How To Choose The Best Drone For Your Business
As a startup Drone Business, you may already own a drone and you want to launch your business with what you have. If not, below are your primary considerations when choosing the top 3 prosumer drones for your drone startup business.
- Determine which type of drone service you plan to pursue.
- Establish your budget for how much you plan to invest in your equipment.
- Do your research. Identify the drone that best matches the service you want to provide within your set budget.
- Seek guidance; I am happy to assist you in deciding on the proper gear.
First, Let's Talk About What You Have
When I first started Gale-Force Drone, this article would have been a wonderful resource for guidance. At that time, I had just purchased the 1st generation DJI Phantom 4 and fell in love with the ease of flight and the quality of the camera. Being the entrepreneur thinker that I am, I began thinking about ways to monetize my new hobby!
DJI Phantom 4 Series | Phantom 4 and 4 Pro
The DJI Phantom 4 is no longer available as new, but doing a quick glance on eBay, Facebook marketplace and Craigslist, I do see some available as used. However, if this is the direction you are wanting to go, and I explain why in the next section, I strongly urge you to look at the DJI Phantom 4 Pro or the Phantom 4 Pro V2. For the ‘Phantom’ type platform, you should give consideration to making this your entry-point model based on the following improvements:
- Camera Quality – Video – the Phantom 4 offers 4K up to 24fps and a maximum video bitrate of 60Mbps, and in addition the ISO range is limited at 100 to 3200 with a 94-degree field-of-view. Conversely, the Phantom 4 Pro records up to 4K, with a maximum bitrate of 100Mbps. And the Phantom 4 Pro’s ISO range of 100 to 6400 is double the Phantom 4.
- Camera Quality – Photo – The Phantom 4 Pro boasts a superior 20-megapixel shooter and its ISO range is an impressive 100 to 12800. It offers burst shooting with 14 images at a time (compared to 7 for the Phantom 4), along with all the other modes you’d want. This is also a vast improvement over the Phantom 4’s 12-megapixel sensor with the ISO range of 100 to 1600 only.
- Automation Tools – Obstacle Detection – the Phantom 4 Pro has additional stereo vision sensors in the rear, that when coupled with the same sensors in the front, and infrared sensors on each side, is proven to ensure avoiding obstacles and preventing any crash incidents.
Overall – There’s a reason DJI released the Phantom 4 Pro series. The Phantom 4 is still among the best in it’s price-point and its camera and video quality is quite good, and controlling it is simple. But if you truly want the best drone in the Phantom series, the Phantom 4 Pro is one of the top 3 prosumer drones for your drone startup business.
For current model details and pricing, please click HERE.
DJI Mavic Pro | Mavic 2 Pro and Enterprise Dual
If you are interested in going with the Mavic ‘type’ drone, this platform can definitely be used to get your startup drone business launched!
The original DJI Mavic Pro is still available as new, as well as the Mavic Pro Platinum that offer some minor upgrades to the original release. Unless you already own one of these devices, I strongly urge you to look at the DJI Mavic 2 Pro, or the Mavic 2 Enterprise or Enterprise Dual.
For the ‘Mavic’ type platform, you have distinct services offerings that you will need to consider before selecting the drone to purchase. First, I will talk a little about the Mavic 2 Enterprise and Enterprise Dual. These specialized drone models offer a lot for the price-point. For the Enterprise, the capability to zoom 2x optically and 3x digitally allows you to get close up imagery from a distance. Perhaps you are assisting emergency response and flying a fire, you may not want to fly the drone too close to the hazardous area, but the zoom capability allows you to get close-up photo and/or video. For the Enterprise Dual, this drone features an integrated dual sensor with both the standard visual camera and an integrated Radiometric FLIR thermal sensor. This can be powerful for multiple purposes, or in your case, service offerings. Whether doing rooftop inspections, residential solar panel inspections, or emergency response, this drone is a powerful asset.
