I’ve tried a lot of different naming conventions for files over the years including client name or initials, date, drone type, and different combinations including some or all of those options. The system that has been most effective and workflow-friendly has simply been to use the date. Typically, drones collect a lot of data and it can be difficult and time-consuming to keep them organized. By using the date the data was captured as the file name, and appropriately named folders, I can quickly and easily transfer and organized client data.
Before taking the data off the drone or the SD card on the drone, I change the name to reflect the date the data was captured. This is very easy to do on both a Mac or a PC. I usually use a PC as my primary computer so, in file explorer, I view the files on the SD card and select them all. I then left mouse click on the first image and choose “rename” from the options. I then give that file a name based on the date it was captured. Ex 08-02-21, then press enter. All selected files will be renamed with that date and numbered in parenthesis as part of the file name. Ex 08-02-21 (1), 08-02-21 (2), 08-02-21 (3) and so on. It’s a similar procedure on the Mac but more intuitive when choosing multiple files to rename at the same time. Once the files are renamed, it’s time to transfer them to the client’s file.
I keep a folder on the computer called “Folder Template” with subfolders within the main folder that are named according to most of the data I collect for clients. All the folders are empty but it makes it very easy to set up a new client folder with a simple copy and paste. When setting up a new client, I create a folder with the client’s name and then paste the template folders into that folder. Even if I don’t use all the folders on the job, it’s still very easy and intuitive to populate the folders with the right data when transferring from the drone or the SD card. If a job requires a folder that doesn’t exist, it’s easy to add one.
This is especially helpful when shooting multiple jobs in a single day or collecting the data for multiple jobs on one SD card.
When transferring a lot of data especially a mix of different kinds of data for multiple jobs, it’s helpful to use cut and paste to transfer instead of copy and paste. By using cut and paste, the files are moved from their original location on the drone or SD card to the client folders. When copy and paste is used, the files are duplicated in the client folders and it can be confusing to determine what has and has not been transferred. This is a small detail but the cut and paste method saves a lot of time and headache when dealing with large amounts of data.
Backing up your data is a must and drone work creates a lot of data to back up. One of the easiest and most affordable ways to backup data is by using Dropbox. As soon as the data is transferred to your hard drive, the backup begins automatically so you don’t even have to give it a second thought. Dropbox does more than just backup data and is a great tool for drone work. Learn more about it by reading our Dropbox For Drone Work article. Although Dropbox is a great solution for backup, it can move from affordable to expensive if you rely on it as your sole source for backing up current and archive data.
I use Dropbox for current client projects and eventually move older data to an external hard drive. I’ve provided some of my favorite external hard drive solutions on this page. I prefer a desktop model with software that will automatically back up data. These units generally plug into an outlook for power, connect to your computer, and are used just like another hard drive but with much more space.
Consider a portable unit if you want to back up data while out in the field. I take one of these on multiple day jobs to make sure the data is backed up daily. Since these units are portable, they don’t need to be plugged in for power and just need to be plugged into the computer in order to work. A 1 or 2 TB portable drive should be enough and is a nice tool to have if you ever need to deliver a lot of data to a client in person. This is not my preferred delivery method but is sometimes necessary for the client.
Don’t forget to check out our Dropbox For Drone Work article for an explanation of my preferred delivery method.