First steps to creating your drone business.
You are here because if you were like me you wanted to create a drone business this is great and an exciting time. This is something I thought about for a long time and decided to start a Commercial drone Business as I wanted to turn a hobby into a paying job who else doesn’t want that. I had no idea of any steps to start a business or what was involved but it has been a good adventure I thought it best to document to keep note and document the steps along the way. I hope throughout my page I can help and make it easier for you. I found it hard, but don’t let that put you off as I discovered there are lots of resources and help available out there. Now for a while I let things get on top of me to the point I lost interest and motivation I was stuck in a rut something I would hate for this to happen to you, because after all the main aim here is to turn your hobby into a job so this should be fun and enjoyable.
My advice to you would be: remember there is going to be a lot of time and hard work involved but the benefits will out way the negatives and with your dedication you will be doing what you love and making money at the same time! Perfect if you ask me.
Two quotes that have stuck with me are from Steve Jobs the man behind Apple:
- “Embrace every failure. Own it, learn from it, and take full responsibility for making sure that next time, things will turn out differently.”
- “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
The first step I recommend is write a chart of positives and negatives (Pros & Cons) a simple common list get some help from a partner or friend. Once the list is created keep it safe and accessible this well help keep hold of the positives and keep your focus on the main objective in the case you start to become disheartened.
|Become your own boss
Flying Drones is fun
Schedule your work and family time better
Work your own hours
Possibility to make more money
Learn how to run a business
You choose your own career route
|Make your own financial investment
Become heavily devoted at the beginning
Lots of time spent learning
The second part of step 1 I recommend you do is research, research and more research.
What you are looking for is drone businesses in your area or in your country if it’s quite small. You want to find out who is out there already and what all the possible competition are doing. You want to find out what they can do this is especially important for the next steps. Keep note, create a spreadsheet do whatever works but keep it close because if you start up and execute your plan to create a drone business then these are your competition. This can help you determine if the market is over saturated with drone providers or if specializing in certain fields may help you to find a gap in the market that you can work towards. You never know you might find an established business you can work with.
When you do find and create your list if you personally rate the business you come across you have a good reference point to return to. A possible route is to find the one you rate as number 1 and do what they do but make sure you do it a lot better, that could be by being more professional and taking better picture’s etc.(Be prepared for this to happen to you if you get to the top)
Like I said research is key and Google is your friend. But remember not everything you read on the Internet is true and be prepared to read a lot of information more than once.
Pricing is a very important part of your research as this will help you later on when you have to decide if your business will be cost effective or even up to the point when you sit down to work on your own pricing schedule. Don’t be frightened to phone them and get a price for certain job you may or may not have obviously you don’t want to do this too often or mention you are looking to et up in competition to them etc. The more information you have to use the better and easier your business planning will be later down the line.
An example list I keep was:
|Name||Website||Phone Number||Location||Their Specialty’s||Social Media Presence||My initial Review||Pricing||Rating|
|Twitter, Facebook, Instagram,
||Very good website with lovely pictures and video’s||£300 for 10 photo’s on a memory stick||1 to 10|
Who can help?
When you start out and if you are a bit confused by the business aspect of things like I was. It is possible to get some assistance from the business gateway they run free seminars/coaching sessions these are very helpful. The main steps I took note of the session I attended were as follows. I understand not everyone has an opportunity to have free help so I have taken some notes from the session and detailed the main points they presented which are as follows:
- What type of company ltd or sole trader
- Book keeping or Accountant
- Marketing Research 4 C’s (Customers, Consumer Reaction, Costs and Competition, Marketing Mix The 7 P’s (Price, Product, Placement, Promotion, People, Process, Physical Evidence)
- Business plan
- Business Model Canvas
Points 1 & 2. When it comes to the company set up I opted for a Ltd company rather than a sole trader. What I would recommend is possibility of using and accountant or a book-keeper as I am in no way set up to deal with the finances at all. If you do be prepared to spend a lot of time on them. I weighed up the pros and cons of having an accountant and after speaking to some other people I decided to save time and be more efficient I would go that route. Now that is only my findings if you have experience in book-keeping or accounting then you may choose to take on these tasks your self.
