10 Startup DRONE Services For Your Drone STARTUP Business


10 Startup DRONE Services

If you are a new Drone Startup, or thinking about getting into the Drone business, you will need to determine what services you will be offering. Below are 5 things to consider when deciding which service or services you can begin offering. 

  1. What drone and gear do you already own?
  2. How much is your available budget to gear up on the things you need?
  3. What is your background? Make use of your current knowledge and skillset.
  4. Who do you know? Who are people you can partner with and/or endorse you?
  5. What Drone Services are most in demand in your market?

How Did I Get My Drone Startup Business Started?

Just like any other business, we may know exactly what we would like to do, but maybe we do not know where to start or how to go about it. For example, someone may enjoy cooking or baking, but how do we turn that pleasure into a business?

The same applies in the Drone business. If you are like me, I bought my first drone because I thought I would enjoy flying and getting a birds eye view on the world. I was immediately in love and began exploring ways to monetize my new found hobby.

You will be glad to know that despite the perception (or myth) that starting a drone business may be difficult or expensive with…

  • Drones and Equipment
  • Intensive Training
  • Marketing Your Services
  • Miscellaneous business costs

     … the reality is that it’s NOT so difficult OR expensive. And so, the sole purpose of this article, as well as all of my content is to give you some guidance on how to engage with clients, how to get jobs, how to perform the service and what the expectation is for the client deliverable.

*As a side-note, any drone services for hire do require you to accomplish your FAA Part 107 (or your Country’s equivalent) Pilot Certification.*

Ok, so how do I get work?

In my Webinar Video 10 Startup DRONE Services For Your Drone STARTUP Business” I discuss some of the sales techniques I used to begin getting my name out in the market. I’m sure you realize that drone service business will not just magically fall in your lap, and there are many ways to go about marketing and promoting your drone services. 

The very first thing I did was to establish an online marketing strategy. You will want to create your brand image, a logo, create a website, as well as creating social media channels such as , Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, in order to market your new Drone Startup Services brand. That will be a good way to start getting your business introduced to the market. 

Once I had established my online presence, I realized I would need to start networking and meeting people in the local market. For this, and by far the most effective method that brought me immediate business was joining my local Chamber of Commerce. 

These are the methods I used in the beginning to get going, and I am working on a training webinar that will give you more in-depth guidance on how to build an aggressive marketing plan and grow your business.

In the next sections, I list my Top 10 Startup Drone Services.

Drone Services | Marketing (aka Real Estate)

I start out discussing Drone Marketing (typically referred to as real estate) services, because with almost any drone that you may own, will already have a high quality camera for photo and video. These days, more often than not,  nearly any advertising will include aerial, drone photos and video. Whether it’s TV commercials, documentaries, or Hollywood Movies, drone footage is being used to bring EPIC drama to the presentation. To bring this closer to home and our individual markets, there are many prospective clients that will want to hire you to provide drone photos and video. The following is the first set of my 10 startup Drone services.

Marketing actually covers quite a few different forms, and essentially, consists of flying a particular object of interest.

Whether that is a piece of land, a building, a house or a car, or anything that might be being marketed or advertised, there is an opportunity to provide drone footage. Here are some examples:

  • Real Estate – Homes, Farms, Land, etc. for sale, lease or rent
  • Property Management – Condominiums, Apartment Complexes, Townhomes (there are additional services offerings with Property Management Companies as well)
  • Architectural and/or Construction Companies
  • Car Dealerships
  • Restaurants or Businesses
  • Hotels or Resorts

Use your imagination. As you can see, the opportunities in marketing are quite vast and diverse. 

*As a side note* I have often been hired by individual Real Estate agents, and Property Management personnel  who wanted drone footage of their personal home or property. Depending on the scale of business, it’s a nice gesture to do some of these as a “Thanks for the Business!”. Believe me, this gesture can make a huge impact on the client and lock you in as their “Go-To” Drone Guy for ongoing repeat business.

 – Methodology

For these services, your drone and peripheral equipment are minimal. You only need to research the best camera settings to use for the end result you want to achieve.

As a general guideline, the following is the basic structure I follow when shooting my photo and video.

