In our previous post, we gave tips, equipment needed, and other requirements to make sure you can fly a successful Parking Lot Survey Mission. In this post, you'll hear directly from Paul Kassner, one of our most experienced Pilots with flying these types of Missions, and some more insights into successful Missions.
How many Parking Lot Missions have you flown?
I would say that I have done somewhere around 25 parking lot missions. I can't really say, because I have done over 100 of these types of jobs in the past year for numerous companies and students of mine who are looking to learn how to fly drones.
What was the smallest site and how many batteries did it take?
The smallest was the Mission of a small business. I think there were only 4 rows and that was at an 80/80 overlap at 70' AGL. It took around 10 minutes to fly and a quarter of a battery. I love those Missions.
What was the largest site and how many batteries did it take?
By far the largest and hardest was the Tulsa Mall Mission. That was a huge mall parking lot that took 20 batteries and all day to fly. No matter how hard you prepare for such Missions, it will always take a lot longer and more batteries than you first expected. I believe that is because Google Maps is normally out of date to many changes. It is also hard to see obstacles until you are on site. The biggest one is the size of the parking lot. I mean, when you are planning off of Google Maps on a computer screen and then when you get to the site it is a big surprise how big it really is. Another surprise can be the uneven terrain of the lot itself and the surrounding area. You can never plan enough.
What drone do you fly with and do you have a backup?
I fly with the DJI Phantom 4 Pro. I have three of them and never leave the house without at least two. When doing Parking Lot Missions, it is critical to be prepared for anything and I have had to use my backup drone numerous times. Flying very low over big parking lots, it is easy to come into contact with obstacles that will damage the drone. Most parking lots have tall lights and birds love to hang out on top of them. I also bring my Mavic out on all Missions so that I can look very closely at some such obstacles and rooftops to see if there is a group of birds on top without causing them to fly off abruptly and into my drone. The Mavic is a great tool for scouting the area because it is much quieter than the P4P. The most important reason for having two drones is that you can let one cool down for a bit. Some of these missions can take a very long time to fly and your doing so at only 4 to 6 MPH which does not offer very much cooling for your drone's motors and internal parts.
What Automated Flight Software do you fly with?
I love Pix4D. It is just the best out there at this time. I have nothing bad to say about the others, including DroneDeploy. I have used them all on occasion.
What tips do you have for Pilots who have not flown this scope of work?
It is a must to practice and then practice again once you think you have it figured out. I have taken students to an old abandoned factory and we have flown a test mission there. I have never had a pilot tell me that flying such large missions was easy. I continue to learn something new every time. I once had a construction group working at one corner of the parking lot. The foreman was very rude at the beginning and would not let me come anywhere close to the site. It was not until I explained to him and showed him exactly what I was doing that he was okay with it. I did have to break out my hard hat and vest before I could walk onto the site. Remember, this was on the parking lot itself. Always be prepared!
What was your best experience when flying a Parking Lot Mission?
I can't really pick the best experience. The experience of being on the job with just you and your drone is the best. Nothing around you but open space and fresh air. It is quiet most of the time and you can really just enjoy yourself knowing that you are having fun and providing a valued professional service. It just doesn't get much better than that. Oh wait, it does! DroneBase pays you very fast. :}
We love sharing tips and stories like these from our Pilots, especially when they can provide useful insights to other drone Pilots. If you have a story or tips you'd like to share with the DroneBase community, please email firstname.lastname@example.org