Whether you are new to drones or an experienced pilot, there is one thing you can count on.
Your drone is going to crash!
It might be because of an in-air malfunction. Perhaps the landing did not work out anywhere near the way you had envisioned.
In any case, if you fly drones, you are going to experience some sort of damage along the way. Consider it an initiation.
Here are drone repair and drone maintenance tips you need to know to keep your drone in the best working condition for as long as possible.
Drone Repair, Drone Maintenance – Preventative Care
It’s a good idea to know a few basic tips and tricks to keep your drone in the air where it belongs. Successful maintenance is preventative maintenance. By taking a few preventative measures, you can avoid some of the common reasons drone are grounded for repair.
Here are things you can do to save time and money on costly repairs:
Take It Outside
Despite what the packaging says, most drones do their best when flown outdoors. When operating your drone indoors, you put people, pets, fragile objects and your drone at risk. The indoors can be too confining and one wrong move can result in your drone crashing and incurring damage.
Wide Open Spaces
Learning how to operate the drone is part of the fun. However, during the learning curve, your drone can take a beating.
For example, getting the feel for drone orientation is important. If you are flying in a confined or heavily wooded area, you think the drone should go left, but goes right instead. Right into a tree or power line, for example. Learn how to fly your drone in a wide-open space to avoid crashes into trees, wires or other structures.
Keep Your Eye on the Prize
Keep your drone within a reasonable operating distance. According to FAA flying guidelines, your drone should always be in sight and never flown higher than 400 feet. Don’t attempt to go beyond these guidelines.
While you may be tempted to see what your drone is made of, flying too far out or too high is dangerous. The danger comes in the form of losing or crashing your drone. Also, you may endanger the safety of any aircraft flying overhead. Be a responsible drone owner/operator.
Recovering a Lost Drone
With basic drone models, recovery of your drone is based on the last time you could see it. Recovery can be sketchy depending on how accurately you see and can recall where the drone went down.
With a more sophisticated or technologically-advanced drone, it may have a location indicator or accompanying GPS app. The app can help pinpoint and navigate you to the drone’s downed location. These apps are real time-savers and increase the odds of successful recovery of your drone.
Once you’ve located the drone, give it a thorough inspection. Just to be safe, take pictures and notes of any damage you find, in case you need to file a claim or take advantage of the warranty.
Never pick up a drone without powering it down. Turn the power to everything off, including your controller. Failure to do so is dangerous should the drone fly into you and cause serious injury.
Of course, you want to experiment with some of the advanced features of your drone. However, when treading into unknown territory, you might put your drone at risk for damage.
For example, if one of your cool features is First Person View (FPV), your attention is focused on a screen and not on the actual flying conditions. When checking out fun or advanced features, it can’t hurt to enlist the help of a “co-pilot” to make sure your drone is not in danger of crashing while your attention is focused elsewhere.
Drone Repair, Drone Maintenance – Inspecting a Damaged Drone
A preflight inspection is a good idea, as is a post-flight inspection. You are looking for obvious signs of damage to ward full-blown damage off at the pass.
Here is a quick checklist of things to include in your inspections:
Check for any cracks, chips or breaks.
One of the first areas of damage after a bad landing or crash are the propellers. Chips or cracks in the propellers will signal the need to replace them. If you don’t, it will create an imbalance in the propellers which increases the odds of a crash.
Damage to the propellers will affect thrust generation, which may result in the drone becoming unfit or unable for flight. Check carefully around the leading blade edge for nicks or chips.
It’s especially critical to check retractable landing gear to make sure the mechanism is working properly. A bad landing can crack or break the landing gear.
Check the wiring before, but especially after a flight. You’re checking for loose connections which may result in a power shortage. A shortage of power will cause your drone to fall while in flight. Check the wiring harness for visible cracks, breaks or other damage.
Check parts that may have been shaken loose during a flight, such as motor mounts. Anytime the drone appears unstable in flight, check the fittings.
Unchecked fittings can cause increased vibration in rotating parts like motors and propellers, which in turn make the fittings even more loose and flights more unstable.
Drone Repair, Drone Maintenance – Common Types of Repairs
To keep your drone in top working order, always perform a preflight inspection. Pay special attention to the propellers, landing gear and an overall check for chips, cracks or loose parts.
Here are some common DIY repairs:
Replace the propellers should you notice any bent or broken parts. Most of the time, propellers can be replaced with the use of screwdriver to loosen the propeller from the drive shaft. Some smaller drone versions don’t require a screwdriver; you can use your fingers to make the replacement.
After extended flying and usage it may be time to replace the motor. Refer to the instruction manual for directions or watch a YouTube video for visual assistance.
Your motor may simply plug in to the electronics board or adhere new motor leads to the cutoffs in the old leads. Drone booms may need to be removed in order to gain access to the motor.
Drone Repair, Drone Maintenance – Repair and Replacement Part Testing
Now that you’ve either made the necessary repairs or replaced parts on your drone, take the time to perform some preflight testing to make sure everything is functioning properly.
Basic Testing Steps:
- Power to drone should be turned off
- Remove propellers
- Install an alternate battery
- Power up drone
- Attempt a flight sequence
- Check that all motors are functioning
- Initiate drone boot sequence for internal check of software and sensors
- Re-attach all propellers for test flight
If test flight is successful, the drone is working properly, and you can continue flying as usual.
If test flight fails, there may have been internal, mechanical damage done to the drone. At this point, it might be time to check in with a repair technician for further action steps.
Drone Repair, Drone Maintenance – Working with a Drone Repair Specialist
If your drone continues to experience problems, repeated test flights fail or you don’t feel confident about making repairs, it’s time to touch base with a professional.
The first step is to check your warranty. You should either have a printed copy of your warranty with your original invoice, or more details can be found in an instruction manual. You can also check the manufacturer’s website for warranty details.
Topics to discuss with a professional drone repair technician include:
- Diagnosing the issue
- Relay observations, read your notes or email pictures to the technician
- Verify whether the repairs are covered under warranty
- Ask about additional service fees, delivery charges or other out-of-pocket replacement part charges
- Check on downtime and how long the repairs will take
- If there is a long repair lead time, ask if there is a local manufacturer’s rep or authorized repair center where you can get you get the repairs completed faster
If your warranty has expired or the repairs are not covered, check online or call around for quotes from authorized repair centers.
Check the fine print of your warranty prior to flying your drone. Refrain from engaging in activities that may void warranty coverage flying your drone in inclement or wet weather conditions, using unauthorized add-ons, re-building the drone or losing your proof of purchase or other signed agreement(s)
Drone Repair, Drone Maintenance – Average Repair Costs
Depending on the issue or damage, it costs approximately $65 per hour for drone repair. The costs vary depending on location, type of drone and the amount of damage incurred.
It really pays to follow warranty guidelines, purchase a protection plan if available at time of purchase and always practice good preventative maintenance and inspection routines.
Drone Repair, Drone Maintenance – In Summary
The key takeaway is to do what you can to make drone repairs as painless as possible. You do this by performing preflight and post-flight inspections in order to keep a close eye on even minor cracks, chips or breaks.
Become very familiar with your drone in order to identify odd sounds or performance changes.
Take advantage of the warranty and understand what is and what isn’t covered.
By replacing parts before complete failure and taking on minor repairs yourself, you’ll gain the confidence to keep your drone airborne.
By taking advantage of these tips, you can save a lot of money and downtime by moving preventative measures into measurable action steps. By doing so, you’ll enjoy your drone for a long time to come.