Point 3. Now Insurance and drone training is something I cover later in this page as again this is very important as you want to stay legal as an implication with the law could shut you down or have a very negative effect on your business( unfortunately bad news travels faster than good)
Point 4. Now don’t worry if like me that all sounds very confusing and you have no idea what it means. I have covered what I researched and an example of my notes in a previous post Read More Here
Point 5. Now I classed this as setting up my social media and getting out and about meeting people who may have an interest in your drone service I cover this in a lot more detail throughout my Online Marketing Page
Define your services
Once you have completed the initial research on the competition you will have a good idea of the drone business ideas they started with or the drone market they supply. Choose a market you might know well or one that interests you various ideas for a drone business could be,
- Aerial photography
- Aerial film making
- Commercial Roof inspections
- Construction site photography/filming
- 2D/3D mapping
- Thermal imaging
- Surveillance work
- Drone Training
Drone Business Plan
Writing a business plan can be very frustrating, I like many other people out there found it hard but stick with it don’t give up it can be dynamic and adjusted as time progresses against positive results and or failures you make through your own business journey. I stupidly wasted a few months at this point which did not help my motivation one bit. But once I found the help I needed things became a lot easier and I could progress through my next step, I did managed to find a nice template which you can download from this Business-Plan-Template . Remember to include the findings from the research you completed previously as I said before the more research and notes you keep the easier things like this become. these c
Main points I tried to cover when writing my own:
- Mission statement/ Vision
- Company Discription
- Product discription
- Market Research
- Company structure
- Product marketing
- Cash flow statement (Financial support)
- Revenue projection (profit/loss)
If you would like some help you can leave a comment and I will assist you in any way I can.
Business model Canvas
This I found was very much like a business plan but a little easier for me to write in the beginning it did not involve too much but laid down a nice foundation I could use to continue with my business plan. General order for your business model canvas should be followed:
- Value proposition
- Customer Relationships
- Revenue Streams
- Key resources
- Key activities
- Key partners
- Cost structure
Drone Safety compliance & Insurance
Drone insurance is a very important part of your drone business but not only a drone business even for your flights as a hobbyist you need to make sure you are covered all the time, after all accidents happen and nobody wants a hefty repair bill for someone’s property or your drone. I have created a list of 10 Free drone safety tips for your business please have a read and take what you can to help you.
If you are a leisure pilot you should consider the BMFA British Model Flying Association. If you were to become a member you would be covered through their insurance and Membership costs around £34 annually which is very cheap and great for when you are out practicing.
FPVUK is another one for the hobbyist . Don’t be fooled by the FPV First person view name they accept most types of drones and their membership is only £19.99 yearly with cover up to 5 million, public liability insurance.
Drone insurance will be required when you apply for your permissions for commercial operations from the CAA (Civil aviation authority) the insurance should be compliant with EU (EC) No-785/2004. Depending on how you complete your flight test there is a possibility you will need to be covered for this also. It is a good idea to check with your training school as most will require you to be covered for using your own drone equipment. Most insurance providers will offer flight test policies, and then you can shop around after to find the right cover when you have completed your ground school, there are many providers out there offering various lengths of policy’s yearly, monthly and some will offer specialist cover on a flight by flight basis. As with all insurance there can be many factors that affect the cost: type of drone operations, locations etc. My advice to anyone thinking of starting a drone business and looking for insurance would be truthful and make sure the insurance includes public product liability insurance, no less than 3 Million. Full reinstatement cover of your own personal drone and equipment may be crucial if this is your only drone and source of income. Below is a list of some drone insurance providers for the UK:
- Moonrock Insurance
- FlockCover (My Recommendation Click here)
As I am not based in the USA I am unsure of the complete rules and regulations but I do know it is has recently become a legal requirement all drones are registered with the FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) I have also had some insurance providers from the USA send information etc about drone insurance and these are included below:
- Avion Insurance
- Insuremydrone(MFE insurance)
I am quite sure there would be many more out there and I would recommend quoting from a few. Be sure to be aware of what the rules for you country or region and always have the minimum even when the flight is just for fun.
