current Cycles) =111 Avg. Used Cycles
- 111 Avg Used Cycles / 63% *Battery life used* = 176 Lifetime Cycles
- 176 Lifetime Cycles X 37% *Remaining Life* = 65 Avg. Estimated Remaining Cycles
- 176 Lifetime Cycles – 111 Avg Used Cycles = 65 Avg. Estimated Remaining Cycles
|Result: 172 Lifetime Cycles on a TB48D
||Result: 176 Lifetime Cycles on a TB48D
(172 *SET 1: Lifetime Cycles* + 176 *SET 2: Lifetime Cycles*) / 2 = 174 Avg. Total Cycles Before End of Battery Life (0%)
TB48D Batteries will last approximately 174 Charging Cycles
before indicating 0% Battery Life Remaining
Multiple factors influenced the data set that we developed. One equipment related factor was that these batteries were charged using a DJI Hex Charger. Hex chargers charge at a higher amperage than a standard 100-Watt charger, this could potentially reduce lifetime of the battery. From an environmental standpoint, the batteries were used in temperatures ranging from 20°F to 110°F. This factor should also impact battery life. Two additional factors to note; the operational tempo required the batteries to be cycled 2-3 times per day, and the batteries were often flown from a full charge down to 20-15% of battery power remaining. As previously noted, this is not a study in how to extend the life of a battery, but rather a practical observation of the life cycle of a battery in a high-volume flight operation.
For the ten test case batteries, the endurance of the batteries remained within reasonable limits (approximately 15-20 minutes of flight time dependent on conditions) for approximately the first 100 cycles. Approaching 100 cycles of use the crews began noticing a degradation in battery performance. Crew members also reported reduced flight time and abnormal discharge rates. As crews approached 25% remaining battery life (as reported by the built in smart battery features), the endurance of the batteries dropped dramatically to the point where the batteries had to be pulled from service due to significant drops in voltage during flight.
From these observations, we determined that lithium polymer batteries follow the traditional wisdom of non-linear functions up to the 100-cycle point. The chart below shows that endurance remains relatively unchanged for approximately the first 100 cycles of usage. After 100 cycles the tolerance of the battery begins to diminish at an increasingly rapidly rate until the battery is no longer usable.
The overall result of our study affirmed the need for three critical operational functions:
- A Remove from Service protocol
- A battery life-cycle tracking system
- A life cycle forecasting system
This study allowed HAZON to easily update our existing Remove from Service protocol. We identified that TB48D batteries have a lifetime of 174 cycles through our usage cycle and that at approximately 100 cycles the battery performance began to decrease noticeably. Using these two data points, and applying an appropriate safety margin, our maintenance team decided that batteries should not be used beyond 90% of their total life. Based on the findings in this study we have amended our Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to dictate that once a TB48D battery reaches 155 cycles that the battery will be immediately removed from operational service and relegated to low-risk training or testing.
We also identified a need for companies to track battery life cycles outside of the internal tracking of the batteries themselves. At HAZON, we rely on the HAZON Drone Management System (DMS) – a fleet management software for enterprise drone operations that provides operators and managers a single platform for all project-based planning and tracking of your fleet operations. Most importantly, HAZON DMS allows users to capitalize on their equipment investments while maximizing the efficiency of operations.
Resource management is a critical component of any business. We use the data provided by DMS to help us forecast when batteries need to be replaced and provide a cost estimate for that replacement within a monthly, annual, or biennial budget cycle. Having this type of information available to company leadership allows for proactive decision making on purchasing decisions that affect cash flow and enables them to define cost to customers more clearly. For more information on HAZON or HAZON DMS contact Ed Hine at firstname.lastname@example.org. To get in touch with the HAZON R&D team contact Garrett Scott at email@example.com.
Written by Garrett Scott, Training and Technology Division Manager & Todd Boward, PhD, Assistant Training and Technology Division Manager
Drones are not invincible. Just like the rest of the equipment your business owns, they will eventually succumb to the wear and tear of their very reason for being – flight. Propellers will bend out of shape, servos will slow and eventually fail, and firmware at the least will need to be updated. There is a much to pay attention to and much track. Free your people up to tackle the harder problems and let the Drone Management System do what it was meant to, get your business operating more efficiently and effectively through our drone maintenance tracking features.