It is important to try to tell a story. I always include the following primary components when shooting a marketing video:

  • Introduction – start out showing the Main Entrance, the community signage, community name and logo. Give the viewer the sense they are driving into the community.
  • Set the Stage – I like to show the common areas of the neighborhood, main office, post office, community courtyard, showing any amenities, especially the pool(s) areas and club housesas well as demonstrate the architecture and all-around “feel” of the community.
  • The Home – I then fly the home itself. (I have a shot list I can send you, just send me an email request)
  • Closing – just a final shot as if leaving the community. “Pull away” shot from the entrance signage.

For the deliverable, I provide a 3 (+/-) video and about 10 still photos.

How am I processing my photos and video footage? Well, I am glad you asked! In actuality, I still consider myself to be a novice at creating content. However, I have been fortunate that my clients have always been happy with the media deliverables. I have a fun story of a client that was VERY unhappy with my first effort, but I swallowed my pride and started over. I’ll put it this way, they paid the invoice, so as far as I know they were happy with the “re-do”, but they never expressed their satisfaction, or dissatisfaction. Fortunately, I have been in business a long time, and long enough to know that we will not always knock it out of the park. 

But sentimental stories aside, I will list the tools I use on a daily basis for media creation:

Adobe Creative Cloud

 

I do recommend getting a set of ND Filters, and I have listed options below for the Mavic and Phantom drones.

PolarPro DJI Phantom 4 Filters-Cinema Series-Shutter Collection

PolarPro Cinema Series ND Filters

PolarPro DJI Phantom 4 Filters - (ND4, ND8, ND16) Cinema Series-Shutter Collection (3-Pack)

PolarPro (ND4, ND8, ND16) for DJI Mavic 2 Pro

PolarPro Shutter Collection ND Filters

PolarPro Shutter Collection ND Filters for DJI Mavic 2 Pro, includes (ND4, ND8, ND16 filters) 3-pack

Drone Services | Rooftop Inspection

Later on in this article, I begin listing more technical inspection services, but as a follow-on to working with Property Management companies, there is an opportunity to provide rooftop and other aerial inspection services.

As I mention in the previously mentioned webinar video, there may be a request for thermal inspection, depending on the type of building rooftop you are inspecting. If you do not yet own a thermal camera, DO NOT BE SHY about it. Just respond affirmatively that you can provide Visual Inspection imagery, at their required specs (elevation and overlap of images). You will present as knowledgeable, and you can offer to perform the rooftop visual inspection and then include an aerial photo/video package of the premises, buildings, and surrounding site. Generally speaking, for apartment, condominium and other residential buildings, they will only need a visual inspection.

Rooftop inspections are again relatively simple as to the technical requirements.

The primary function is to simply provide the property management company a visual look at the condition of the roof. 

 – Methodology

For these services, each shoot will be driven by the project scope and requirements agreed upon between you and the client. 

Your drone and peripheral equipment will be minimal. You only need to research the best camera settings to use for the end result you want to achieve. Be sure to shoot in 4K [3840 x 2160 @ 60fps] to get high resolution imagery for inspection purposes. The higher resolution allows the inspector to be able to zoom in for closeup inspection. I also recommend flying between 10am and 2pm (use your best judgement) to get the best direct sunlight on the roof. This will be to avoid shadows that could make it difficult to ascertain an accurate assessment of the condition of the roof. During flight acquisition, if you happen to notice something out of the ordinary, be sure to take time to capture images from different angles to allow the client to inspect those in more depth.

For processing my image and vide data, I use the following tools on a daily basis for media creation:

Adobe Creative Cloud

Drone Services | Events

Events can be another service that is relatively simple in terms of equipment needed and technical skillset. I have found these to be effective in networking and relationship building, as well as in earnings. 

As an example, early on, I received an inquiry from my website asking if I could quote a wedding shoot. I responded and worked out the scope of the shoot, i.e., what sort of photos and video they wanted, the amount of time I would need to be onsite, etc. 

*As a sidenote* your primary factors to consider when pricing out your projects are the location, (travel costs), time onsite, and the actual deliverable (will they want the raw photos and video? or do they want fully produced content?) 

Once we had the project scope worked out, I generated my proposal and ultimately performed the shoot and delivered the content. 

