Safety is everyone’s responsibility. You are responsible for operating your drone in a safe manner. The most important safety advice we can give is that each person is responsible for the safe operation. This includes speaking up if you see an unsafe situation, acquiring information if you don’t know if something is safe, and taking care of yourself (don’t operate your drone when you haven’t slept enough).

This document is itself a work in progress

Flying Outside

We encourage you to fly your drone inside most of the time, and we will provide safe places to fly inside on Brown’s campus. If you fly outside, you must abide by the FAA rules for Unmanned Aircraft Systems. Flying your drone counts as Fly for Fun under the Special Rule for Model Aircraft. The FAA provided specific guidelines that say that your use of a drone for a course counts as recreational use. Note in particular that most/all of Brown’s campus is located within five miles of the heliport at the Rhode Island Hospital.

Flying Inside

The FAA does not regular indoor UAS use. However it is still a good idea to be aware of the guidelines and safety precautions for outdoor flight and think through the issues.

We recommend that you use safety glasses whenever operating the drone, to protect your eyes if any part of the drone breaks off during a class.

The first time you fly, and any time you are changing code that may affect the stability of the drone we also recommend wearing gloves or having another mechanism to catch the drone if it starts moving too quickly.

Battery Safety

We will be using Lithium polymer batteries to power your drone. Any battery stores a lot of power in a small space. If precautions are not taken, any battery can explode. This is why large batteries are banned on airplane flights.

A nice reference on battery safety is here on Wikipedia. Issues of concern for you are shorting your battery during soldering, so make sure to double check all solder joins, and use heat shrink and hot glue as insulators. Inspect these areas of the drone before all flights and especially after a crash. The chargers we are providing will not overcharge the battery, and also contain checks for low voltage. If you fly with too low voltage, you will kill the battery. Do not take off if the voltage is below 11.3. Full is 12.6. Additionally the chargers have the unfortunate property of not turning off after charging, so after charging is complete they will start draining the battery. So don’t leave batteries unattended when charging.

Also be careful for the battery’s physical safety. Do not puncture it, stab it, or microwave it. Always inspect it after a crash to make sure it is intact.

If the battery swells up or is too hot to the touch, it should no longer be used.

Tool Safety

Soldering irons, heat guns and hot glue guns are hot! We recommend wearing safety glasses, tying your hair back if necessary, and avoiding long jewlrey when using any of this equipment.

Wikipedia has a nice article on soldering. Solder contains lead! Always wash your hands after touching solder, and make sure you avoid putting solder or parts contaminated with solder in your mouth.

A nice tutorial on soldering is here. We will provide tools and equipment for soldering in CIT 121 and the SciLi space (more spaces in the SciLi).

Flight Checklist

We have developed a checklist that you should run through whenever you fly:

  1. Self-assessment - am I ready and able to fly?
  2. Safety glasses?
  3. Gloves?
  4. Do I have space to fly?
  5. Flyaway possibilities?
  6. Collision possibilities?
  7. Bystanders/spectators?
  8. Inspect the drone?
    1. Shorts?
    2. Any parts/wires that might collide with the props?
    3. Props are present and undamaged?
    4. Motors and all other parts are secure?
    5. Cables obstructing the camera?
    6. Cables obstructing the IR sensor?
    7. Battery charged?
    8. IMU level?
  9. Power on the drone?
  10. Calibrate ACC?
  11. Connected over Wifi and SSH?
  12. Am I connected to my drone, not someone else's? Blink the red power led.
  13. All ROS nodes in the screen window are started?
  14. Arms?
  15. Disarm to check the kill switch?
  16. Arm and takeoff