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Ingenuity – The importance of the pre-flight checklist for UAS-drones

by Fabio Affortunato
Ingenuity-controlli-pre-chek-volo
Reading time / Tempo lettura : 2 minutes / minuti


Is Ingenuity ready for take-off? Maybe yes! After the slippage of the first flight of the Martian drone scheduled for last April 14, 2021 due to an anomaly in the rotor rotation speed, it seems that we are here. But what was the problem and how did NASA solve it?

Ingenuity – The rotors issue

NASA due to a problem with the rotors during Ingenuity’s pre-flight pre-check phase, known as the spin test, or rotor speed test (and therefore the propellers), was forced to postpone the first mini-flight of the drone. The spin-test of Inegnuity in fact had not ended successfully, giving signals that could compromise the first take-off of the drone, being the fundamental test for the success of the Ingenuity mission.

Ingenuity spin test: The solution

Given therefore the failure of the spint test at high speed in the flight pre-checks, NASA addressed the problem with two different action plans A and B. Plan A in fact provided for the software update – remotely obviously – difficult implementation also in consideration of the necessary validation, verification and installation tests. Plan B instead consisted of adding some commands to the flight sequence, and it was this solution, also tested on an exact copy of the Martian drone that was successfully applied. All obviously putting the safety of the drone first, to avoid further complicating the mission.

On April 16 u.s. in fact, the spin test was successfully completed the flight pre-checks, without the intervention of the watchdog block (control timer system).

Ingenuity-pre-chek-volo

So now it seems that everything is ok and that Ingenuity is ready for the Go flight, NASA has announced, on its Mars Helicopter website, that the date for Ingenuity’s next first flight is set for April 19th at 6:15 am EDT / 10:15 am UCT), and it will be possible to follow him live on the NASA website.

Take-away from Mars: pre-flight check list for terrestrial UAS-drones

From the Ingenuity incident we can obviously draw useful lessons and best practices valid for terrestrial UAS-drones, namely the use of the pre-flight check-list.

As all drone-UAS pilots know (or should know), there are a number of pre-flight operations that are good to perform with the UAS-drone on the ground.

Pre-flight checks should normally be available in the drone’s operating manual, but failing that it is useful to remember the 10 golden pre-check rules to be carried out:

  • check the functioning of the rotors (spin-test)
  • correct tightening of the propellers
  • verification of the signal between the remote control and the drone-UAS (datalink)
  • check number of satellites acquired
  • drone calibration (where required)
  • battery charge level
  • weather conditions (wind speed and visibility, rain)
  • maximum height set
  • maximum distance set
  • permit to fly and / or restrictions on d-flight (for Italy).

Obviously do not forget to have with you a copy of the UAS pilot certificate, a copy of the drone insurance and the UAS operator code on your drone-UAS (where required).

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Credits about images: The cover image is taken from the NASA website, as is the image in the post. The images are owned by NASA. The use of the images is exclusively for the purpose of a better understanding of the contents of the article. We thank NASA for sharing these beautiful images.

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Last Updated on/Ultimo aggiornamento – 01/05/2021

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