The point of this story is to share what happened next. It just so happened that an attendee at the wedding took interest in my drone activity and, as I soon fond out, was the CEO of a Real Estate Photography company and asked me to join their firm as a contract drone photo/videographer. A simple wedding shoot turned in to recurring real estate business! 😁

Event projects can cover quite a few different forms, and essentially, consists of flying the Event location, exhibits and decorations, as well as the Event activities. 

Here are some examples:

  • Corporate Events – Conferences, Fund-Raiser Events, Grand Openings, Retreats, Awards Parties, etc.
  • Sporting Events – anything from High School sporting events to regional tournaments and championships.
  • Racing Events, car racing, or any sort of racing contests
  • Concerts or Festivals
  • Weddings, Family Reunions, Parties

As I mention in the webinar video, the Chamber of Commerce invited me to shoot different events around the city, as well as introducing me to Chamber members needing drone services.

Use your imagination. As you can see, the opportunities for events are quite vast and diverse. 

Always be sure you are adhering to flight regulations, such as not flying directly over people.

 – Methodology

For these services, each shoot will be driven by the project scope and requirements agreed upon between you and the client. 

For processing my image and vide data, I use the following tools on a daily basis for media creation:

Adobe Creative Cloud

 

Your drone and peripheral equipment will be minimal. You only need to research the best camera settings to use for the end result you want to achieve. I do recommend getting a set of ND Filters, and I have listed options below for the Mavic and Phantom drones.

PolarPro DJI Phantom 4 Filters-Cinema Series-Shutter Collection

PolarPro Cinema Series ND Filters

PolarPro DJI Phantom 4 Filters - (ND4, ND8, ND16) Cinema Series-Shutter Collection (3-Pack)

PolarPro (ND4, ND8, ND16) for DJI Mavic 2 Pro

PolarPro Shutter Collection ND Filters

PolarPro Shutter Collection ND Filters for DJI Mavic 2 Pro, includes (ND4, ND8, ND16 filters) 3-pack

Drone Services | Construction Monitoring

Construction monitoring, or Progress Reporting, is another service that can be relatively simple in terms of equipment needed and technical skillset. For the client, there are many benefits to hiring your drone services:

  • monitoring construction progress and measuring to project timeline.
  • monitoring productivity can help to manage your costs and labor
  • monitor materials on-site
  • monitor and assess security
  • monitoring overall project safety and/or safety hazards

There are many opportunities to offer construction monitoring, such as:

  • high-rise buildings, corporate office complexes, Residential housing developments, shopping malls/centers.
  • Highway or Interstate construction, Bridge construction or maintenance projects.
  • Industrial monitoring such as mining sites, quarry sites 

I mention in my webinar video that the Chamber of Commerce invited me to participate in a city project providing drone video from around the city to promote city progress and growth. Thanks to them, this lead to me meeting the construction company that was building a new mall and, just like that,  developed into a new contract performing construction monitoring for the remainder of that construction project! I will repeat over and over to keep your eyes and ears open to opportunities that open up right before you!

*Take Note* it’s important to mention that with this service, you are entering in to an opportunity to generate repeating or recurring business. The client will need follow-up imagery and footage. I typically propose scheduled recurrent visits, on a per week, per month or at the clients preferred frequency. I also suggest offering a bundled price, as a per week or month package that includes your onsite flight operation as well as the processing of the imagery and video data. Make it simple and compelling for the client. 

 – Methodology

There are 2 primary methods of construction monitoring  you can offer the client; 1) being standard imagery and 2) being orthomosaic or orthographic modeling of the site. I will typically discuss both methods in the pre-proposal discussions to understand what the client is hoping for in the final deliverable packet.

The most common method is standard imagery. I generally offer a video of the full site, providing useful angles and views to allow the client to really see the site and gain an accurate perspective of the project and its progress. I then include a set of still photos commensurate to the size of the project. These details should be written into the contract.

The orthomosaic method provides a 2D map or 3D model of the site that can be useful for monitoring, but provides a detailed perspective that includes exacting measurements of the construction, measurements of the materials on-site as well as vegetation, powerlines and other types of features.

Processing the Data Packet

In most cases, the client will just ask for the photos/video or if in the case of the orthomosaic method, they may just ask for the site map/model and do their own study or assessment of the site. 