Drone maintenance tracking has two key components. The first is planned maintenance – measuring wear and tear on your equipment and setting routine inspections based on specific intervals. This is easily accomplished by tracking the flights and flight hours a drone accrues over time. DMS allows a user to customize inspections based on intervals of either calendar time, flight hours or flights (or a combination of those). We all know in the drone business that surprises are the enemy, ensure you don’t get surprised with a consistent and well executed drone inspection program.
The second component is logging unplanned maintenance done to individual aircraft. This could be preemptive maintenance after finding something when doing a simple pre-flight check or reactive to a failed part or piece of equipment. Either way, unplanned drone maintenance tracking will allow you to identify common failures and trends, a key step forward for any business working on efficiency.
The DMS drone maintenance tracking function is powerful yet intuitive. Designed to provide maximum information in a digestible and quick to interpret format, DMS will help ensure your operation is firing on all cylinders. Get your business off spreadsheets and dry erase boards, streamline your process and increase efficiency by managing your operation with DMS.
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HAZON Solutions® (“HAZON”), the national leader in drone inspection services, announced today the launch of the HAZON Drone Management System™ (HAZON DMS™). HAZON DMS™ is a secure, web-based management tool providing every drone operator, whether a hobbyist with a single drone or a large corporation with hundreds of drones, a way to safely and efficiently track and manage their drone fleet, pilots and workflow.
“HAZON DMS™ is the first software designed by professional drone pilots, for professional drone pilots” says HAZON Director of Drone Capability Development, Ed Hine. “We designed it to be a robust, yet simple to use management tool that can handle all of our safety, maintenance, operational and pilot management requirements with one efficient application.”
Some of the HAZON DMS™ features include remote pilot (RP) logbooks, RP qualifications tracking, asset tracking, client management, proactive safety and maintenance tracking and reporting, and workflow management. HAZON DMS™ is offered as software as a service through the freemium model for individual users.
“HAZON DMS™ is the first software designed by professional drone pilots, for professional drone pilots. We designed it to be a robust, yet simple to use management tool that can handle all of our…requirements with one efficient application.”
– ED HINE, DIRECTOR OF DRONE CAPABILITY DEVELOPMENT
“At HAZON we believe it is important to actively promote the safe and responsible use of drone throughout the entire drone industry, so we offer a free subscription to everyone,” said HAZON COO and Co-Founder, Sean Cushing. “Startup drone businesses now have the ability to utilize this very powerful tool early in their life cycle. This will allow them to focus on operating drones safely and with professional processes in place from day one.”
HAZON DMS™ is a cloud-based service offered at three levels. The “Remote Pilot” level is free to individual users with up to two drones. The “Drone Team” level is for multi-person, multi- drone operations available on a per user per month fee schedule. The “Enterprise Systems” level is designed for larger organizations, municipalities or universities with organic drone operations that require features like customized branding, alternative licensing and hosting options, dedicated 24/7 customer support, optional custom analytics and multi-tiered administrators.
“Even though it is already the most capable management software for the drone industry, we are quickly working to deploy the next set of advanced features,” said Hine. “One of the things that makes HAZON DMS™ so unique and powerful is that in order to support our customers’ needs and adapt to the rapid changes in our industry, we will update the tool with speed and purpose.”
HAZON DMS™ has recently completed beta testing with a wide range of drone operations including HAZON Solutions®, the York County Fire Department, Aerial Works and Liberty University. HAZON Solutions® will launch DMS™ at the AUVSI conference in Dallas, TX on May 8th, however it is now available at www.HAZONDMS.com.
About HAZON Solutions®
Based in Virginia Beach, HAZON Solutions® is the leading U.S. developer of small unmanned systems operations, capability development, training, safety and testing programs. The mission of HAZON Solutions® is to conduct, support, develop and validate small unmanned systems operations. Our goal is to provide unmatched quality, safety and value to our customers.
HAZON has deep roots in naval carrier aviation and intelligence systems. The company’s leadership team has more than 100 years of cumulative command and operations experience in the most challenging and hostile aerial environments in the world. Its members share a common background of flying fighter jets from aircraft carriers. HAZON CEO David Culler, Jr., spent 26 years flying for the United States Navy, capping off his career as the Commanding Officer of Norfolk Naval Station, the world’s largest naval base. For more information visit www.hazonsolutions.com.