Awareness and Preparation
You can prevent accidents through awareness and preparation. We provide a reminder card with your robot for you to consult before each mission. This article covers the safety features, settings and procedures for responsible use of your Spiri robots. Foremost comes your role in good planning.
Whatever else we advise you in this article or otherwise, you are solely responsible for your robot missions. You must consult the laws and regulations of your country and locality and obey them. This might include a requirement to register your Spiri product with your country's aviation authority, or to submit special requests to conduct autonomous or non-line-of-sight missions. Below are links to the aviation authority websites of several English speaking countries.
- Australia: https://www.casa.gov.au/aircraft/landing-page/flying-drones-australia
- Canada: https://www.tc.gc.ca/en/services/aviation/drone-safety.html
- New Zealand: https://www.caa.govt.nz/unmanned-aircraft/
- United Kingdom: https://www.caa.co.uk/Consumers/Unmanned-aircraft-and-drones/
- United States: https://www.faa.gov/uas/
You must not launch a drone within 1km of a heliport or 7km of a runway used for manned flights, nor in restricted airspace, nor fly over highways, port facilities, disaster zones, or crowds.
You should take all of the following into consideration prior to your mission.
- Comfort: Do you have comfortable clothing for the conditions, a supply of water and other provisions?
- Equipment: Do you have all the equipment, including spare parts, repair tools and batteries you might need? Do you have a class C fire extinguisher? What is the range of your Wi-Fi antenna? Will you have cell data service?
- First Aid: Do you have first aid supplies and skills appropriate to the mission and the team? How will you contact emergency services for help if you need it?
- Ground: Is the ground solid or is it marshy? Are there rivers and lakes in the area? Is there thick brush? Are you familiar with the ways in and out of the mission area?
- Home: Have you marked your equipment with your registration information and home base location? Have you informed someone at your home base of your mission plan?
- Lines: Are there electrical or telecommunications lines or towers in the area?
- Permission: Do you have permission to conduct the mission, and are you required to submit a flight plan?
- Pests: What insects, diseases, or dangerous animals might be in the mission area, and are you prepared for them?
- Topology: How high is the top of the tree canopy? Are there buildings or other structures? Is the ground level or are there ravines, boulders, cliffs, or difficult slopes?
- Weather: What is the forecast? How does this affect your mission plan as well as your route home?
If anything changes from your plan that makes the mission significantly more dangerous, you should not carry on. If you encounter another drone operator in the mission area, you should share your plans to ensure you can safely operate.
We recommend, and it is a requirement in some jurisdictions, that a Spiri user also be a qualified, licensed operator of the robotic vehicle, even if the only use anticipated is autonomous flight. The following are qualifications we recommend for anyone who intends to use Spiri:
- a drone operator's certificate or license issued or approved by the appropriate regulatory authority,
- a first aid certificate,
- a certificate of completion or similar credential on programming autonomous missions.
Any Spiri user should also complete in full the tutorial we provide for basic use, the Spiri Level 0 Basic Tutorial. We encourage users to upgrade their knowledge and skills through practice and study.
There are numerous settings on Spiri that govern what actions it takes when its battery is depleted, when it finds itself outside a set distance from its launch position, when it loses internal or network communications, when it loses the ability to navigate visually or through global navigation satellite systems, when it bumps into something, when it calculates that it cannot complete a mission, and so on. These are programmed into the flight controller, and you can adjust and customize them either through a graphical user interface such as QGroundControl, or by using the scripts we provide for this purpose. These scripts assign all the safety settings with one command. This is faster and less prone to error than using the GUI, and it enables you to build up a repertoire of settings for different missions. This way, you may maintain settings that are appropriate for all the different locations and conditions in which you operate.
The practice we recommend is that you leave the original script, spiri_params.sh, alone, and create adjustment scripts, mission_name_params.sh, for particular mission environments. When you switch from one set of parameters to another, do it in two steps:
- Run our spiri_params.sh script;
- Run your mission_name_params.sh script.
As an example, consider two mission areas: in one, there is low, flat terrain with overhead power lines at a height of 10m; in the other, there is a variety of meadow and forest, with the top of the trees at 35m. There is a safety setting, in the event you need to abort the mission and land at the nearest rally point, that assigns a height for the robot to fly. In the first case, you would want to set that height safely below 10m and in the second case, you would want to set it safely above 35m. This is a situation where your safety action, if you fail to set it appropriately, could cause a major accident.
Geofences and Rally Points
A geofence provides a boundary outside which Spiri will not wander. A simple geofence can be defined by a radius limit and a height limit relative to the robot's starting location. A suitable geofence provides reassurance that your robot will not stray into restricted airspace or accidentally wander away and lose contact with you. In setting up a geofence, the principle is straight-forward: proscribe any area where you do not want Spiri to go. This may include power line rights of way, highways, or other danger zones, depending on your mission.
A rally point is a safe location for Spiri to land besides the home (launching) point. Select rally points for a mission area that are within the geofence, and ensure that Spiri will never be more than 120m from one. Each rally point should be flat and clear for a radius of about 1m, on dry ground you can safely access. You should go to each rally point to make sure it is a suitable place for either a routine or an emergency landing.
The practice we advise around geofences and rally points is to save a mission_area_name.sh script that writes these settings into the flight controller for each mission area, similar to the safety parameters script. This keeps the rally points and geofence separate from your other safety settings for a mission, which may be useful if there are potentially different strata your robots will operate in for different missions in the same area. This adds a third preparatory script for each mission:
- Run our spiri_params.sh script;
- Run your mission_name_params.sh script;
- Run your mission_area_name_params.sh script.
Spiri uses four 21700 type Li-ion batteries. Be very careful with these batteries. Consult the battery safety card for the complete warning. In short, misusing or mishandling the battery may cause a fire or an explosion. Do not use these batteries except for your Spiri device. Also remember the following:
- In carrying and handling the batteries, be certain they cannot accidentally short circuit. Carry them in a pack designed for this purpose, not loose or with other objects.
- Store the batteries in a case designed to transport them, with that case inside a fireproof container, such as a stainless steel toolbox. Line the inside of this box with fire retardant cloth.
- When charging the batteries, only use the charger we supply or another one designed for this purpose, do so on a fireproof surface away from flammable material, and do not charge them beyond the limits specified.
- When using the batteries, do not mix old with new ones, and do not use batteries of different models, discharge rates, or voltages.
- If there is anything at all suspicious about a battery, stop using it immediately – this could be an unusual smell or sound, color change or swelling, or excessive heat. In such a situation, place the battery in a stainless steel can filled with sand for safe disposal later.
- Do not use a battery is it is damaged, its wrapper is torn, or it has been in a serious vehicle crash. Never attempt to disassemble, modify, puncture, cut, crush, or incinerate a battery.
- Do not dispose of any battery in normal trash, take it to a facility that handles spent Li-ion batteries. Do not attempt to neutralize a battery unless you are qualified to do so and working in a safe facility for this purpose.