I realized soon after I got my first drone that if I made a mistake I could end up hurting someone or damaging their property. I checked into getting a liability insurance policy, but couldn't find one that wasn't too expensive. I didn't need liability for every flight, but there were times when I was shooting a house or business that I wanted to be covered.
Then I heard about VeriFly. VeriFly lets you buy a liability insurance policy to cover you for a specific location and time period for a very reasonable price. It's available for both iOS and Android devices. Here's how it works:
When you launch Verifly it will detect your location and show you the price to purchase a policy. If you tap on the options button in the lower right you can select options to tailor the policy to your needs. Every time you change one of the options, the estimated price will update.
Here's a tip that can save you a few dollars. By default, the app draws a circle with a quarter mile radius around your current location. If that circle happens to include something like a school or hospital, the cost of your insurance is going to be higher. But if your flight plan isn't going to take you over that area of the map, just tap the screen and slide the location a little bit. Once the the school (in the case of this example) was no longer within the default radius the price of insurance dropped $5.00. Just make sure you don't fly beyond the boundary indicated on the map.
One thing I don't like about VeriFly is that you get charged more if you are flying in certain areas, even if you are authorized to fly there. The biggest problems are Heliports (which most hospitals have) and Seaplane Bases, which often means there is one seaplane on a lake. While you can easily unlock the areas and get insurance, you will pay a premium. I understand from an insurance perspective that there is more risk. But from a pilot's perspective, I am doing everything possible to mitigate risk. It is what it is, just be aware that you will pay more is some areas. VeriFly is available in the United States in all states except New York and North Dakota.
Before you fly, you absolutely must check to be sure that you are flying in an area that doesn't have any airspace restrictions. You need to do this every time you fly. It doesn't matter if you're flying in a spot you have flown a hundred times before, there could be a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) in effect for any number of reasons.
AirMap makes it easy to verify that you are clear to fly. It's available for both iOS and Android devices. The best part? It's free. Here's a quick look at how it works.
When you launch AirMap it will show your current location on a map. It will also show any controlled airspaces where you will not be able to fly without a waiver from the FAA. If there are any TFRs in effect, those will also show up on the map. The map shown at the left, below is for flying with a Part 107 Certification. One of the big advantages of having your Part 107 (besides being able to get paid for flying) is you don't need to notify smaller airports if you are flying in the area. Tap the "What's Your Mission?" button at the bottom of the screen, select "Fly for Fun" and the map changes dramatically. Each of the areas highlighted in orange is an airport, heliport or Seaplane base. If you are going to fly within any of these areas, you are required to contact them first.
You can tap on the warning triangle near the bottom of the screen to see a list of the Advisories. Tap on any of the categories and you will get more details. Just remember, these advisories are based on whatever is visible on the map, not your location. As long as the blue dot showing your location is not in one of the restricted areas you are OK to fly.
If you are flying for fun and need to fly within one of the restricted areas, AirMap will provide the phone number of the airport. That's a huge help. Otherwise you would have to go online and search for the particular airport, then sort through the various phone numbers to find the right one to call. Some airports now accept digital notification which you can do right from AirMap. If you are flying commercially with a Part 107 Certification, you will still need to use the FAA website to apply for a waiver in most cases. However, there are some airports that are part of a test to be able to give instant authorization to fly within their airspace. If you are fortunate enough to be near one of these airports, you can submit your authorization request from AirMap. Hopefully, within the next year all major airports in the US will have this capability.
Besides the DJI Go4 app, there are some additional apps every drone pilot needs. One of these is UAV Forecast which will let you quickly check the weather. The app is easy to use and available for free for both iOS and Android devices.
Some people would argue that you don't really need a weather app to determine if it is a good day to fly. Just stick your head outdoors and look. They have a point, but what if I want to know what the weather is like 50 miles away before I drive there? Or what if I want to know how hard the wind is blowing at 150 feet up? That's why I use this app every time I fly. One quick glance tells me what you need to know. You can set the thresholds for the various parameters in the settings panel. You can also view a two day forecast (seven days if you upgrade to the premium version). A feature I check regularly is the Wind Profile which shows wind speeds at various altitudes. UAV Forecast also has a map showing flight restrictions, but I find the one in AirMap to be easier to use.