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Drones on a Construction Site? | Baltimore Aerials

Drones on a Construction Site? | Baltimore Aerials

Drones on a Construction Site? My Advice for safe sUAS flying

Last week (this blog post is three weeks late LOL sorry), I finished up with a film production crew covering the construction process of the new Guinness US Open Brewery and Taphouse. Compared to previous construction related shoots, this one took my concentration to another level. Four to five man-lifts were moving, a crane was operating, and the parking lot was being paved. All of this was contained within a five hundred foot square, so there was a shitload going on all at once.

Here are a few of my top recommendations for safely completing sUAS flights in an active construction zone. These tips are all equally important and are in no specific order:

Effective Communication

baltimore aerials guinness harp

With so many parts moving at once, communication is essential on any construction site. Before the flights started, we had a general safety meeting held by the head of safety. When the safety meeting was over, I pulled the safety coordinator, crane operator, and those bolting the letters and Harp to the building aside for a second to explain my intentions. After our discussion, all parties were on board, and most people were excited to have the drone document these lifts. 

Spare Equipment

First, I must say I was a little disappointed to find out my main board in the P4P RC was shot. While I use this equipment five days or more out the week, my Inspire 1 controller still works like the day I purchased it (it's another year a half older than RC for P4P). On the first trip down to Diageo, I realized my RC was not holding a charge, and battery life went from approximately four hours of flying to 45 mins. Once the last light on the RC was blinking, I knew it was time to plug in due to a possible RTH if the RC died. So for the rest of the shoot, I stayed plugged into a car charger.

DJI chargers can sometimes be touchy when it comes to power coming out of a cars AC adapter, for example. This brings me to my next recommendation of carrying multiple chargers at all times. I have an AC converter to plug in, regular plug-in chargers (120) and then another made by DJI which plugs directly into the car's AC outlet. 

Having an extra drone(s) also helps in a pinch when one is not performing correctly. I always carry another aircraft just in case. This is important if heavy winds or rain becomes an issue on the shoot. At this point, I have a drone for every circumstance such as rain or heavy wind.

The mid-Atlantic summer can be tough on equipment. Specifically on electronics. The hot and sticky climate is not as bad as the winter's low temps and wind, but I have heard of drone user's iPhones or tablets turning off due to overheating issues. I flew continuously for almost six hours an did not experience device failure, but my P4P batteries did take a while to cool down. The Intelligent Battery's firmware does not allow them to be charged above a specific temperature threshold, so I ran the A/C at 70 Degrees and left the batteries a few feet from vents to cool. I would not suggest cranking the air con entirely either because that could damage the cells. Just bring plenty of batteries :)


Safety and Awareness

Understand the objective of your flying. Ask yourself:

  1.  Why have you been asked to be a part of this project? 
  2.  What else is going on where or over I'll be flying?
  3.  Have I completed my pre-flight checklist?

Safety and awareness are both critical elements in a day of safe flying. A few months ago, I was setting up my Inspire 1 and noticed one of the Torx screws was loose. This is the screw that connects the prop adapters to the motor, a failure of this part could result in an accident. This is only one example of why we need to check our equipment before taking off. Awareness is the real-time thought process of our flying. There are many moving pieces on a construction site, and as mentioned above, focus is highly necessary. 


Every drone operator is different, these are just a few tactics I use to decrease or eliminate risk. In addition to these recommendations, planning your shots is also important. Ask for a shot list if one if not provided, asking questions to help perfect your craft is never frowned upon. The client wants what they asked for, so give them that and something more. Be yourself, be creative and most importantly have fun while working. 


5 Reasons Why I Love the Manfrotto 3N1-36

5 Reasons Why I Love the Manfrotto 3N1-36

Today’s post is about the Manfrotto 3N1-36 and why I believe it’s the best backpack for DJI’s Phantom 4 Pro. If you don't feel like reading this blog, then check the video review here. First, let’s discuss what I’m comparing this Manfrotto pack to. During the time I flew the standard Phantom 4, I used DJI’s hard shell backpack while traveling. In my opinion, that backpack screams “I am carrying a drone.” Its “turtle shell design” and large DJI branding made this pack’s contents easily recognized. This backpack was made for the Phantom 3 Pro but after a few modifications, the P4 fit nicely. While melting the styrofoam inside, a few alterations including making space for the large gimbal lock and increased Milliamp batteries were necessary. After those adjustments were made, I was able to use it successfully during my P4 use.

Then the P4P came out, we were quite excited at the time of the announcement- my GF gave me the approval to order it the first day available. I remember waiting anxiously for a couple weeks before the box showed up on the doorstep. With the P4P’s 20MP camera added to the equation, the hard shell was no longer practical. I also acquired a few more batteries and there so was no additional room in the hard shell for storage.

5 Reasons

Compared to DJI’s hard shell, the Manfrotto 3N1-36 allows for more space. Granted the pack is much larger, but only because it’s designed in a rectangle instead of an oval. Below is a list of everything I could carry inside or attached to the Manfrotto. Notice some items are in bold, these are my five reasons. DJI’s pack couldn’t handle the extra items. Manfrotto’s 3N1-36 is on the high-end of drone backpacks, but here’s why it’s worth the price.

There’s space for (in addition to the P4P & RC):

  • At least five spare batteries
  • ND filters
  • Extra SD Card holder(s)
  • A true 15” laptop
  • Medium-sized Pyrex Container for a meal
  • Two water bottles
  • Portable landing pad
  • Monopod or small tripod
  • DJI battery & RC charger
  • Space for a tablet- I use Apple’s iPad Mini

Manfrotto’s pack comes in handy during hikes too, it’s comfortable even after wearing it for a few hours. I sweat easily and the pack is usually soaked after a couple hours on the trail. However, this is made with nice synthetic material and doesn’t have an odor like some materials after perspiration has dried. I’ve been stuck in the rain with the pack twice and each time the interior is completely dry. Manfrotto includes a rain cover for the pack if you’re out in the elements for long periods of time, but in my case, the pack was only exposed for 30-45 mins.

In conclusion, Manfrotto’s 3N1-36 is by far the best pack on the market right now for the Phantom line. Although this backpack was made for serious photogs, Manfrotto has designed this pack in a way which easily converts to a drone bag. Originally designed to transport a camera(s), up to five lenses, laptop, and tripod, this bag gets it done. Check out my video that shows how much stuff I actually carry in the bag. Of course, each day is different and while I may not pack the bag to the brim, it’s always nice knowing the room is available.

Please contact us with any question about drones, the pack, or past blog posts. For more information about the Manfrotto 3N1-36, follow this link.