Knowing the rules about what you can and can’t do is very important, if you are like me when I first started out flying for fun i was not fully aware and may have exceeded a few. The maximum altitude allowed in the UK is 400ft or 120M, you always have to keep your drone(SUSA) in line of sight you cannot fly more than 500m away. Keeping safe distances from objects, structures, persons and away from crowded areas, follow the DRONE CODE.
- Don’f fly near airports or airfeilds
- Remember to stay below 120m 400ft and at least 50m 150ft away from people.
- Observe your drone at all times
- Never fly near aircraft
- Enjoy responsibly
Also be aware that different countries have different rules; if you plan to fly abroad make sure you find out the rules. For example if you fly your drone in the wrong place in Spain you can receive a fine circa €400,000.
If you plan to fly your drone commercially then I recommend you find the correct National Qualified Entity (NQE) Read More about my NQE recommendation To help provide clarity on the commercial operations and when a PFCO will be required the below quote was taken from the CAA Website Under Guidance for small drone operators/How commercial operations are defined.
“While every case should be judged on its own merits, some types of arrangements are not generally consider by the CAA to be commercial operations such as: Advertising revenue received as a result of persons visiting a website or social media page where video or photographic stills shot from a drone are displayed/posted. This is because these types of web-pages may be legitimately used to post recreational video material that was not commissioned by another party, but was conceived and wholly funded by the poster.
Note: This would not apply if the photographic material had been directly commissioned by another party for the purpose of display or marketing on their website.
Generation of self-marketing material to display an object, event or other activity. An individual or business would not usually be considered to be doing commercial operations if the flight is provided only for their own use.
Example: Charity, educational establishment, local authority or business acquires a drone which is used (and flown by its own staff) to provide aerial imagery for incorporation into own promotional material.
Any other imagery or data collection task where the video, photographic stills or other data collected, are used exclusively for the drone operators own use.”
Drone Safe register, ApprovedDronePilots & ARPAS (Association of remotely piloted aircraft systems)
Drone safe register and ARPAS are strongly marketed databases/directories for commercial drone operators to register with. They provide benefits for their members and an accessible database for potential customers to look-up if they have a requirement to hire a commercial drone pilot. These services are not mandatory or required by the CAA but can help to promote your company and give you the professional look and advantage you may require over your competition, but do not forget the CAA also provide somewhere for your potential clients to check your certification/registration for free “Drone operators with a valid CAA permission for commercial work”
I am currently a member of the Drone Safe Register as i believe these to be very helpful and the community is great, Do not forget to look my profile up HERE, benefits include:
- Stock footage directory ( A place you can upload your footage to sell and keep 100% of the profit as they take 0% commission.
- Discount on drone insurance policies
- Discount on DJI products
- Yearly Drone safe register ID card and lanyard
A free to use and register list off all approved drone pilots in the UK. You can check out our profile HERE
ARPAS-UK – Are a not for profit association, who work closely with the CAA and government departments to influence the rules and regulations put in place are use able and help ensure pilots have a voice in regulatory meetings. Their aim is to help continue the growth of the drone industry itself as it continues to help other industries adopt drones and their benefits. Membership benefits include:
- Drone insurance discount, PIX4D software discount, TCX4 clothing discounts, Coptrz products discounts, and Indibook production booking service.
- Entry into the ARPAS-UK directory
- Have a voice in government matters by expressing your views o government regulations.
- Join a community of like-minded professionals who all work and operate following their “Code of Conduct”
- Participate in ARPAS-UK Events, groups and trade shows.
Marketing your drone business.
As I have been attempting to grow my drone business I have started to learn about marketing, which includes online marketing, ways to make money with a computer online, building your social media, building a brand the list goes on as it is a huge subject and one that many companies invest a lot of money to have marketing strategies developed. I have a better understanding of how it works but I also understand why people specialise in he subject and become experts because it is huge, the potential out there to grow your business is massive. I originally had a few posts separating different points which I thought would be important, as I mentioned above online marketing is huge there also seems to be a way to use some of the new skills to supplement my drone business. I have created a new page online marketing where I will be including the online marketing research I have done together with the ways to make money online that seem to come with online marketing. I wanted to help keep note of it all and show anyone looking into online marketing my notes which include creating a business name & logo, creating your social media profiles and my steps to creating a website. Continue reading about online marketing
Drone business equipment & Selecting your Hardware.