*Before you purchase this drone, please contact me direct to provide a discounted price through my preferred DJI Enterprise Dealer*
Next, and in my opinion the most practical option is the DJI Mavic 2 Pro. While this drone does not zoom, or capture thermal imagery, when considering startup budget vs. ROI (return on investment), the Mavic 2 Pro drone or the aforementioned Phantom 4 Pro will be more versatile than the Mavic 2 Enterprise series drones making it my 2nd of the top 3 prosumer drones for your drone startup business.
Below are a few of the differentiating features between the Mavic series drones I have mentioned:
- Mavic Pro – 12 megapixel resolution with a 1/2.3-inch Image Sensor, ISO range from 100 – 3200, and 60Mbps Video Bit Rate, 2.4 GHz frequency
- Mavic 2 Pro – 20 megapixel resolution with a 1-inch Image Sensor, ISO range from 100 – 12,800, and 100Mbps Video Bit Rate, OcuSync 2.4 to 5.8 GHz auto-switching
- Mavic 2 Enterprise – (Visual) 12 megapixel resolution with a 1/2.3-inch Image Sensor, ISO range from 100 – 12,800 (auto), 100Mbps Video Bit Rate, (Thermal) 160×120 Sensor Resolution, with 640×480 (4:3) or 640×360 (16:9), Photo and Video Capable, OcuSync 2.4 to 5.8 GHz auto-switching
- Obstacle Detection – the Mavic 2 Pro series offers Omnidirectional Obstacle Sensing on all sides, top and bottom, and proven to ensure avoiding obstacles and preventing any crash incidents.
For current model details and pricing, please click HERE.
An Alternative Solution
There are thermal camera kits available to modify the Phantom and Mavic “type” drones. Click HERE to check out some of these options for consideration.
In the next section of this article, I list a set of services that you can launch your business with that utilize either of these drone platforms. I strongly recommend establishing a focus or specialization with a particular service, then launching and growing your service offerings as you learn and discover your strengths and interests.
What Services Can I Perform With The Mavic and Phantom (Quad-Prop) Series Drones?
- Real Estate Photo and Video – click HERE to read my article on Real Estate Services. I go into great depth in that article, but to summarize, Realtors and Agents need photo and video of their property listings for marketing purposes.
- Ortho-Photography – this covers a wide array of service offerings including Mapping, 3D Modeling, for the purpose of helping construction companies survey new or existing ongoing projects. Forestry and commercial farm lands for ongoing research and studies. Police and Fire Departments use orthomosaic maps for malls and schools and other large public facilities and venues, mapping after disasters, documenting crime scenes to name a few.
- Visual Inspection – this has endless possibilities. Whether you are inspecting a rooftop, a powerline or solar farm. Your only limitation may be the need for thermal and I discuss that further in this article. But performing visual inspections can be valuable to a client. For example, I have a property management client that has me routinely fly their apartment and condominium complexes to give them visual data of the condition of the roofing.
- Other Services – I have been called on to do what I term as “1-off” projects. These are usually the most fun. For a large global client, they were hosting an extreme sports event in Nashville Tennessee. They asked me to spend three days getting aerial shots throughout the events. Another example was a friend who contracted me to do a shoot of his training event. I was hired by the American Diabetes Association to provide aerial photo and video of a kids camping event. Another was an outdoor music event.
In the following section, I discuss the DJI Inspire 1 series drones. This platformis slightly larger than the Phantom “type” drones, but is a versatile quad-prop system that is well suited to perform the services I listed for the Phantom and Mavic drones. However, the Inspire series gives you added flexibility in that you can switch cameras or sensors.
The DJI Inspire 1 and the Inspire 1 V2.0 can be purchased as new, but for the new startup business, is also available as REFURBISHED and/or used. I am browsing eBay and I am finding many appealing options. From new and never used, to factory refurbished, and lightly used, there are plenty of options to consider. As you search the listings, take time to educate yourself on the accessories and prices. I see a bundle being sold by an individual that includes additional batteries, props, battery chargers, as well as 3 different cameras, including the Zenmuse XT2 which is an expensive sensor if purchased separately.