However, there is an opportunity, and I highly recommend that you offer the data packet having been analyzed and processed into an intelligent report. This can be the difference between your company being perceived as ONLY a Drone Service Provider or a Drone SOLUTION Provider

I have had great success by leveraging a 3rd party  analytics and reporting partner to process my drone data and generate my client reports. The cost is extremely affordable, and is obviously included in your price to the customer. *On a side note*, depending on the competitive nature of the proposal, I have sometimes chosen to pass my cost of 3rd party processing on to the client (as opposed to marking it up), with the end benefit being that the client sees me as a legitimate solution provider, rather than just a “drone guy”. Not that there is anything wrong with just being the drone guy, and maybe that’s your preference. There is no right or wrong on that point.

For the analytics and processing I mentioned, I use Scopito. Using their image analysis tool allows you to annotate items such as facias, nearby trees, cell towers, wind turbines, or electrical towers in your inspection. Especially if you need to include a higher level of details on a specific subject, it can easily be done. This enables you to bundle all relevant (types of) data into an intelligent and complete inspection report.

For orthomosaic models, these can now be analyzed using Artificial Intelligence, and can help detect pre-defined conditions such as the quality of materials on-site, or the square footage of the structure being built. Comparing these maps from different points in the construction process, is a powerful way to measure the progress.

For construction monitoring services, your pricing in the contract will be driven by the project scope and requirements agreed upon between you and the client. The frequency, the amount of time to perform the shoot, your travel time and expenses, and most importantly, the time of processing the data packet will need to be considered when establishing your selling price. Typically the client will want to negotiate with you. My personal philosophy is to give my best pricing right up front on the first proposal. If they need to lower the price, then the scope of the contract, or components of the requirements may be negotiated. 

Your drone and peripheral equipment will be minimal. You only need to research the best camera settings to use for the end result you want to achieve. 

For the processing of my imagery data analytics and reporting, just scroll down to the Image Processing, Analytics and Reporting section of this article.

For processing my image and video data, I use the following tools on a daily basis for media creation:

Adobe Creative Cloud

Drone Services | Telecom and Cell Tower Inspection

In discussing Cell Tower Inspection Services, it is important to note that telecom and cellular tower operators are held to a stringent standards code, no matter who their parent company may be. These will include strength readings to maintain QoS (quality of service) along with inspecting structural integrity of the tower(s). Now, with the emergence of 5G, adds or increases the strain on the existing infrastructure, thus tower owners and operators are now able to engage us DSP’s to perform these inspections while minimizing the need for human beings to climb towers.

For the purpose of this guide, and giving those of us who are getting started some advice, it is important to mention two aspects of telecom and cell tower inspections that we may NOT yet be equipped to perform. However, these do not eliminate us from being able to deliver quality inspections. 

The first of these is RF or radio frequency testing. This particular inspection requires a specific sensor that measures the radio frequency for operators to maintain proper levels. To read up on this service, visit Sixarms to see how they are dominating in the field of  RF Testing services.

The other component is thermal, again requiring the thermal sensor to be able to provide thermal imagery that would show any heat anomalies that should not be there. However, as a word of encouragement, thermal is becoming more and more affordable with new drones coming out with dual (visual and thermal) sensors integrated. *As a side note* I will also add that if you are in a position to do it, you may be able to contract a project that would pay for the thermal equipment, and get you off and running with thermal inspections for PV Solar, Powerline and other inspections needing thermal imagery.

The opportunities within the tower inspection vertical are really terrific!

Even for Drone Startups, performing visual inspections offers the following possibilities:

  • Site development – asset location 2D Map and/or 3D model
  • Construction monitoring and progress reporting 
  • Periodic and ongoing  Structural Inspections (Visual)
  • Periodic and ongoing telecom inspections (Visual and Thermal)
  • RF (Radio Frequency ) Testing

These services require an FAA certified drone operator. 

 – Methodology

For telecom and cellular tower inspection services, there are ways to automate the flight operation. This method, as opposed to manual flight, can be beneficial in capturing imagery that is absolutely the same every time you perform the inspection. This is important in that it allows the client to compare previous inspection images and see any condition degradation, or other affects to the tower. These autonomous flight operations are fairly easy to program, just refer to your particular controller app and it’s process for setting up the flight plan.

