Getting interested in drones for pleasure or work? There are a number of great apps out there that can help make your flight planning a lot easier, and here are 10 that I’ve personally had a lot of luck with:
AirMap: For those who are FAA-certificated drone pilots, AirMap (see slideshow below) is an essential part of your toolbox. This free app lets you access airspace advisories, file digital notices, manage aircraft, and more. Get a flight weather briefing, see real-time traffic alerts, and fill out checklists before a flight. The app usually gets 4-star ratings on the iTunes App Store. You immediately see all controlled airspace, heliports, and schools -- all areas that should be avoided or at least known prior to flight. Soon, US Part 107 pilots will be able to request automated FAA airspace authorization to fly in controlled airspace with the app (currently being tested in Cincinnati, Lincoln, Reno, and San Jose).
Hover: One of my personal favorites, Hover, is another free app that provides maps (thoughtfully provided by those folks who made the AirMap app, weather data, a way to create flight logs for individuals and teams with multiple drones, a flight readiness indicator that immediately lets you know if it’s safe to fly a drone both by location and weather conditions, and a news feed of drone-related news.
SkyCharts: Those flying for business need to know what class of airspace they’re flying in, and SkyCharts is a wonderful app showing sectional maps of just about any US airspace. SkyCharts XC EFB (Electronic Flight Book) also shows weather METARs as well as TFRs. The charts are updated every 28 days. Free to download with a $3.99 per month in-app subscription.
UAV Forecast: Probably the best weather app for UAV pilots, the free UAV Forecast app (see slideshow below) provides a simple and immediate “Go / No-Go” warning with details on weather conditions including wind (speed and direction), wind chill, precipitation probability, cloud cover, visibility and even geomagnetic activity (important because it can play havoc with drone navigation). The app also displays how many satellites are visible and how many your drone is locked onto, and will warn of any nearby no-fly zones or temporary flight restrictions. A $23.99 annual subscription provides even more weather data.
LiveATC: Professional drone pilots may need to be in contact with a control tower or pilots during a flying session, and LiveATC is a great way to learn the lingo of both pilots and controllers worldwide as they orchestrate the arrival or departure of aircraft. Fascinating even if you’re not a pilot!
WindAlert: One of the few things that can ground a drone pilot is severe wind, and the free Wind Alert app (with in-app purchases) provides real-time wind reports from over 50,000 weather stations worldwide. A simple map shows speed and direction of wind near you, or you can look at trends or detailed forecasts for specific locations.
DroneDeploy: DroneDeploy is a cloud software platform for drone mapping and 3D modeling. This free app works with the DroneDeploy service to automate flight planning with most of the DJI drone line, leading to complete automated flights and capture of map data.
MapPilot: Like DroneDeploy, Map Pilot is used to create and fly optimal flight paths for creating maps using the Maps Made Easy map processing service. The app is $9.99, and supports most DJI drones with the exception of the Spark. One nice feature is that No Fly Zones are displayed both online and offline, and the pilot does not need to be connected to the aircraft to do flight planning.
Prepware Remote Pilot: Studying for the Remote Pilot (Unmanned Aircraft General - Small) FAA Knowledge Exam? This $4.99 app provides questions, answers and explanations for the exam and is a perfect accompaniment to other study materials.
Verifly: For commercial drone liability insurance, Verifly is the way to go. You basically pay by the length of your flight, so for a particular drone flying job you can buy up to $10 million of liability insurance, immediately share an insurance certificate with a client, and get to work. It’s possible to choose the area covered, the total time, the insurance limit, the weight of your drone, whether the drone work is being done inside or outside, and whether or not racing or contests are involved. An estimate is provided and the purchase is made immediately.
If you’re a drone pilot and don’t see your favorite app on this list, be sure to let us know what you like and why. Just leave a note in the comments below.