It is important to make this solution your first consideration. If I had it to do over again in the beginning, I would have gone this route. Outfitted with an Inspire 1, I would have been able to carry out all of the work I did with my Phantom 4 and Phantom 4 Pro, and I would have been able to take other projects that I passed on because of my equipment limitations.
At this price-point, you are spending about the same as you would if you purchased the Mavic 2 Pro Enterprise Dual (thermal). But with the Inspire 1, you are sporting industrial grade cameras and sensors rather than the limited sensors on the Mavic. Having this drone can help thrust you in to higher grade, and better paying opportunities.
When considering startup budget vs. ROI (return on investment), the Inspire 1 series drone over the aforementioned Phantom and Mavic series drones will pay for itself far more quickly because of the projects you will be able to take on. In my opinion, this makes the Inspire the better of the top 3 prosumer drones for your drone startup business.
Below are a few of the differentiating camera/sensors that the Inspire 1 offers:
Interchangeable Cameras | Sensors
- Zenmuse X3 – 360 degree range, 1/2.3” sensor, Record at 4K or (4096 × 2160 @ 25fps) or (1920 × 1080 @ 60fps), 12MP photographs, 9 element rectilinear wide angle lens
- Zenmuse X5 – Micro Four Thirds sensor Record at 4K (4096 × 2160 @ 25fps) or (1920 × 1080 @ 60fps), 16MP photographs, 12.8 stops of dynamic range
- Zenmuse X5R – Cinema DNG, 1/2.3” sensor, Record at 4K, or (4096 × 2160 @ 25fps) or (1920 × 1080 @ 60fps), 12MP photographs, 9 element rectilinear wide angle lens
- Zenmuse XT – Thermal imaging camera, Uncooled VO × Microbolometer, (640 × 512) or (336 × 256) resolution, 2x, 4x, 8x or 2x, 4x digital zoom, <50 mK at f/1.0 Sensitivity (NEdT)
- Zenmuse X3 – 4K/30fps, 1/2.3” sensor, Record @ (4096 × 2160 @ 25fps) or (1920 × 1080 @ 60fps), 12MP photographs, 22-77mm equivalent focal length, 3.5 × optical zoom, 2x lossless digital zoom, Enhanced yaw stability
For current model details and pricing, please click HERE.
In this section, I list a set of services that you can launch your business with that utilize the Inspire 1 as well as the other Phantom and Mavic drone platforms defined in this article.
- Solar Energy – PV Solar Farm Inspection – Please click to my article “How To Start Your Drone PV Solar Inspection Business“. Equipped with the DJI Inspire 1 and the XT thermal sensor, you will be able to offer full solar farm inspection services. You will deliver both thermal images and visual imagery along with a comprehensive and professional analytics report.
- Powerline – Transmission and Distribution Power Network Inspection – Please click to my article “Aerial Powerline And Tower Inspection“. Again, with the Inspire 1 and the thermal sensor, you will be able to offer powerline visual/thermal inspections. You will also be able to provide a comprehensive and professional analytics report. I provide all of the instruction and guidance in this article.
- Real Estate Photo and Video – Please click to my article “Are Realtors Hiring Drone Photographers?” For more information, please refer to the section under Phantom and Mavic services.
- Ortho-Photography – please refer to the section under Phantom and Mavic services.
- Visual Inspection – please refer to the section under Phantom and Mavic services
- Other Services – please refer to the section under Phantom and Mavic services.
There are many other services I could list here, but I believe this gives you a strong starting point. I strongly recommend establishing a focus or specialization with a particular service, then launching and growing your service offerings as you learn and discover your strengths and interests.
In this article, I hope to provide you with a good step-by-step guide to what drones make the most practical sense for your drone startup business. As with all of my articles, it is my hearts desire to share what I learned going about it on my own. Back then I was figuring it out as I went and made a lot of mistakes, but perseverance conquered and I have enjoyed great success and equally as important, enjoying working for myself!
Please feel free to contact me direct with any questions or comments. I welcome the interaction. You can find me on my website, on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Just look me up as Gale-Force Drone
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!