How to Build a New Drone Business
Drone service providers share their advice and experiences
Thank you so much to everyone who joined this week’s webinar, “Building a New Drone Service Business”, and to our presenters, Chris Courtney, VP of Flight Operations at Measure, Ed Schmalfeld of Dragonfly AeroSolutions and Justin Moore of Airborne Aerial Photography. It was an hour jam-packed with advice and information, and we hope you found it helpful and informative!
Missed the webinar? Watch the full recording here.
Chris, Ed and Justin shared their thoughts and experiences on diverse topics related to starting a successful drone business, from regulatory compliance to insurance and business operations to marketing and pricing your services.
Safety (and Compliance) First!
All of our presenters made sure to emphasize the importance of running safe and compliant operations — not only for the sake of public safety, but for the sake of your own business and the reputation of the industry as a whole.
“If you didn’t do it safe, or you have an incident you’re not going to get any more work,” said Ed. “The safety aspect of it is the number one thing you need to consider if you’re going to get into this business.”
Chris Courtney, VP of Flight Operations at Measure, kicked off the webinar by reviewing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Part 107 rule that governs commercial drone operations in the U.S and sharing a few tips. Part 107 certified pilots that want to request waivers, need to apply through the FAA website, he said.
“If you think you’re going to be able to call the tower to coordinate your operations, they’ve been given guidance that directs them to tell you that you need to go to FAA’s website and put the waiver request in there.” He also shared interesting statistics on what waiver requests are being submitted and what are being approved.
Another tip — make sure you carry documentation when you’re out flying.
“Our guys show up with a binder that shows their certification requirements, insurance and any other necessary documentation so that they can show any law enforcement that they are legally authorized to be there,”
— Chris Courtney, Measure
Prepare Your Business for Success
There’s more to starting a drone service business than buying a drone and getting your Part 107 certificate. Ed Schmalfeld of Dragonfly AeroSolutions discussed the components of setting up a drone business and shared his advice for those just starting out.
“If you run your business like it’s a little tiny thing, it’s going to be very hard for you to grow or manage success. If you start things out like you’re going to be a big formal company, as growth and success comes, you just grow into it because you already have the pieces in place.” — Ed Schmalfeld, Dragonfly AeroSolutions
There are a lot of components to setting up a business — from determining and setting up the legal structure, to getting insurance, choosing a target market, finding investment and much more.
One thing Ed emphasizes is being honest with yourself about the value you provide and what you can deliver — both when it comes to safe and legal operations and your own expertise. It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver, because you may not get a second chance if you don’t meet expectations. “Be prepared to say no”, he says. “If a project is unsafe, illegal, or infeasible for you, explain to the client why you can’t meet their objectives.”
“Saying no has gotten me more work than saying yes on multiple occasions.” — Ed Schmalfeld, Dragonfly AeroSolutions
Congratulations! You are a drone ambassador.
Our last panelist, Justin Moore of Airborne Aerial Photography spoke with us about a topic he’s passionate about — being a drone ambassador.
“All it’s going to take is someone in the local area flying into a building and if there’s no understanding about what drones can do for your community, your business model is threatened.” Engaging with the community to educate them about the ways drones can be used for good and doing volunteer work help improve the perception of drones in the community. But that’s one reason Justin has incorporated Pro Bono work into his business model.
“Besides being a way to build understanding in the community and prevent unfriendly drone regulations, pro bono work is also a great way to learn about the technology and get new business. One of our biggest real estate clients was a word-of-mouth referral from one of our pro bono projects.”
Justin also shared his thoughts about pricing drone operations and a few tips to help commercial operators stay ahead of the curve. One of the key takeaways? “Don’t ever forget to account for your time.” His other big piece of advice — “Take a photography class! After all, you’re flying a camera around in the sky.”
Watch the full webinar recording to learn more tips to hear Chris, Ed and Justin’s personal experiences and tips for starting drone business, including pricing, marketing and more. When you get the recording, you’ll also get access to a detailed Q&A doc based upon the questions submitted during the session.
Where to Learn More
Once you’ve watched the webinar, there are plenty of resources you can check out to learn more. We recommend the following:
- Resources for Part 107 training and certification
- Join the sUAS Commercial Mapping Pilots community on Facebook
- Onboarding Guide for drone mapping
- Looking for more detailed instructions for drone mapping? Our new Zero to Hero video series on Youtube for a step-by-step guide on mapping from initial drone set-up to map analysis.
- Stay tuned for an upcoming post on how to price your drone services!
Start Mapping with DroneDeploy
Want to learn how DroneDeploy can help your business? Visit www.dronedeploy.com to start your free trial or request a consultation with one of our team members. The DroneDeploy mobile application is available for free download for both iOS and Android devices.