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All trends have the power to turn into super trends — and drones have managed to do just that in an incredibly short space of time.
They started out as a bit of kit for tech-nuts to play around with but have quickly become far more than that. When drones first arrived, no one imagined they’d have such a dramatic impact on our lives. But they have.
The splash they’ve made in many industries has caused quite a shockwave. So much so, that many people are now wondering how to start a drone business. And rightly so. The profits can be astronomical. Not to mention it’s highly rewarding to be your own boss and run your own company.
But how do you get started? That’s a good question and one that we’re going to help you with right now! While a lot of it is the same as beginning any other type of business, there are extra steps you have to take.
So, let’s get into the details, shall we?
How to Start a Drone Business
Step One: Get the Certificate
The first step onto the path of starting a drone business is enrolling onto an FAA-approved aeronautical training course. Upon successful completion, you will be awarded a Remote Pilot Certificate which is a necessary requirement to commercially open a drone business.
There are approximately 700 FAA-approved test centers across the United States of America where you can sit the Part 107 examination. In other words, the test you need to pass to obtain the required certificate!
When looking to get through this qualification, you should enroll in the Drone Pilot Ground School. It’s an online course you can do in the comfort of your own home that will prepare you for the exam. You get an eye-popping 70-lesson suite that covers all the topics including:
- Drone flight operations
- National Airspace System
- Drone laws
- FAA regulations
I understand some people won’t have the time or money to invest in an online course. If this is you, there are also a number of study guides available to help you self-study and pass the exam with flying colors. Check out this study guide on Amazon to help you pass the exam.
Once you’ve nabbed your certificate, you’ll be all set to move onto step one of making money with a drone.
Step Two: Consider The Best Type of Drone Business For You
To put it simply, you need to know what you actually want to be doing. Thankfully, there are loads of drone business ideas out there — and our list is by no means exhaustive.
The way you make money from drones is your prerogative. It will depend on your interests and other factors such as the following:
- How much money you want to make
- How much time you can dedicate to your business currently
- How much capital you have
- The equipment you need
- The target market you plan to service or supply for
- Your potential competitors
- And more!
We understand that this seems rather extensive — to tell you the truth, it is. However, anything that’s worth doing isn’t going to be easy. So, we’ll go over 10 of the most popular drone business ideas right now.
1. Drone Photography Business
Before drones, taking a bird’s eye-view shots or videos was not only a pain but it was also incredibly expensive. No one liked having to rent a fixed-wing plane or helicopter — and nobody could blame them! They really have revolutionized the industry.
Running an aerial photography business with your drone is now almost too simple. As long as you’ve got a good, high-res camera attached to it, you’re ready to go.
Of course, there are some other skills you need — just as any photographer does. You should have access to a good editing suite and know how to use it. As well as a decent portfolio to show interested parties.
Additionally, you can venture into drone videography if that side of things interests. You’re bound to get some well-paying, extremely interested clients with this. Who knows? You might find yourself walking in some very high circles indeed.
2. Agriculture Inspection Business
Yup, we know this isn’t what typically comes to mind when you think of starting a drone business. However, it is a rather lucrative industry. How? Because we’re always going to need the services of our agriculture sector.
Ever since drones stepped their game up, they’ve been revolutionizing the lives of many farmers. Let us explain how.
These low-cost aviators can seamlessly survey crops by using specialist sensors that allow the farmer to acquire valuable information. This data includes statistics on the following:
- Pest infestations
- Fungal infestations
- Soil composition variations
- Soil hydration levels
Accurate measurements let the farmers do the best possible job by telling them when they should fertilize, irrigate, and control pests.
Plus, drones can be flown whenever they’re needed. Some farmers may want to take hourly measurements, while others will be fine with weekly updates.
In time, you’ll be running a pretty well-paying ordeal!
3. Mapping Business
More frequently, we’ve seen land surveyors wanting to utilize drones to gather supremely accurate digital survey information. You could argue, that this is slightly similar to the agriculture inspection drone business idea we just suggested. However, you’ll be looking at very different factors.
Surveyors can gather their data easily from the air, rather than having to rely on comparatively slow ground vehicles to do their analysis.
To get into this business, your drone will have to be able to use base station reference data, as well as GPS. It’s probable that yours came with GPS as a standard integration. We know ours did!
You will then use your drone to gather 3D cartographic data. The accuracy is astounding. Seriously, it has leeway of a mere 1 centimeter!
Starting this type of business could land you in all sorts of industries, including:
- Flood monitoring
- Forestry management
- City planning
- Oil and gas mining
4. Small Business Delivery Service
As long as you aren’t going above the law and any local regulations your area might have, small businesses could greatly benefit from this delivery service.
To be effective, you ideally need a whole army of drones. However, when you’re just starting out, you might not want to invest all of that cash (completely understandable. You could try asking one business in your town or city, whether they would like to try your services before diving into the deep end with loads of drones.
When pitching your services to small businesses, don’t forget to point out the benefits you can bring to their company. These can include:
- Lower shipping costs
- Elimination of labor for pick ups and deliveries
- Lower operational costs
- Anything else you can think up!
Don’t be discouraged if not every business owner says yes. You’ll get there, we believe in you.
5. Real Estate Drone Business
The real estate sector is a fledgling opportunity for you as a potential drone business. You could be making video tours of fancy apartments in New York or quaint log cabins in Georgia. The world is pretty much your oyster here.
The quality of such videos and images are incredible. As long as you know your way around an editing suite — think Adobe or Affinity — you are more than ready to start this adventure. But we’re going to give you a few insider tips to get you started with your aerial real estate photography drone endeavor:
- If you’re going for the horizon shot, make sure it’s straight!
