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Standards Matter – Building an SOP for Drone Operations

Aerial Data Collection

Standards have long been a hallmark of manned aviation. Well before drones came on the scene professional aviators recognized the benefits of helping aviators carry out routine and complex missions. Standard Operating Procedures were developed with the goal of improving both safety and mission success by providing pilots with a framework to operate within. These SOPs enabled more effective and efficient operations (a worthwhile goal for any business) and yielded a basis for standardized procedures to assist decision making when problems arose. When confronted with emergencies, pilots equipped with SOPs have a solid foundation and start point for handling deteriorating scenarios.

At HAZON we see no reason to leave behind the valuable lessons of manned aviation as we move forward in the unmanned world. Very clearly UASs are aircraft and subject to the same dynamic operating environment that manned aircraft are. Notably, unmanned aircraft also carry with them a stigma in the eyes of many.

Our industry shares a reputation across every brand and every segment. We are all working together where public and private opinions are concerned. Unmanned systems are gaining ground in the battle of open acceptance, but we are subject to potential setbacks from even a single bad actor or poorly informed decision. HAZON looks to further our entire industry by sharing our learned lessons and operating techniques that have been collected and developed from thousands of flight hours supporting a variety of UAS missions; after all, on this tide all boats will rise.

No SOP can possibly cover every situation a pilot will encounter, the world is too fluid, the business too dynamic. Bad ones will attempt to over regulate a pilot’s actions and mitigate risk through a cover-our-a$# approach. Good ones cover just the highest probability situations. Great ones go a step further providing a decision-making philosophy and guidance on overall risk tolerance. SOPs are crucial to continuous improvement, as they change and get updated through the recognition of prior mistakes or inefficiencies, so does the organization change by learning and getting better.


Building an SOP from scratch is no easy task, below are a few high-level considerations. Take them or leave them, but we encourage every operator to build a core SOP of their own.


Key components: operating procedures, maintenance, safety, training

  • Operating procedures

    • What is your mission as an organization, what is the purpose of this document and who is responsible for updating it
    • What are your expectations of flight team’s qualifications, currency and proficiency
    • How do you prepare for flight operations
    • What are your Go/No-Go criteria….at what point do you call off flight operations
    • What do you cover in your pre-flight briefing, post-flight debriefing
    • How do crew members communicate during flight operations
    • What are your five most likely emergencies and what are your responses to them
    • How do you handle data generated from flight operations
    • How are you logging personal and aircraft flight logs
    • What are your business related communication plans
  • Maintenance procedures

    • How do you count wear and tear on your aircraft, flights, flight hours, calendar days
    • How often do you inspect your aircraft
    • What are your preventative maintenance procedures
  • Safety program

    • Do you have safety specific guidelines not covered in your operating procedures
    • Do you apply a decision making process such as Operational Risk Mitigation or Safety Risk Mitigation
  • Training

    • What are your initial training plans
    • How often does your team need to conduct refresher training on flight operations, safety processes, other critical functions
    • How do you record this
    • Do you have safety specific guidelines not covered in your operating procedures
    • Do you apply a decision making process such as Operational Risk Mitigation or Safety Risk Mitigation

Our Mission

The delivery of actionable information that enhances our client’s efficiency and reliability by executing and enabling unmanned flight operations founded on naval aviation principles.

Customers First…Safety Always!

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HAZON Solutions is the industry leader - Providing unmanned aerial inspection services, capability development and professional grade drone fleet management software.

Safe | Effective | Efficient

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