Essential First Aid every drone pilot should know

by Richard Warrender on 17 February 2018
Estimated reading time 6 minutes

Every drone pilot should know some basic first aid. Flying drones and model planes is an incredibly rewarding experience however it can be very dangerous. As a drone pilot, you are often balancing machines in the air that have exposed blades rotating at over 5000 revolutions per minute, not to mention that many drones can travel at 30 miles per hour or more. Even a foamy park flier has the potential to cause serious injury! In addition, if you consider many pilots often like to fly in quiet remote locations where help isn't easily accessible, it's even more critical that you should take 5 minutes to learn some basic first every drone pilot should know.

Prevention is better than cure

This should really go without saying but juast to make sure... safety always comes first! Never fly if it is not safe. Next, ensure you are legal. Always check the legal requirements for your drone and that you are following the legal requirements in your country as well as any local by-laws.

I've put together my first aid guide below but following the advice is entirely at your own risk. This is a guide only. Make sure you research and produce your own first aid procedures.

First Aid Equipment

Here is a good list of first aid equipment to take with you on every flight. Make sure you have a similar setup.

  • Camping First Aid & survival kit
  • Heat packs
  • Plasters/bandaids
  • Packs of tissues/Kleenex
  • Drinking water
  • LED Torch
  • Small cooler box/ice bag with cold cans or drinks
  • Plastic sandwich bags
  • Paracetamol or Ibuprofen
  • Mobile phone

Now most injuries tend to fall into three areas. Below you'll also find details on how to avoid these silly accidents.

  1. Prop Finger
  2. Collision
  3. Frostbite

1. Prop Finger

When I was first getting into drones I very quickly discovered that props of any size could be dangerous. Many years ago on my workbench, I had a 2" bendable prop attached to a motor and accidentally touched the spinning blade with my index finger during a test. While the blade was flexible and seemed feeble when stationary when it was spinning at high RPM it was rigid. It tore into my finger leaving a deep laceration which took weeks to heal. I was lucky! My finger was still attached however take my story as a warning.

How to avoid

Consider all blades dangerous, carbon fibre ones doubly so. Always make sure the throttle lever is cut or off before starting. When you have landed, always ensure you cut power completely before walking up to your drone and switch it off ASAP carefully ensuring you don't lean on the throttle lever on the transmitter accidentally.

First Aid

If you have injured your finger with a prop, the first thing to do is to stop the bleeding. You can do this by applying pressure with a wad of tissue or Kleenex for several minutes. If possible, you should try to hold your hand above your head to help reduce the flow of blood. If you have cut your leg, try to raise the wound above the level of your heart by laying down.

Is your finger still attached? If not find your finger ASAP. Remove any jewellery and get out some gauze from your first aid kit. Dampen it a little with some water and wrap the finger up. Next, pop the gauze in a plastic sandwich bag and place it in a cooler box if you brought one with you. Phone 911 or 999 immediately and get to a hospital to get your finger attached ASAP.

However, if the injury is minor, when the wound has stopped bleeding you should clean it with drinking water (apparently antiseptic sprays delay healing but do as you wish). Pat it dry with a clean tissue and apply a plaster/band-aid to help it avoid getting infected. Pack your stuff up and get further medical assistance if needed.

2. Collision

When flying in a group you'd be surprised how easy some things can get out of hand. I once watched a cocky pilot decide to ignore all safety rules and strafe fellow pilots with his foamy park flier to show off his skill. He thought that it wasn't dangerous because it was made of foam. I remember vividly as he came in to do a strafe of a fellow pilot, twitched the wrong way on the controls as he was pulling up and watching in horror as the park flier crashed into the other pilot's head. The injured pilot fell backwards to the floor and dropped his transmitter. His aircraft smashed to pieces on the ground and needless to say he isn't flying any more.

Luckily this was a pusher modal plane - the propeller was on the back and the front had a big foamy nose however it could have easily resulted in a loss of someone's eye, someone losing consciousness or worse.

How to avoid

Just don't do it! Never fly at someone, an animal or even a vehicle. Just don't do it! It really isn't worth it. You could be liable for damages, you would probably invalidate your flying insurance and many other things not to mention ruining your day and someone else's day.

First Aid

In the case of a head injury stop flying. If you feel faint, tell someone straight away as there is a risk you could lose consciousness. Press something cold against the injury and stop any bleeding. Seek medical advice immediately as any bruising could lead to serious complications such as you passing out.

For eye injuries I think it's best to point you to the St. John Ambulance website on eye injury first aid you can also find out more on head injury first aid there too.

3. Frostbite

Particularly in the winter months temperatures can be bitter. While it's obvious you should wrap up warm, standing around flying a drone can mean you don't notice the cold. We've all experienced flying in cold weather having lots of fun and then suddenly noticing numb fingers on the transmitter.

How to avoid

Wrap up warm, wear gloves if it doesn't impact your ability to control the drone. Limit drone flights to no more than 10 minutes at a time and then warm up in the car for 15 minutes or more. Bring a flash of hot coffee or soup with you and also consider heat packs that skiers use.

First Aid

If you can't feel your fingers anymore, put them under your armpits and go somewhere warm immediately such as the car or indoors. You don't want to warm the fingers up too fast as this could damage them. You want to do it slowly. Once somewhere warm remove jewellery and place your hands in very lukewarm water. Again you want to do this slowly and gradually bringing your hands up to temperature. Once they warm up and you start to regain feeling, consider a dressing if needed. Again the St John Ambulance website has a good page on how to treat frostbite

Summary

Hopefully, you should now be aware of some first aid techniques in case of an emergency. It is important to produce a plan before you fly so should the unthinkable happen you know what to do. Remember always fly safe and have fun!