Many public safety agencies rely on their DJI Matrice 300 RTK to augment their operational capabilities. From Hazmat accidents to active shooter incidents, the aircraft provides a greater degree of situational awareness for effective decision-making. To minimize the risk of a vital tool like the Matrice failing during a mission, operators should consider developing a regular maintenance plan.
Inspection and Maintenance Checklist
This article will serve as a brief overview of the process. We suggest that users refer to DJI’s dedicated maintenance manual for issues beyond what is discussed in this blog.
DJI provides three separate inspection checklists for when the aircraft is powered off, powered on, and in flight. When powered off, operators should check for any signs of damage to the frame and especially propellers. Motors should move freely with propellers mounted on the appropriate motors. Battery ports will need to be regularly checked and cleaned, if necessary. The camera gimbal should be free to move along all three axes. Auxiliary lights need to function properly, and sensor ports should be free of obstructions.
Before the aircraft is powered on, batteries need to be properly installed and fully charged. The pilot should ensure flight parameters are appropriate for the mission including RTH altitude, height limits, and distance limits. The aircraft needs to be connected by at least 7 satellites, indicated on the flight controller with its compass calibrated properly.
While in flight, check for drift while hovering and appropriate responsiveness to controller input. Set sample distance and height limits and see if the aircraft adheres to them. Take time to test the RTH function with the aircraft more than 65 feet (20m) away from the home point.
As we have stated before, this is not a comprehensive description of the inspection procedure. However, it does provide an overview of what to expect when planning an inspection checklist. An awareness of all aircraft components is crucial for safe operations.
In addition to detailed inspections, DJI outlines a general maintenance plan based on aircraft usage.
- Basic Maintenance: 200 hours of flight time or 6 months
- updates, calibrations, deep cleaning
- Factory service recommended
- Routine Maintenance: 400 hours of flight time or 12 months
- Updates/calibration, deep cleaning, component replacement
- Factory service required
- Deep Maintenance: 600 hours of flight time or 18 months
- Updates/calibration, deep cleaning, component replacement, core replacement
- Factory service required
Because the Matrice is often used to respond to HazMat calls, these operators must consider another layer of maintenance – decontamination. While aircraft like the Matrice reduce the need to send in first responders to a HazMat site, they do so at expense of becoming contaminated.
Disposal of the aircraft is incredibly impractical and not much of an option. Fortunately, FLYMOTION offers a solution. Known as the Drone Decon Kit (DDK), this decontamination solution utilizes non-corrosive Dahlgren Decon products safe to use on sensitive aircraft like the Matrice. Dahlgren’s solution can be used with a variety of sprayers and rapidly breaks down long chemical chains of the contaminants. Also included in the kit is a containment mat that collects chemical residue for proper disposal.
Keep in mind that not all aircraft can be decontaminated with the Drone Decon Kit. The Matrice 300 RTK has an IP45 rating, allowing it to be sprayed down without any damage to the aircraft systems and internal components. Other models like the Mavic series do not have this IP rating which is something to consider when deciding what aircraft is best for Hazmat operations.
Having a reliable solution means, in part, maintaining operational readiness. We encourage you to refer to the official DJI manual for details regarding inspection and maintenance procedures. Curious about any of the products mentioned in this article? Have any questions about maintenance? Contact FLYMOTION through our website.
Implementing consistent maintenance practices into your unmanned programs ensures safe operations and extends the operability of your aircraft well into the future. Here are some suggestions directly from the FLYMOTION team to maintain your Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced, including its airframe and battery systems.
Visual inspections are necessary before and after flight operations. The outer frame, sensors, sensors gimbal, and arms should be checked for signs of stress, especially after sending UAS into police or fire calls. Exposed systems like the camera sensor and gimbals need to be free of excessive dust or water and moisture. Take into consideration that both the camera and gimbal are sensitive elements that need to be cleaned carefully. If there is any damage, it’s suggested to replace parts only with OEM DJI products for a guaranteed quality repair.
Propellers are another major component to check during routine inspections and before flight time. Inspect your drone for any signs of stress, cracks, chips, or bent blades. Any one of these conditions can adversely affect the flight performance of the aircraft as well as life of the unit if never ignored. Even worse, they can pose a safety risk in an area of operations.
Most DJI drone packages come with spare propellers, which can be used to replace a damaged part within minutes to resume flight. Make sure to reference the DJI Manual for specific instructions regarding propeller replacement.
