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
2,200 individual flights. Over 1,100 flight hours logged and tracked. Hundreds of inspections and dozens of customers. This is a volume and efficiency game. These numbers come from HAZON Solutions service provider business operations in the third quarter of 2017. HAZON is still a small business with a sharp eye on efficiency, to put up big numbers like these we needed some help. It’s why we built DMS from scratch.
We’ve been in the high volume commercial drone business for the past three years. Our goal every day is to maximize our capacity, maintain the highest quality and refine our process. This focus on constant improvement led us to ditch the spreadsheets we were using a year ago to keep track of our flight related operations. We had to have something that could keep up with the tempo of our operation without requiring additional manpower in the back office. Enter the Drone Management System.
Let me rewind. Five years ago I was in the US Navy assigned as the daily operations officer at the world’s largest fighter squadron. I split my days between duty as an F/A-18 flight instructor and the lead for a team that scheduled the daily activity of over 900 people and 100 jets. It was a daunting task made easier with specially designed software. If it worked for the Navy, why wouldn’t it work for the drone business? Back to HAZON…..
….we tested them all. Drone specific software, manned aviation software, truck driving software. None of it worked. It was all either too complex (looking at you manned aviation) or overly focused on the daily tasks of flying. It was a tough call but we bit the bullet and built our own database. The software was designed to support our needs as a high-volume operator. It had to be flexible and fast. I must record the data we needed but at a minimum imposition to our pilots. It had to work on a cell phone and in the field. It was a daunting task.
Eventually we recognized our database for what it was, one hell of a good product. Drone operations management software, built on the principals of Naval Aviation, right sized for drone operations, streamline for businesses.
Here we stand today. DMS continues to evolve as a more complete software offering every week and month. We leverage the inputs of our users to add on features. We partner with the best in the industry to bring in new capabilities. We apply the same continuous process improvement mindset to our software line as we do to our services offerings.
Where is your business? Are you collecting the data you need to run your operation? Are you ready if the FAA comes calling? How do you plan your operations? Do you know how much you flew last week? Are you ready to streamline? Join us at DMS, commercial grade drone software.
Built by drone pros. Built for drone pros.