I am a bit of a techie at heart and love having the latest gadgets to play with. I often get asked what kit I use. Now that I am a fully qualified CAA PfCO Drone Pilot the questions are more about what bits and pieces I recommend for a drone kit and what I use when I fly my drone.
I have a box full of bits for my drone which I take with me if I am going on a shoot. If I am just flying recreationally I don’t use everything and if I am going abroad I don’t take much with me. So without further ado, here are the things I keep in my drone box:
My CCA PfCO Qualification
I get this question a lot: “As a travel blogger, why did you get qualified as a drone pilot?” Well, the simple answer is that if I want to be paid for any drone photos or footage I have to be have a PfCO (Permission for Commercial Operations) from the CAA. This means that when I can put together packages for brands, I can now include drone images and film.
I can also pick up other paid drone work; I have been approached about doing some archaeological surveying, real estate and promotional videos. I carry a laminated copy of my PfCO approval, just in case I need to show it.
My Drone Kit
DJI Mavic Pro
The drone you fly really depends on your budget and what you aim to do with it. Drones come in many sizes from the tiny DJI Mavic Mini Combo to the way more advanced Inspire II and all the others in between.
I currently have a Mavic Pro which is ideal for me as it is small, light but also powerful enough to give me the great shots and videos I am after. I travel a lot so I can pop it into my hand luggage normally without any issues. (see my post on airline rules for drones). I bought the DJI Mavic Pro Combo Kit which came with a remote controller, extra propellers, three intelligent flight batteries, a battery charging hub and a shoulder bag.
Now, I know there are plenty more drones out there, but I have to say I love my Mavic!
It is always useful to carry spare blades or propellers with you. You may find that there is a nick in one when you are doing your pre-flight checking (you do pre-flight checks don’t you?) or you hit something while you are out flying and damage them, so it is handy to have extra propellers so you can still fly.
Whenever I am filming, I carry four fully charged Mavic Pro batteries with me, which gives me around 80-90 minutes of use of the drone if I run them down to the last drop of juice. However, I do tend to change batteries when they have about 25-30% of life left, just in case there is a fly-away or another issue with the drone.
I keep my batteries In LiPo bags unless I am charging them or using them to fly. LiPo bags are fire retardant or fire resistant pouches which reduce the risk of damage in case of fire. Also when I travel it is a requirement of most airlines that drone batteries are kept In LiPo bags and in your hand luggage, NEVER In your hold luggage.
SD Cards & Adapters
There are a lot of SD cards on the market and you will need micro SD cards for your DJI drone preferably 64Gb XC1 ones. I prefer the SanDisk 64Gb XC1 I keep my drone ones separate from my other SD cards in a waterproof holder with my card adapter so that I can quickly see my footage on my Mac Pro. Oh and don’t forget to actually put the card in your drone… yes, I have been guilty of this!
ND or Neutral Density Filters are either attached to the front of the camera and directly affect light as it passes through the filters and enter the lens and hits the sensors.
Lights for flying at night
I haven’t done any night flying yet, but in my Operations Manual, I am qualified to fly in the dark. I do have an attachable light for my drone, but I will be upgrading to Lume Cube lighting system which is more powerful and will allow me to take better shots.
Hi-Viz Vest or Jacket
It is not essential to wear a hi-viz vest or jacket, but I find that people are less likely to approach you if you look official. When I first started wearing my hi-viz vest, I was a bit embarrassed but the more I wore it the more comfortable I became wearing it.
Where possible, I try to cone off my take-off and landing area to protect people from my drone (and my drone from people!). They can also be used to define areas that are out of bounds to the public. I use pop-up cones which are weighted at the bottom, so won’t fall over, but are still light enough to carry around.
Drone Landing Pad
Sometimes the ground you are taking off from is not smooth and it helps to have a portable drone landing pad so your take-offs and landing don’t damage your drone. It folds up really neatly and I can slip it in my luggage to take on trips abroad with me.
Powder Fire Extinguisher
Yes, I am the proud owner of a powder fire extinguisher! Not my sexiest bit of kit, but I keep it handy in case of a battery fire. It is worth keeping one close to where you charge your drone batteries, just in case.
First Aid Kit
It is always useful to have a first aid kit handy, plasters, bandages, safety pins, you never know when they are going to be useful!
An Anemometer is a handy little bit of kit to have around measures wind speed and temperature where you are. It gives a digital reading for how fast the wind is gusting and the current temperature.
Checklists and Logs
I carry with me laminated copies of my pre- and post-flight checklists as well as my battery, flight time and other logs. Along with Risk Assessments and Site Assessments, these are essential if you are doing a commercial shoot, but it is also good practice if you are just flying for fun to keep track of your battery life. I fill in my logs for every flight, so that I can track my usage of my batteries, how much hours flying I have done and if my drone has any issues.
Those Little Extras in my Drone Kit
I find that when I am putting my drone in its bag, I catch the propellers, so I bought some straps which keep them in place.
Having an in-car charger for my drone batteries helps if I need some more battery juice when I am out. However, I never leave the battery charging on its own, I am always there with it.
Protectors for Controls for the Mavic Pro
Those lovely little knobs on my Mavic Pro controller can get bashed about a bit, so I pop on one of these Protectors to keep them from getting damaged.
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Larch lives a semi-nomadic life. Her life changed 20 years ago when a silly accident left her with restricted use of her right arm and neck and was told she would never work again. She turned her life around, retrained herself and set up as a self-employed website designer. This allowed her to work wherever she was in the world. Her passion for travel led her to start up her travel blog The Silver Nomad, to inspire over 40s to explore new destinations and expand their horizons. In 2019 Larch qualified as a CAA Drone Pilot which she combines with her travels.