Aircraft batteries are critical aspects of the aircraft and require special consideration when conducting maintenance. DJI has outlined a set of best practices for the upkeep of their Intelligent Flight Batteries to maximize their lifespan.
- Check for battery firmware updates on DJI’s website. Batteries can be updated while conducting general aircraft firmware updates. If a battery-specific update is needed, you can use the BS60 battery charging station and the Smart Controller.
- For an overview of the BS60 Intelligent Battery Station, watch our product overview on our YouTube channel.
- DJI suggests operators fully charge and discharge the battery at least once every three months for optimal battery health, following the below steps:
- Charge to 100%, making sure the cell voltage difference is less than 0.1v
- Leave the battery stationary for 24 hours, then install it in the aircraft
- Exhaust the battery down to 20%
- Charge to full capacity for use and store
- Batteries should be stored between 40-60% capacity. Never store batteries fully charged or fully drained; both can shorten a battery’s lifespan.
- Operators can set a time between 1-10 days for the battery to discharge on its own. Otherwise, they will do so automatically after ten days.
- Avoid charging batteries immediately after a flight. Batteries pulled immediately after a flight will be hot and charging them can cause issues. Allow them to cool down before charging to avoid damage. In scenarios where immediate charging is necessary, do so in an open, ventilated space.
- Replace batteries if:
- Visual swelling or leaking appears
- Terminals are bent
- A battery has reached 200 charging cycles
- Flight app notifies you of a battery issue
Battery care should not be dismissed as unimportant. Not monitoring battery health can, at best, decrease flight time and battery lifespan. At worst, it can bring serious damage to the aircraft and a threat to operators.
Regular inspections don’t need to take long but should be a routine protocol pilots of all proficiency levels should follow. It should become a habit that can save a lot of money and headaches down the road for you or your agency. Make sure to consult the appropriate instruction manuals for your aircraft for the safest and most effective practices. Have any questions? Contact one of our representatives at FLYMOTION through our website.
In May 2021, a member of the FLYMOTION training division was off-site visiting a client of ours based in Louisiana. In between demonstrations, a call came through the radio alerting them of a structure fire. In this case, it was a large single-family home that caught fire and was quickly and heavily engulfed in flames. Luckily, Justin was traveling with two flagship DJI enterprise drones—the newly-released DJI Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced and the DJI Matrice 300 RTK.
Once Justin arrived on scene, he asked permission to deploy our UAS. Once the incident commander gave the green light, Justin first deployed the Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced. The goal of getting the lightweight UAS airframe airborne first was primarily to gain full 360-degree situational awareness of the property. The second goal of fire rescue drone operations is and should always be providing overwatch during the entirety of the call, until it is cleared.
Visibly, there was a column of smoke that emerged through the roof. For fire rescue professionals on the ground, this presented a visibility challenge of where to direct the hose lines to combat the source of the flames.
With Justin piloting the Enterprise Advanced, he utilized the high-resolution 640×512 thermal to see through the smoke. Flames that were hidden from eyesight on the ground were now clear as day with the thermal sensor overhead. Combating this structure fire with a thermal sensor overhead allowed fire rescue to gain control of the fire faster and placed a major emphasis on improved firefighter safety.
After the fire was contained, Justin landed the Enterprise Advanced and deployed the Matrice 300 RTK with the Zenmuse H20-T payload attached. The H20-T payload packs a powerful 20-megapixel zoom sensor providing a 23x hybrid optical zoom and 200x maximum digital zoom. It was necessary to incorporate the zoom capability alongside the thermal during this time of vulnerability.
With most of the fire suppressed, hot spots still presented a threat to firefighter safety via the risk of re-ignitions. It was at this point in the call, firefighters were entering the home. Our pilot hovered directly above the house and set the isotherms on the thermal to display hot spots ranging between 200 degrees and 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Seeing very clear hot spots allowed the incident commander to direct the hose lines to the appropriate places.
The Take-Away: The high-powered zoom camera allowed for even sharper detail of exactly what was still burning—a huge value add for firefighter safety and keeping the house from reigniting. Providing additional technology support through drone operations during a fire call presents many valuable benefits to save agencies money, time, and most important, lives of innocent bystanders and those who serve in public safety.
To catch the After Action Report video, please watch on our FLYMOTION YouTube channel. Thank you for reading!