When starting out you will need to choose the right equipment for the task. You may have already decided what market you would like to venture into so now you need to decide on the drone you would like to use, I began using a Parrot BeBop which to get started and learn how to fly etc was great. What I found let it down was the camera and no matter what you plan on doing the camera is what helps supply the customer with the final information or data. This is what you could class as one of the most important parts. .Read More about drone equipment
Photography online learning
Another kind of training I found important was a photography course, as I thought I am going to be offering photographs as an option or service I would like a qualification to back it up. I looked for some online training and came across the shaw academy, they were offering some free training called the diploma in photography so I thought I would give them a go and signed up. I really enjoyed the training they offered and signed up to complete the full Advanced diploma in photography course. Read More about photography online training
Photography and various techniques
Photography and or videography is/are a major part of a drone business. These are the most common because these are the types of sensors fitted to nearly all drones available on the market for the consumer, prosumer and professional. Understanding a camera and playing with many various techniques can give you the edge you require over other drone pilots. When I first started to create my business I now realise I was only 20% photographer and 80% drone operator which again I now realise is not how it should be. As I have continued to learn I realise I love spending time creating these photographs with my drone, High Dynamic Range, 360 panorama and tiny planet photographs. I think they all work very well together and they can each be created following different steps. I have also created a page dedicated to photography and my understanding of various important photography fundamentals to help any newbie or beginner. Continue reading about photography techniques, camera hardware, camera settings and camera accessories.
Capturing Drone Videos
As I mention above drone videography compliments the photography and will be something you will want to test out after all most cameras and drones come with the ability to capture footage. I have created a page dedicated to help so you Read More about How to create Drone Videos Here
Using Software to help & My Free Software recommendations
Free great pieces of free software that I think anyone performing any sort of image processing should have. Blender GIMP InkScape and Resolve.Like I said these program are absolutely free and highly recommended. Read More about the free software
Flying drones is great fun, taking pictures, recording video and editing it all is also great fun, but as time progressed I found these to be a very competitive so I looked to add a new service to my portfolio and one i could supply to potential new clients. Read more about drone mapping here.
3D Modelling and editing.
3D modelling is a very common practice among various industries and can be used to plan, component integration or whole complete items from initial design concept Specifications. These are a great way to find out if integration is possible along with final concept models to make sure things look right. There are various programs computer aided drawing software tools out there available to learn and use. With the help of drones these projects can be scanned using the sensors available and converted to various file types allowing import into these software to get you off to a start saving time as these drawings would otherwise need to be creating from scratch.
Operations and customer experience
Operations are mainly dictated throughout your operations manual this helps to keep you compliant with CAA regulations and this is definitely a great starting point to assist in providing a safe and effective solution throughout the task required or requested by the client. I am a firm believer in keeping the client happy and word of mouth can often provide you with the next or repeat customer so make sure you are fully aware of the client requirements and end product they wish to receive. Having the correct paperwork and checklists in place will also help for a smooth and time effective process to work and stick too. From how you deal with and the questions you ask the client may help to exceed their expectations.
Growth is an area in which you can develop many strategies or processes and invest time or money marketing or social media to help boost customer awareness. Setting targets and keeping on track is a big part of growing and developing a small business along with keeping up to date with the industry and applications as a whole. New areas of Training combined with emerging hardware or software will allow you to adapt and overcome the challenges that await.
Blockchain and Drones
After spending some time blogging about my findings when starting a drone business I realised I also needed a way to supplement this business as equipment can be costly as usual I searched the web and came across cryptocurrency. So again I searched the web to learn some more about blockchain and thought it was a good idea like many others out there, but the thing with cryptocurrencies they are being used to assist different emerging technologies like the Internet of Things. Read more about drones, blockchain, data and IoT
My Final thought:
As you have read throughout this page there is a lot more to starting a small drone business than it first seems. From learning the business aspects of marketing and managing your money these are all skills I have had to learn and be taught they do not come easy and it takes time but determination is key and not taking the easy way out looks to me to be the key in futures success.
A great peace of advice I received and would like to leave you with: Q – What is the best camera or drone to use? A – Which ever camera you have with you at the time. In my words don’t be caught out without your camera or drone because i know i have.