For the processing of my imagery data and reporting, just scroll down to the Image Processing, Analytics and Reporting section of this article.

For Pricing – your primary factors to consider when pricing out your projects are the location, (travel costs), time onsite, and the actual deliverable (will they only want the raw photos and video? or do they want fully processed inspection data?)

Your drone and peripheral equipment (for visual inspections) will be minimal. You will want to determine your best choice for controller app to conduct the autonomous flight plans, and research the best camera settings to use for the end result you want to achieve. 

Drone Services | Powerline and Tower or Pole Inspection

For Powerline Inspection, much like many of the other services we are discussing in this article, can be simple, but also complex in terms of the range of possibilities. For an in-depth study on this service, just click here -> Aerial Powerline & Tower Inspection.

As a quick reference, there are two types of powerline networks. 1) Transmission, which can be thought of as your huge lines that traverse across the country. And 2) Distribution, which is your local powerline network that feeds our residential and business communities, usually operated by your local electric coop. 

In keeping with the line of thought that we are a Drone Startup, we will focus on Distribution Powerline inspections. The reason that this is important to us, is that there are significant differences in the way we approach these two systems. 

For Distribution Powerline inspections, we can perform these with our prosumer grade drones, such as the Inspire, Phantom and Mavic platforms. In the previous section, we discussed thermal, so as not to repeat, I will just mention that there are affordable options to get into thermal inspections.

The opportunities with Powerline and Pole Inspections are particularly exciting for a couple reasons.

1) being that the service is relatively easy to perform, and 2) it will usually be a recurring contract making it a potentially long-term and lucrative client relationship.

There are also a few different types of services that can result as an extension of your relationship with the coop as well as the other utilities community.

  • Orthomosaic photogrammetry -mapping of the powerline corridor
  • disaster inspections and assessment
  • first response, search and rescue operations
  • Land-line Telephone and Cable TV

These services require an FAA certified drone operator. 

 – Methodology

For powerline inspection services, there are different methods, but ultimately, you are simply capturing imagery that allows the client to see the visual (and thermal if possible) condition of their powerline network assets. Your imagery will include close-up photos of the poles, the attachments on the poles and all of the supporting brackets and guy wires to ensure the assets are in good, operable condition.

For the processing of my imagery data and reporting, just scroll down to the Image Processing, Analytics and Reporting section of this article.

For Pricing – your primary factors to consider when pricing out your projects are the location, (travel costs), time onsite, and the actual deliverable (will they only want the raw photos and video? or do they want fully processed inspection data?)

Your drone and peripheral equipment (for visual inspections) will be minimal. You will need to research the best camera settings to use for the end result you want to achieve. 

Drone Services | PV Solar Inspection

For PV Solar Inspection, (PV = photovoltaic)  much like many of the other services we are discussing in this article, solar can also be simple in terms of how the inspection is conducted. For an in-depth study on this service, just click here -> How To Start Your Drone PV Solar Inspection Business. In actuality, there are a lot of similarities between Powerline inspections and solar inspections. The same gear will be utilized, but of course, the flight acquisition methods will be a bit different, and I will explain that in more detail below.

In maintaining our Drone Startup theme, we have already discussed thermal. The same applies for solar inspections. However, I should mention that thermal imagery is more essential to the inspection than in other services. This particular consideration will heavily factor into your decision to pursue solar inspections, or not. I also mentioned previously the thought that you might be able to earn enough for a single contract to justify the purchase of a thermal sensor, and that concept can apply here as well. You may be coming to your own conclusion that it is time to add a thermal sensor to your toolbox. But, in any case, there are plenty of services you can perform without it. 

*As a side note* I will mention that in my experience, solar companies seem to be reluctant to expend budget for solar inspections. That does not mean they do not do it, but as a Drone Startup, we are uniquely positioned to be able to offer our services at a lower cost, while maintaining a sustaining profit margin. But conversely, I have proposed many solar inspection projects, even experimenting with various pricing schemes, only to never hear back. It’s been a consistent pattern of about 20% success rate of sale. 

The opportunity with solar inspections have a great upside.

