The Only FPV Drone Pre-flight Checklist You Need in 2024 [8 Tips]

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FPV Drone Pre-flight Checklist

As a seasoned FPV drone pilot with over 5 years of flying experience, I’ve learned the hard way that crashing drones can be an expensive mistake.

After one too many smashed multicopters, I developed a rock-solid preflight inspection routine to catch issues before takeoff.

In this post, I’ll share the exact 8-point checklist I religiously perform before each flight.

These are the essential checks and tests I’ve found through extensive trial and error that help avoid those heart-stopping mid-air failures.

Let’s dive into it.

1. Inspect propellers for any chips, cracks or damage

The propellers are the most fragile part of your FPV drone. They spin at incredibly high rpm and are vulnerable to damage from collisions, hard landings, and debris getting sucked into them mid-flight. Even tiny nicks and cracks in the propellers can quickly propagate and cause them to shatter at high speeds.

So, before every flight, carefully inspect each propeller for any signs of damage. Specifically, check the leading and trailing edges of the blades for any chips, cracks, or roughness. The slightest imperfections can get exponentially worse once the prop is spinning at max rpm.

The best way to check is to run your fingernail or thumbnail along the full length of the blades. The nail will easily catch on any small defects. Also, press on the surfaces with your finger pads to feel for bumps or unevenness.

Please pay special attention to the prop roots where they attach to the motors. This is a weak point that experiences a lot of stress. Remove the props and inspect the underside of the hub connection for cracks as well. If you notice any chips, cracks, or dents – no matter how small – replace the propellers immediately. Never fly with damaged props. A new pair of props costs nothing compared to a drone crash.

Also, examine the props for any discoloration, which indicates heat or chemical damage. And replace any props that have reached 300-500 flight hours, as fatigue will cause unseen micro-fractures.

Make it a habit to bring spare propellers with you on important flights. But don’t keep them in your drone bag long-term, as they can get damaged from being constantly transported.

2. Listen for any unusual motor sounds

Along with visually inspecting the propellers, you should also listen to your motors for any abnormal sounds. You’ll get used to the normal hum of your FPV drone after flying it for a while.

So, if you notice any odd buzzing, grinding, or squealing sounds coming from the motors, something may be wrong internally. One motor noticeably louder than the others indicates a potential issue as well.

Some things to listen for:

  • Higher pitched squeal than normal
  • Straining / uneven motor noise
  • Loud spooling up / grinding
  • Vibration induced buzzing

Unhealthy motors will struggle to keep the drone stabilized, so pay attention to any odd drifting or oscillation in flight. The motors work hard to correct it.

If anything sounds off, thoroughly inspect the propellers for damage. Replace them if needed. Then, test fly again and monitor if the abnormal sound persists. If so, you may need to replace the motors. Catching problems early keeps little issues from cascading into bigger ones.

3. Check frame and body for cracks

The main chassis or body of your drone takes a lot of abuse too. Hard crashes can certainly damage the frame, but even normal landings put stress on its components that can cause micro-fractures over time.

Make it part of your preflight ritual to carefully inspect the body, frame, and landing gear for any cracks or damage. Use the same technique of running your fingers over all surfaces to feel for unevenness. Pay special attention to high-stress areas like:

  • Landing legs and feet
  • Motor mounts
  • Camera/gimbal assembly
  • Battery compartment

Also, inspect the seam lines where body components connect together. Use a flashlight to peer into tight spaces. Any cracks around screws are a telltale sign of loosening and fatigue.

If you find damage, stop flying until you can replace the broken part. Crashes from component failures can destroy your entire drone. Not worth the risk.

4. Confirm all propeller and body screws are tight

Along with checking for cracks, you also need to confirm all screws and fasteners on your drone body and propellers are tight before flying.

Vibration from flight will slowly loosen screws over time and use. Loose body and prop screws severely impact performance and safety.

Before takeoff, get in the habit of visually inspecting and hand tightening all fastener screws, including:

  • Propeller hub/motor screws
  • Body/chassis plate screws
  • Camera and gimbal mount screws
  • Battery compartment screws
  • Access panel screws like SD card door

Have the right-sized screwdriver handy to tighten any loose ones. But be careful not to overtighten, as stripping the threads is possible.

If a screw already has some stripping from being overtightened before, replace it. Damaged screws should not be reused. They can vibrate out in flight.

5. Check FPV camera mounting and lens

Since FPV cameras are often mounted in custom positions to get the best angle of view, it takes time to ensure that the camera is firmly secured in place without any vibration.

Try gently wiggling the camera to check for looseness. Also, confirm the camera tilt can still be adjusted and then tightened down again properly.

Also, closely inspect the FPV camera lens for any dirt, grease, or debris that could obstruct the view or affect image quality.

If necessary, gently clean the lens with a microfiber cloth if needed. And check that any lens protection, such as a clear plastic cover, is secured in place and not distorted or scratched.

6. Verify FPV antenna connections

Make sure all FPV antenna connections are firmly attached to the video transmitter without any looseness. Any degradation in antenna connection can cause lag, static, or complete loss of video feed. Also, visually confirm both antennas are in good condition, aligned properly, and not bent or damaged.

7. Verify remote control and drone connectivity

Before takeoff, it’s crucial to verify your remote controller properly connects to the drone and that all control inputs work correctly.

Turn on both the controller and drone. The drone should automatically connect to the remote’s transmission signal. Most drones indicate a connection with beeping sounds.

With the propellers removed, try moving every remote stick and switch to confirm they produce the expected drone movements and mode changes.

Watch the control surface responses closely for any lag, jittering, or failure to move properly.

Also, check that telemetry like battery life, GPS signal, transmission strength, and more display properly on the controller screen.

Everything should immediately update as you interact with the drone. Resolve any connection or functionality issues with the remote before flying. If needed, try re-pairing the controller to the drone or upgrading the controller/drone firmware.

8. Perform an FPV pre-flight hover test

The final precaution before an FPV flight is to do a quick hover test while wearing your goggles. For safety, remove all props except one.

Power up your drone and slowly spin the single prop to low rpm. Carefully observe the FPV video feed from the hover.

Check for any jitter, interference lines, or signal breakup. The video should remain perfectly clear and smooth.

Also, visually inspect the drone for any odd vibrations. An FPV camera will pick up even minor shaking that could indicate a propeller imbalance or mechanical issue.

Next, repeat this hover test for each of the other three props individually while monitoring the FPV feed. This ensures all components are mechanically sound before flight.

If you notice any video disruption or shaking, troubleshoot the cause immediately. Never fly with a questionable signal or vibration. It will only get worse in the air.

Finally, prior to your real flight, do one last FPV range test by walking 30-50 feet away from the powered-up drone while observing the goggle footage. Verify you maintain a clear video downlink even at a distance.

Thoroughly pre-flighting your FPV components will help identify and resolve minor issues that could become major problems once you’re aloft. Taking the time to hover test with FPV provides an added degree of safety.

Final words

Staying on top of routine maintenance and inspections will extend the life of your drone and prevent costly crashes. Get into the habit of performing these 8 preflight checks before each flight.

Just a few minutes of preventative care will give you the peace of mind to fly safely and avoid potential mid-air disasters.

Happy flying, and stay safe out there!

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Written By Kristen Ward

My name is Kristen R. Ward. I’m an adventure Filmmaker and I run a production company based out of New York. FPV drones are integral to my business. I'll be teaching you everything I've learned over the years creating videos for clients.

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