- Make sure there aren’t shadows made by the clouds overlooking large properties or resorts.
- Only include the property and its land in the shots — no one wants to look at your car, head, or equipment.
6. Aerial Security Surveillance Business
Whether it is for a commercial venue or a domestic property, the security surveillance sector has found drones to be indispensable. You could get a piece of this lucrative pie too if you’re up for a bit of crime identification!
Drones have the power to discreetly record home invasions, armed robberies, and more while sending notifications to a smartphone. How amazing would it be to bring that feeling of safety and contentment to homeowners and retail managers?
Alongside all of this, your drone can let their host know when things such as floods or fires are imminent by assessing cracks or leaks. Needless to say, people will pay a pretty high price if they’re looking to protect their loved ones or their business!
Having said that, you must be competitively priced here as home security isn’t a new concept. Not only is this good practice, but it will also ensure you make a substantial dent in the market.
7. Underwater Inspection Business
We know what you’re thinking: “there’s no way I’m doing that, it’s going to be ridiculously expensive to get started”. We understand where this thought process comes from but it’s fake news people!
These days, you can buy decent submersible drones for less than $1,000 — and control them via your smartphone. No longer are they just for the large, fancy-schmancy techie companies!
With this bit of kit, you will be able to take great quality underwater pictures or shoot fantastic aqua videos. You’ll be in extremely high demand, we can almost guarantee it.
It isn’t just taking pictures though. You could be involved in the following:
- Search and recovery
- Environmental analysis
- Law enforcement
- Marine research
- Underwater pipe or boat hull inspection
If the deep sea interests you, then this submersible drone business might be the one for you. Of course, you need to have a more in-depth look at the rules, regulations, licenses, and certifications you need to know first.
8. Drone Customization and Repair Business
At the end of the day, drones are fragile. They are pretty prone to damage from erratic flying, bad landings, and just poor handling. Therefore, there is a good deal of business in fixing them.
You do have to be somewhat interested in mechanics and possess a wide breadth of knowledge about the inner workings of drones. So, if that sounds like you, then this could be the best idea for your drone business.
Not only that, but you could also incorporate customization into your services. This is all the rage at the moment. Although, we don’t know whether this part of the drone trend will die out. But it’s worth a try nonetheless.
What do we mean by customization? Well, it could be anything from new paint jobs to applying vinyl stickers with the owner’s name on. The only limit is your creativity and imagination!
9. Drone Course Provider Business
Since you’re here, you know the demand has increased for drone usage and thus, so has the need for becoming certified and licensed. With that in mind, you could get skilled up enough to become a provider of such courses.
While this might not be the most exciting option, it can be rather rewarding to impart knowledge. If you have ever been involved in the education system, you’ll have a head start on your competitors.
However, it should be noted that you will first need to be trained up to the nines yourself. This is easier said than done if you’re not that inclined. It’s up to you whether you’d have the patience to deliver drone training or not. We understand that it’s not for everyone, but it’s definitely an option.
10. Drone Advertising and Marketing Business
Our last drone business idea for today is getting into the advertising and marketing industry. The potential for growth and expansion as a company here is tremendous.
You might want to go down the warehouse inventory route. In this case, you will be supplying drones that gather intelligent data about stock, space, and plenty of other variables. This allows shop managers to effectively monitor their back end while continuing to provide substantial support on the shop floor.
Alternatively, you could use your drone photography skills to provide advertisers with uniquely angled images for their campaigns. It’s a huge industry with so much to offer.
Step Three: Consider The Target Market and Competition
After you have decided on the type of drone business you want to set up, you should research your target market and your competitors.
To effectively figure out exactly who your target market is, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Who are your competitors targeting?
- Who are their customers?
- Can I find a gap in the market?
- What features will my product/service have? How will these benefit consumers?
- Who needs to have those benefits? Who is my product/service best suited for?
- Who is likely to buy my product/service? Consider their age, gender, income, education, marital status, occupation, location, etc.
- What are my potential customers going to be like? Here think about personality, values, interests, lifestyles, behavior, etc.
- Are there enough people who will like my idea?
- Do I truly understand my target market? If not, how can I get to know them better?
- Are they accessible? Will I have trouble getting my product/service out to them?
Step Four: Write a Business Plan
Now that you have all of the above figured out, you need to write a business plan if you believe you have a viable idea.
A business plan should consist of the following information:
- Executive summary — the reader should understand what the rest of your plan states without having to read the entire document. It should state the name of your business, the nature of product/service, management team members, target market, and long-term financial aims.
- Overview of your company — needs to be to the point and state what your company is, who owns it, how you began, and why you began.
- Service/product information — describes your drone-based product or service you’re going to offer.
- Marketing plan — your target market and competitor research come into play here. Yes, it’ll be time-consuming!
- Milestones — the targets your business has set. You should have one at regular intervals (3, 6, and 9 months for example).
- Members and investors — this may not apply to you. However, you need to define the roles of anything other people involved in your business.
- Financial plan — this should state how you’re going to generate profit.
Step Five: Acquire the Necessary Business Licenses and Insurance
Regardless of the business type, there will be certain licenses and insurance you need to obtain. Since you’re starting a drone-based enterprise, there are arguably far more certificates you need to acquire here.
We would suggest you ensure you get your hands on a good damage and liability insurance. It is rather a let down to have to shell out for drone repairs when you’ve only been open for a few weeks. So, don’t scrimp on this part!
Step Six: Check The Current Drone Regulations
The FAA implemented many drone-related guidelines in 2016, but you should keep an eye on your state’s legislations too. You don’t want to be shut down due to unlawful flying! This will not be good for your brand.
And there you have it! While there are, of course, other factors to consider, this is the crux of how to start a drone business.
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