Miniquad long range pre-flight checklist – this will save you money and pain

Long range with a miniquad is unforgiving. Make a mistake, lose the craft. This checklist is intended to minimize preventable losses, based on experience.

  1. Flip the quad upside down, check motor screws. You do not want to lose a motor mid-air while flying over a lake or mountains.
  2. Check that all your propellers are in good shape. A bent prop could cause a motor to fail, a damaged prop could explode mid-air.
  3. Check your transmission frequency and power. Specifically, you’re using Crossfire make sure you’re on the right frequency for your region (e.g. 915Mhz in the US), and that your transmission settings are adequate for the flight about to take place.
  4. Plan your flight. Surprises in long range are usually not good. Look around, study the terrain, know where you can and cannot go, have an understanding of line of sight between you and your expected course. Checking the area on Google Maps and having an idea of the distances and landmarks is always a plus.
  5. Make sure DVR is on. If your quad goes down and the battery comes unplugged, DVR is your best hope to find it. I personally DO NOT take off for a long range flight unless I know I’m recording it on my goggles.
  6. GPS not locked = no go.  Same as above. I want gps every time not just for finding the quad, but to make sure I can find my way back. Distance to home is invaluable, don’t leave home without it.
  7. If your receiver / base station is on a tripod, make sure it will not get knocked over. This is actually a good reason to have a spotter. You can have the best video system, yet lose a quad because of a gust of wind.

[more to come]

This is not really part of the checklist, just some learnings from experience:

  • Never go too far on a maiden. Even if you’re the world’s best builder, you never know what components are faulty. Fly around for at least four or five packs before venturing into the distance.
  • A quad that crashed badly is not a long range quad. You never know what hidden damage exists, and you don’t want that damage to become evident as you fly one mile out over water. If you have a bad crash, inspect the quad thoroughly (particularly all the solder joints and wires).
  • Know your battery well. Turn around before it’s half spent.
  • Consider using redundant mechanisms for finding the quad: e.g. gps and a bluetooth beacon such as a Tile. Don’t rely on the battery to remain plugged in.
  • If you can, scan the spectrum. Make sure nobody is using the video frequencies you plan to use.

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