The client partner relationship can be a long-term and beneficial business relationship. Working with solar companies for the past several years, I see a consistency of forward-thinking and progressive groups who are always working on the next solar site. And further, the solar community is very friendly for the most part. I have received many referrals between different solar organizations.

In the following, I have listed the standard inspection services, as well as some of the follow-on opportunities that have developed as a result of these relationships.

  • Standard Visual and Thermal inspection
  • 3D Orthomosaic model for a single image of the complete site.
  • Site development – orthomosaic mapping of potential sites
  • Marketing media – drone photo and video of developing and completed sites for sales presentations
  • Site inventory – when an organization purchases an existing site, I can provide drone imagery for pre-sale inventory and inspection

These services require an FAA certified drone operator. 

 – Methodology

For solar inspection services, I recommend flying the site by using an autonomous flight plan taking measured photos at specific elevation, overlap and camera angle to get the best coverage of the site. It is also important to be very aware of how the sun is hitting the solar panels in order to avoid glare which will inhibit the ability to assess the condition of the panels.

For the processing of my imagery data and reporting, just scroll down to the Image Processing, Analytics and Reporting section of this article.

For Pricing – your primary factors to consider when pricing out your projects are the location, (travel costs), time onsite, and the actual deliverable (will they only want the raw photos and video? or do they want fully processed inspection data?)

Your drone and peripheral equipment (for visual inspections) will be minimal. You will need to research the best camera settings to use for the end result you want to achieve. 

image processing analytics and reporting

Data Processing, Analytics And Reporting

For processing your data, we have tremendous resources to provide us with data processing, analytics and reporting. You will want to research the best solution for you based on your personal criteria. A few things to consider are the client requirements, your budget, the turn-around time for the final reporting.

When crafting your proposal, you will need to factor this cost into your price to the client. You will take their cost to you and add your mark-up for managing the process, and you will need to determine the percentage based on your comfort level or the client budget.

Depending on the client and their requirements, I have found it to be extremely efficient to upload my data to Scopito and process the imagery on their platform. Below are the main reasons this is helpful:

  • Efficiency – inspection imagery can be a lot of photos. By utilizing the Scopito cloud platform, minimizes the number of times the data needs to be bounced.
  • Crystal clear images – I’m not sure what their secret sauce is, but the clarity of the images on their platform is spectacular. The ability to zoom into an image is impressive. 
  • The platform tools – I can easily put in my annotations of any issues visible in the images.  And the image is geo-tagged, so field crews know exactly where to locate the tower, and the exact location of the issue. 
  • Client Access – the platform also provides me the ability to give the client their own unique login credentials so they can see the imagery for themselves.

Some companies will offer you the option to place your branding on the reports, but this will usually come with a premium subscription. As a tip, I have experienced being able to customize the reporting in order to place my logo and brand the reporting as my own. These are things you will need to think about when determining what solution to go with.

Remember, you are uniquely positioned, as a small business, to keep your costs minimized and be able to offer the client a competitive price while delivering a professional industry standard product at a reasonable profit.

Below, I list my preferred partner for reference.

scopito logo

Scopito | Welcome to the future of visual inspections.

At Scopito, we are experts at digitizing your assets. Our platform uses automation and Machine Learning to derive all-important insights from your geospatial data. Over time, your historic inspection data will become the catalyst for powerful predictive maintenance.

How To Get Your FAA Part 107 Pilot Certification

If you are serious about making money with your drone, whether it be Real Estate, Aerial Inspections, etc., then you will need, from the FAA a 14 CFR Part 107 certification.

The best source for your training can be found by clicking on RemotePilot101. Jason Schappert is a pilot and author of 8 best-selling aviation flight training books. While studying and taking tests is not the most fun, Jason breaks it down into 10 easy to follow (at your own pace) video lessons. These lessons are straight and to the point giving you the exact knowledge, nothing less, nothing more than what you need to pass the exam. Additionally, he is continually updating the training to keep it relevant to any changes to FAA regulations. This membership is a 1-time subscription – for life! So when you’re 24 month renewal comes around, just sign in to RemotePilot101 and refresh your training.

Just remember, if you are flying commercially, you will need your Part 107 certification. It’s not hard, you can do it!

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