Update? Calibrate!

Software and firmware run the world of UAS, and some developer/manufacturers offer/require frequent updates. Updates are a component of the maintenance process for any UAS and should be manually checked at minimum, every 30 days. We recommend that any old software/firmware versions be archived if possible, in the event of problems encountered with a new update. Rolling back software is a good option (when possible).  In addition to archiving old software/firmware versions (when possible), it is required by the FAA that any maintenance be logged. This includes logging any software/firmware updates to the aircraft system.

For many UAS pilots/operators, the process ends at the update. In fact, many updates occur in-field with automated software updates being required by some manufacturer/developers, so the pilot uses WiFi or cellular connection to update the aircraft, controller, software, or battery, just before flying the next mission. There have been many instances where the next action with the aircraft is to begin the planned mission.

This is a mistake.

Any time software or firmware on the aircraft, tablet, battery, IMU, or other component of the aircraft is implemented, it is recommended that the aircraft be re-calibrated. This step is frequently put aside in interests of time, and can result in disaster.

The issue this pilot had could have been avoided had the aircraft and system been recalibrated prior to flight. The aircraft is a total loss due to compass error.

Software/Firmware updates are not always reliable and in some cases, result in safety issues. Recalibration is an important step in mitigating risk due to unknown factors generated via the software/firmware update process.  Compass, accelerometer, etc all must be recalibrated. It is also a good idea to let the aircraft sit for a few minutes after powering up, to acquire all satellites prior to flight after a recalibration.

Take 5 to avoid issues. Calibrate after every software/firmware update, and log the calibration along with the notice of update/firmware changelog.  Your flights will be more safe and confident.