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How To Start A Drone Business
Drones are the hottest item in tech right now, but they’re much more then the latest trend in consumer goods. Drones, also known as UAV’s, are changing a variety of commercial and industrial industries a like. High-end commercial UAV platforms are capable of undergoing various precision aerial missions, from thermal inspection, to mapping thousands of acres of farmland.
Naturally all of this opportunity has attracted a crowd of entrepreneurs, some are simply enthusiasts who are making the most of this trending opportunity, and others actually have professional backgrounds in imaging and/or aviation. A new generation of “drone entrepreneurs” has definitely been born, and every week more and more people are looking for ways to start their own business in this fascinating new segment.
So how exactly do you get started? Well like every business its quite complicated and there is no simple answer, but there are definitely some industry specific considerations that you should evaluate before going forward. In this article ill go over some these considerations briefly, and get you pointed in the right direction.
Education & Experience
Like most businesses, your going to need to acquire some skills and experience before you can consider building your drone business. You should air for a good amount of practical experience, but mainly you should focus on the formal education side. The reason for this is as your business grows you can always hire a pilot, plenty of them exist, and it will likely be in your best interest to partner with or hire a pilot if your not already one yourself. It’s a skill that takes years to master, and can be quite costly, its far more beneficial to learn the business end of your operations and acquire as much formal knowledge on UAV operations and UAV law as possible. Many community colleges and private continuing education establishments are offering courses on UAV’s in addition to the many online resources that already exist. Invest in acquiring this knowledge before you start, it will save you a lot of time and money in the future.
Startup costs are totally dependent on what kind of UAV business you intending to build. If you’re simply providing real estate photography for individual agents across your city or town, your costs will vary greatly compared to someone looking to provide industrial inspection and mapping services. It will also depend on if you plan on keeping your business local or would like to expand nationally, as different costs will be incurred to start. However, in term of what you need to buy its quite simple. Before starting up, you’ll need purchase most if not all of the following:
$1400 – $25,000
Camera (if not included)
$1000 – $50,000
$300 – $2000
$250 and up
Aviation Liability Insurance
$600 – $3000 (per year)
Ground School (Formal Training)
$500 – $3000
$1000 – $5000
Professional Editing Software Package
$300 – 1500
Of course it goes without saying that anytime you fly an aircraft into the air you’re imposing an element of risk to the general public, and other manned aircraft. For that reason, a variety of legal regulations have been put in place in an attempt to minimize these risks. Its really quite simple, the main legal concern is going to be applying for your FAA 333 exemption, this is the permit that will allow you to legally fly your drone for commercial operations. No exemption means you cant legally fly commercial operations at all, no matter what! I can’t go into the details of this permit, but it will require extensive research before applying. It will meet a certain criteria of operations that you and or your staff of properly trained and educated, and that your operating within set limitations as required by the government i.e altitude limits etc. Really your first concern when starting a drone business should be getting your FAA 333 exemption, because without it there is no way to actually run a drone business. Do your research, find out what’s required, and get started on your application as soon as possible. It’s a tedious process that required serious diligence, but it’s well worth it in the end.
So once you buy all the equipment, get your insurance and 333 exemption, what type of services are drone business currently offering? Below you will find a list of popular services that are currently being met with great success. Keep in mind, you should always plan your service offerings based around you or your teams existing skill set. Don’t offer advanced mapping packages if you’ve never been on a construction site in your life!
Average Revenue Per Project
Residential Real Estate
Large Commercial Real Estate
Cinema & TV production
As you can see above, we’ve mentioned a few industries, which have a variety of uses for aerial media. Within each one of those categories there are probably 5 – 10 different services you could actually offer, and projects sizes always ranges. The average revenue per project is low end estimate and you’ll likely see more depending on the project specifications. With that said, expected yearly revenues will be dependent on the number of projects you complete, and the nature of the projects completed. Most startup drone businesses with single owner/operator setup plus freelance labor will generate $45,000 – $75,000 per year depending on their overall volume. As this business expands, you take on partners and employees, it is possible to earn well into the 7 figures a year. It’s not easy, but the potential is there, and I’ve personally worked with such businesses. By that point your average revenue per project is about $7500 per day, and your working on large yearly contracts. Point is, the potential exists to make big money.
Expanding your business
As mentioned above, expanding your business to include various partners, staff, and investors will be a key factor in obtaining success. Once you successfully run your drone business alone or with a partner for a few years, you’re going to have to thinking past the owner/operator stage, and really thing big. Build a new business plan, conduct a feasibility study, and secure financing, I know of a few companies doing almost 7 million a year gross, that started as simple owner operator businesses. That’s impressive considering how niche this market still is, but it’s a great motivator to know that the potential to achieve great success is there. So keep pushing, and keep dreaming, it’s an incredible business to be a part of, and it will be well worth it in the long run.
If you’re looking for more information on how to start a drone business, the team at www.torontoskycam.ca is a great resource. They offer competitive consultation rates, and can do everything from building your website, to pricing your services, or even developing your drone business plan! Get in touch with them today via email at : firstname.lastname@example.org