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First Responder battery storage management

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Bene, Aug 11, 2016.

  1. Bene

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    There has been a great deal of discussion regarding the use of UAV's for SAR and Emergency operations. I'm involved in creating an SOP (standard operating procedure) for a regional USAR Task Force (Urban Search and Rescue) regarding the use of UAV during emergency operations.
    My question is, so I'm not reinventing the wheel, does anyone have a battery charge schedule or any plan that allows for a UAV to have charged "ready to fly" power source to allow us to fly the UAV in short order "off the truck"?
    I have always followed the DJI recommendation of storing my inspire batteries at 50% and charging them up before use. This process works great for planned flights, however most emergencies are not planned (I guess that's why they call them emergencies). Waiting for batteries to charge up on scene cuts drastically into the effectiveness of a UAV in a timely manner.
    Do we just need to wait for battery technology to catch up or is there a solution I'm just not aware of?
    Thanks in advance for any input.
     
  2. InspireBart

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    I've some thoughts on what I'd do;

    These are "smart" batteries and will automatically start discharging to a safe storage level on their own after so many days (which it appears you can set) which actually helps as you don't need "discharge" devices.

    I'd estimate how many batteries I would "think" I'd need in a call requiring the use of the UAS. Then double that number of batteries.

    I would then fully charge half the batteries and leave the other half at 50%. Then lets says DJI recommends 7 days as the safe number of days to keep these batteries at full charge, I'd start charging the other half of the batteries on day 6 and let the first half start discharging on their own. I'd do this on day 6 so I had an overlap in available fully-charged batteries. This is the rotation I'd use to ensure I had fully charged batteries on hand without risking battery health.

    That would be the basic "outline" of the process I'd use.

    Of course this method uses "charging" cycles, so the life of your batteries will be shorter than the avg person who flys occasionally whose batteries/bird may sit for a couple weeks. So monitoring battery capacity becomes a more frequent check.

    The other thing is "What if we use a battery/batteries, how does that affect the rotation"? I'd charge the batteries back up and keep them on the same schedule. Sure they may not discharge during their "down" period, but during the next rotation they'd be topped off and be on the same schedule again..

    Again, I think monitoring batteries is going to be the key here to ensure you don't have dead cells, they still have the required capacity, etc...

    I've used Lipos for years racing R/C cars at the local and national level. I regularly stored batteries fully charged for 3-4 weeks without issue. With my UASs, I'm comfortable keeping a battery fully charged up to two weeks without worrying the battery is going to swell or kill they battery. A little smaller window as its more critical in something that flys that the battery not fail...

    Hope this gives you some ideas!
     
  3. Bene

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    Those were along the lines of what I was thinking.... thanks for helping! No matter what we do it will require a great deal of discipline and persistent training. Not an easy nut to crack.......
    Thanks
     
  4. Dave Armbrust

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    My suggestion is to set up a training scheduled where every two weeks you do a training flight, either for yourself or someone else that needs training. A larger concern than the batteries is pilot proficiency. That deteriorates with time just like the batteries.

    Not sure what kind of budget you have for this. Are you on a volunteer basis or contract basis? Do you already work for the agency you are serving in another capacity? Too often there is money for the equipment, but not for the training. Without knowing more about how your budget works it is hard to recommend a procedure. There is the right way to do this and then there is the cheap way to do this. Not sure what your goals are.

    If your program is setup initially with a training schedule, that includes other departments in the training, I think it will expand to the point where the demand could be daily. If it does not, it is likely to be a department toy that stays locked up. After the first accident the attitude will probably change, it will either be "we need more training" or it will be "lets restrict the use of the UAS to a minimum". That will set your course.

    My 2 cents, but I am really interested in hearing your ideas and plans.
     
    InspireBart likes this.
  5. Bene

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    Thanks Dave,

    I completely agree with your comment about flight proficiency being more important that battery maintenance. This is a huge issue that the Fire / SAR agencies will need to deal with. It is also one I've been struggling with while developing an SOP. Firefighters are accustomed to pulling up to the scene, pulling a tool off the truck, and going to work. While the use of UAV's have "game changing" value in everything from, disaster site recon, to sampling air/ product at a Hazmat scene without further endangering personnel, it simply is not, nor can be treated like a breaker hammer pulled from the truck. People are pitching the use of UAV's for the fire service, and if available in a timely fashion, they would change the game!
    Our Task Force draws from over 40 fire depts in a Metro area, while our efforts as a Task Force are on a "volunteer" basis, our members are mostly full time Firefighters, Structural engineers, and Doctors. We are what is referred to as a "Heavy Rescue" Regional Team which dove-tails into the FEMA USAR system.
    My personal experience is, I've been flying UAVs commercially for about 5 years now. I'm proficient enough, I feel, to fly this type of mission. However, my flights have always been preplanned, with time enough to charge up batteries. This is an entirely new demand, to be able to roll onto a scene, do preflight checks, have fully charged batteries, and be able to do some good. Waiting a couple of hours for batteries to top off simply will not work. I'm just wondering if we may be trying to roll out UAV technology before the battery technology is capable.
    My hope is someone has a better mouse trap out there that I can steal from.........
    I hate re-inventing wheels. :)
     
  6. Tom in PA

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    Dave Armbrust's suggestion is right on target. As a former instrument-rated pilot (Mooney M20J), you never get enough training. When I had the Mooney, if I had not flown for two weeks or more, my confidence level dropped. By having regular recurring training your go teams will be ready to fly and the batteries equally so.
    If you have a mandated training schedule your batteries would be in a charging cycle that should match it.
    Weather and other unforeseen events will challenge your training schedule/battery charging. Nevertheless, I have an idea that you will come up with a plan that gives you a 90% ability to fly on-call.
     
  7. Kilrah

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    The technology is perfectly capable, it just has to be applied with the appropriate resources. E.g. keep batteries charged BUT making sure all of the batteries are cycled once every 1-2 weeks, by flying or other automated means (flying preferred as that combines pilot training), and given that this may somewhat reduce their life just replace them more often.

    I.e. while what people would want is of course to have the machine waiting in a box fully ready to use even after 3 months with no maintenance that doesn't work, but it doesn't mean it can't be used - it just means it might be needed to have a guy or 2 working part or full time to take care of the thing, and that you might need to trash your batteries preventively every 6 months instead of expecting them to last 2 years.

    It's just management. Evaluate the costs, see if it works with the budget and seems worth it for the service it can provide, decide whether to implement or not based on that.
     
  8. Inspired Cop

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    I am in the process of developing our drone program for the Sheriff's Office. Battery management is basically making sure that they are charged up every two weeks. I will be the trainer for the other 2 pilots and we will all be taking the Part 107 test for minimum qualifications even though for a public agency, it is not required. We must self-certify as a public agency. Not that money flows like water, but if we need to purchase more batteries, we will, to keep ready for missions. We have 2 drones: Phantom 3 Advanced for training, and Inspire1 for SAR, SRT and accident/crime scene recon.