Planning an Operation
Planning a successful operation requires effective use of the map and flight areas. For primers on either of those topics, click here for documentation on the map, or here for information about using flight areas.
To get started with operations planning, from the Map use either the New Operation function from the airspace cards at lower-left, or the ‘+’ sign on an existing area of operation in the Flight Area Library:
Once the flight area has been defined and you’ve used one of the methods above to attach that area to an Operation, you’ll notice that the screen will redirect you to the Operations tab.
You’ll notice that the flight area designated on the previous screen populates the flight area box at right, and that there are a number of fields on the left that need to be completed so that the Operation can be documented accurately.
Start by adding the Date(s) and Time(s) of the operation using the fields toward the top of the screen. Please note that if using LAANC as a part of this operation, the longest window that you can use in these fields is 12 hours. Additionally, if requesting LAANC, the operation must occur during daylight hours.
Next, select the Pilot in Command and Crew for this operation. These drop-downs are populated from the list of personnel in the Personnel setup menu.
Once you’ve added a crew member, boxes will appear to add additional crew if necessary.
Following Crew, add the Aircraft, Batteries, and Payload(s) needed to accomplish the operation. Batteries and Aircraft pull from the preconfigured list of your inventory, which can be viewed in the Manage tab.
Payloads are a free-text field and can be added as needed.
Once those items are done, you can also use the operations planning screen to add Internal Notes, if applicable. Often, these are used for concrete operational details that go beyond the drop-downs, or to detail safety risks or hazards for your team.
The weather can also be viewed once a date, time, and flight area have been populated. This will give an approximation of the weather three days in advance, day of, and three days after your Operation. Please review the actual on-site weather in addition to referencing Skyward.
If flying in an area where LAANC facility grids overlap your flight area, you’ll see the pane for requesting a LAANC authorization in the lower-right of the screen, just below the mini-map. If you have further questions about the LAANC authorization process, please visit our LAANC Airspace article.
Operation Actions and Checklists
Now that the basics of the Operation have been configured, you can start to focus on preparing to be on-site and flying. Skyward has a number of tools to help manage the changing conditions of operations, and to ensure that you're as prepared as possible when on-site.
First, let’s review a few options in the Actions menu at the top-right of an Operation.
From top to bottom:
- The Log Operation button changes the status of the operation to indicate that the operation has been completed and the information in the operation shouldn't be changed. Logging an operation does remove the ability to add and remove flights from the operation.
- The Submit NOTAM button will generate a NOTAM to be filed with the local ATC as a means of alerting other air traffic in the area.
- Note that generally NOTAMs are only really necessary for complex operations in controlled airspace and urban environments. Not all operations warrant a NOTAM.
- NOTAMs are only available to Skyward's Business and Enterprise subscribers.
- Notify Crew allows for email notifications to be sent to those that are listed as crew on the Operation. More on this feature will follow below.
- Download Report allows for a .txt of the operational details to be generated. This can be a useful tool if flights need to be approved by external stakeholders, or if you need documentation in an environment with limited internet access.
- Duplicate Operation allows for a copy of this operation to be made. This is a great tool if flying the same job sites over a standard interval (e.g. progress photos once a week at a construction site).
- Delete Operation allows you to delete the operation if it was a duplicate or is no longer a viable mission.
Notifying Crew of Operational Changes
If important changes to an operation take place, Skyward gives a mechanism to notify those involved of the changes via the Notify Crew button in the Actions menu. Selecting Notify Crew will allow for an email to be composed directly from Skyward that the operator can use to convey important information, without the need to go back to their inbox.
Simply enter the information necessary in the Body box, and then select those attached to the operation at the left that should receive the email. Please note that All Organization Admins, and anyone listed as Crew in an operation will appear in this list.
Some general uses for this feature may be:
- As a pilot, asking a flight dispatcher for approval to fly that Operation
- Notifying those on your team of changes in weather at the job site
- Clarifying the safety case for the operation ahead of going out into the field
- Changing the location or canceling the job
If multiple notifications are used in the Operation, you’ll be able to see the complete list in the Notification History List, available from the upper-left corner, which includes the Date, Sender, Message, and Personnel that the message was sent to. This is a perfect way to view an audit of communication relative to that operation. Once done reviewing the notifications list, select Close to return to the Operation.
Once an operation has been created and saved, you may also add and/or complete Checklists associated with the operation. You’ll see the Checklists icon at the top-right of the operation.
If the icon is orange, that means that there are checklists already assigned to the Operation that need to be completed. Clicking the checklists icon will reveal the list of checklists assigned. Any already completed checklists will show with a green checkmark to the left. Otherwise, you can see the status bar that measures checklist progress.
Click on the checklist to review the items associated with it and complete any associated pre-flight or pre-operational checks.
Additionally, if there are other checklists not added to your Operation by default, they can always be added using the Add Checklist option at the bottom of the checklists pane. This will take you to a list of available checklists that can be added to the operation for completion.
For general information about creating, editing, and assigning checklists, please click here.