Tips & Training

Media Management Best Practices for Your Public Safety Drone Program

A single UAS flight can produce an enormous volume of images and videos which makes managing media a challenging and a critical part of your program. For example, if you fly a mission to capture images for use with photogrammetry software like Pix4D or image scanning software Loc8, your success depends completely on the quality, availability, and authenticity of the media that you collect. Even for non-law enforcement operators, media you capture with your drone could become important evidence in a legal case.

Since most drones use SD cards to store media as images and video on the drone, appropriately selecting and handling these diminutive devices could be a key factor in your program’s overall success. Below you’ll find our recommendations for avoiding common SD card pitfalls.

Don’t lose them

Because of their size, micro-SD cards can be easily lost, misplaced, and simply overlooked, especially during intense operational situations. SD card holders are great tools for helping people keep tabs on these tiny storage devices. We think they’re so valuable for public safety drone programs that we’ve handed them out at trade shows around the country.

Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines

Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for file format and storage size. Some drones may not provide a clear warning when an SD card is not loaded properly. Older, slower cards may not even load, or might not save larger files during flight.

Choose the right card for the job

In general, if you will be primarily shooting 1080P video (at less than 120 FPS) and taking single photos, then you should be able to use UHS Speed Class 1 (U1) or Speed Class 10 SD cards. If you will be shooting 4K video and photo modes that take multiple photos in short succession, then the UHS Speed Class 3 (U3) SD will be a better investment. There are several manufacturers that make suitable SD cards, but we’ve found that the SanDisk Extreme Pro (or similarly spec’d cards) are the most reliable option for most aircraft and cameras.

Define clear procedures

You will want to define procedures for how to handle SD cards and any media captured in flight. Law enforcement agencies will need to pay extra attention to this and should be mindful of how chain of custody rules and privacy-related policies are followed. Evidence handling training and procedures must be provided to all parties in events where non-law enforcement operators provide support for law enforcement operations.

It is considered best practice to load clean, freshly formatted SD cards prior to flight, and check your connection to storage before you take off (especially for drones that have onboard file storage as well). Retrieve SD cards immediately and make sure all cards are accounted for and secured after a mission is complete. Have dedicated storage locations identified for extra cards when not in use.

If you have any questions about any of these recommendations, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at for more information.