How To Make Money With Drones – 15 Factors To Consider Before Jumping Into BusinessJanuary 15, 2020
Some people buy a drone just because they think it would be cool to have one. Other’s look to drones as a way to experience the freedom of flight without the associated risks and costs. Then there are the people who look to drones as a business opportunity.
This post will focus on the latter. We’ll discuss how to make money with drones and cover topics such as learning about the subject, external factors to consider, equipment, and how the latest news could impact drone businesses.
By the time you’ve finished reading this post, you should have a good idea if going into business with a drone is right for you.
Table of Contents
I’ll mainly focus on building businesses using easily accessible, consumer-grade drones but will also touch on the potential that specialized, more expensive drones can bring to your business.
Let’s start with learning about making money with drones…
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How Do I Go About Learning How To Make Money With Drones?
Well, you’re off to a good start here on Mavic Maniacs. I have several posts that touch on all sorts of related topics. From drone reviews and accessories to consider to on-demand drone job companies, insurance, and coverage on the latest rules and regulations, you’ll find something relevant to your situation.
Here are a few of my favorite posts:
There are plenty more as well.
Now the two examples above are for people looking for a quick and easy way to start making money with their drones. In all honesty, it’s not going to make you a lot of money, and you’re competing with a lot of other pilots using the same service in your area. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been alerted to a job near me only to see that someone else has snatched it up before I could even acknowledge it.
More Difficult But More Rewarding
If you’re looking to build a drone business, from the ground up, then you’re going to need to set yourself apart from the everyday drone pilot out there.
Consider the type(s) of services you want to offer. They could be roof inspections, aerial shots for realtors, video services for commercials and film, and so on. Maybe pipeline or power line inspection might interest you.
You can even focus on farming as an example. Offering crop health imagery or spraying services is another way to go and can be both exciting and lucrative.
For these types of endeavors, you’re better off using your Google-Fu and searching for drones and crops, drones and farming, or drones and line inspections, etc. for more information. I did mention drones and agriculture in this post if you’re looking for more drone use cases for farming specifically.
Before you make a decision on which sector you want to pursue, you should consider external factors that may come into play…
What External Factors Should I Consider?
It seems as if there’s nothing in this world that isn’t affected by external factors. The same is true for droning and drone businesses. Here are some of the more obvious factors to consider:
Rules and Regulations
Know the laws and regulations that apply to your region. Now, this isn’t only the FAA (or whatever governing body controls the airspace where you operate), but things like license and permit requirements to perform the jobs you intend to offer.
This one is similar to rules and regulations but warrants its own entry here. Some jobs may require specific training or certification to be able to offer and perform legally. Oil pipeline inspection may require a particular certification, for example. Now, in the USA, to offer your services for hire as a drone pilot, you must obtain your FAA Part 107 certificate, etc.
The Cost of Doing Business
Business expenses are commonly overlooked. Advertising, equipment, business licensing, and so on, all factor into the decision on whether to go into business in the first place.
Protect yourself and your clients. Insurance is a must these days. Everything seems to turn into a lawsuit, and you don’t want to skip this must-have protection blanket. You should consider not only insurance for your drone but liability and injury insurance as well.
Don’t bite off more than you can chew. It’s easy to get caught up in the dream yet not be able to provide the service. Start at your skill level and build your way up or consider honing your skills before opening your doors.
I’m sure there are other factors to consider, but these are the ones that come to mind right away.
Now that you have an idea of what to keep an eye out for, let’s talk about equipment…
How About Equipment?
Although some businesses can be started with no physical equipment, a drone business is not one of them. Obviously, at the very least, you’ll need a drone. As to the type of drone, well, that depends on your goals and business focus. Of course, a drone alone is not enough. You’re going to need accessories and other equipment to make it all happen.
Here’s a list of equipment that you’ll probably need to run your drone company successfully:
One or More Drones
Depending on your operation, you’ll need one or more drones to provide the service(s). The type of drone is another story. This will depend greatly on the services your offering.
If it’s crop-related, chances are you’re going to look for a drone equipped with special cameras and/or spraying mechanisms, etc.
Now, if you’re doing pipeline inspections, again, a special camera, probably thermal, will most likely be required.
At the same time, if you’re simply doing roof inspections or aerial footage for realtors, a simple consumer market drone with a decent camera will be all that you need.
The business will falter, and it will take you forever to complete jobs if you only have one battery for your drone. One of the best investments you can make is to pick up three or four more, for those bigger jobs that take more than 20 minutes to complete.
At some point, you’re going to want to edit images and footage. You can hire this out, but you’re probably better off performing this service in house and saving that money. A good computer can go a long way toward making this part of the business faster and easier.
Depending on the service you’re providing, you may need to purchase specific items. For example, if you’re doing high-precision mapping, you might need special markers and other devices that work with the drone and software to achieve that higher accuracy.
Dedicated Controller or Phone/Tablet
Most of the drones on the market use applications for drone control. As such, a specialized controller or a standard controller connected to a phone or tablet that can run these apps is a must. The higher the specs, the better as these apps are updated often and tend to be resource-intensive.
At a minimum, the application designed for your specific drone model should be in your arsenal of tools. That said, there are several specialized and dedicated apps to consider, as well. Some of these apps are simple tools used to plot and fly predetermined routes or obtain a panoramic image, etc., where others are more involved and serve a single purpose such as 3D mapping and so on.
What’s great about the drone industry is you can use several apps and aren’t tied to a single offering. Do yourself a favor, figure out what services you want to offer, and then start looking for apps that fit it.
I’ve written a review of my top apps for my Mavic Pro. It’s a bit dated but will give you a good idea of what’s out there.
There are basic necessities to consider, as well. Things like bags and cases, multi-chargers, lens filters, and so on can make your life so much easier and save you a lot of time.
Check out my Essential DJI Mavic 2 Accessories post for examples of what you might want.
The list above is a pretty good reference for things to consider, equipment-wise. I’m sure there is more that you’ll probably need, but this should get you through most of it.
Since we’ve covered a lot of territory so far, I want to end with the whole “should you do it” side of the equation…
With The Latest Drone News, Is It Wise To Try To Build A Drone Business Today?
If you’ve read my recent post titled “The FAA’s Remote ID Proposal,” you can see that the droning community is a little annoyed and concerned as to the way things are heading. This brings up the obvious question, “Should you start a drone business at this time?”.
My initial gut-feeling is, Yes. Even though the proposed rules are devastating to the hobbyist pilot, they’re pretty great for the commercial side of things. That said, these are only proposed rules and are very likely to change (I’m assuming to a more favorable outcome for hobbyists as well).
What’s important here is that these rules will be at least three years out. There’s no reason to put off starting a drone business for that length of time and miss out on the opportunities available now. At the very least, you’ll be able to adapt to the new rules once they’re cemented and become law.
The real question is, “Do you have the market, desire, skill set, drive, and ability to start one?”.
I hope this post has helped you learn how to make money with drones. I tried to cover several critical aspects related to starting a drone business in the hopes of getting you into the right mindset for doing so.
In the end, it’s up to you. Is it something that interests you? Is there a need you can fill in your community? Do you have what it takes to do it? These are questions I can’t answer for you.
Now I’d like to ask something of you… Do you currently have a drone business of your own? Are you going to start one? Is there a topic, item, or angle that I didn’t cover? Do you have any insights to share? Please let me know by commenting below.