Drone Business Ideas
Drone technology is evolving at a rapid pace, and with it comes new opportunities for you. If you are so inclined, a drone business would be a great addition to creating income on your small farm. Approach it as you would any new business start-up.
In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the most exciting drone business ideas. From delivering packages to providing aerial photography to crop monitoring, there are many ways to put drones to work. So if you’re ready to jump on the drone bandwagon, keep reading!
Table of Contents
What is a Drone?
Simply stated, drones are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Today, these flying robots can either be manually controlled remotely or can be programmed to fly autonomously using software designed for flight.
Drones date all the way back to the 1840s in Italy, but those drones were all hot-air, hydrogen, or helium-filled balloons. Used in Venice’s war of independence from Austria, the Austrians sent drones carrying bombs to the Venetian lines and even into the city.
A pilotless radio-controlled aircraft was developed during World War I, but was never used. Drones appeared again just before World War II and during the war, were used as targets to train gunners, and later to fly bombing attacks. At this point, the technology was underdeveloped and unreliable.
Today, we have seen the application of drones equipped with bombs or surveillance during wars throughout the world. Better yet, we have seen drones become an integral part of information gathering for business and agriculture.
Are Drones for You?
Are you interested in using or starting a business using drones? Approach it as you would any other small business idea. Plan, research, and even do preliminary market research to see if this business idea would work for you.
Using drones has very specific skills required in order to be successful. The initial investment can be steep, so be sure that you have the abilities needed to be a good pilot. For example, you need to be detail-oriented, for flying drones requires safety checks and knowledge of the weather. Strong concentration skills are another asset that will benefit your flying.
Consider: Do you have a strong interest in aviation? Why start something if you really aren’t interested?
You need strong IT and math skills, for at some point, you are going to be coding software to make your drone act in certain ways. Drone technology is a new field, but there are plenty of sources to help you learn.
How are you with camera work? You need to have the ability to manipulate the software to download your stills or video footage. A good photographer’s eye would also help, for you don’t want to take amateur pictures.
How do you respond under pressure? Do you have the ability to remain calm when things are going wrong?
Drones are very complicated technical machines, and drone technology is changing at a very fast pace. However, with a bit of study, you can master them, if you are truly interested. A drone business, for the right person, can become very profitable.
Types of Drones
Drones come in a variety of sizes and types. The three main types of drones are:
These are the drones that look like mini-helicopters, have more than one rotor and they provide vertical lift. They are known to be easy to fly, and can be operated in tight spaces. This is a good camera drone.
Its disadvantage is that they have short flight times. They are great for obtaining for aerial images. The multi-rotor drone is the most popular model and is readily available in all price ranges.
This drone looks like a small helicopter with one rotor at the top, again providing vertical lift. They can go for long periods of time with heavier payloads.
However, they are harder to fly and more expensive than most drones.
A fixed-wing drone looks like a tiny airplane, and its wings are designed to provide lift–just like a plane. Because of their design, they can cover larger areas for longer and have fast flight speed.
They are harder to fly and require more space for launching and recovery. Plus, they are expensive drones, but probably the best drone for aerial mapping.
Best Drone Business Ideas
You are only limited by your imagination and business savvy when considering a drone business idea. Here are just some of the drone business ideas to get you started:
Drones are providing cutting-edge technology to farmers, providing even better ways to produce and harvest crops. Agricultural drones equipped with cameras and other equipment are part of the new age of precision agriculture.
Farm management has become so technical today that one of its newest tools is drone usage. It requires drone operators to learn to assess such areas as crop yields, plant stress, and even pest control.
You would be assisting farming operations by creating maps of fields and surveying the farmer’s crops. When you survey crops, you are helping the farmer determine needs so that yield will be optimum.
In addition, there are many agricultural applications that require a specialized knowledge and drone. For example, a multispectral imaging drone–an agricultural drone–can determine crop health and water needs, providing multicolored charts of what is happening on the ground. Drone data can be invaluable to precision agriculture.
There is one caveat here, though, and that is the FAA has specific rules that apply to agriculture drones. Since this is a new field, the rules are being regularly adjusted for the current situation. You need to be aware of the rules before you make an investment here. Regularly review these rules and work them into your drone business actions.
Public Safety Drones
There are a number of public safety categories that offer business opportunities or just a simple opportunity to serve your community.
Search and Rescue
A drone can go places and see things that are inaccessible to people. For example, searching for an individual in the mountains requires large groups of people to cover the area. A drone can go up and survey the area, sending back pertinent info to the search and rescue teams. Drone owners should be part of the search and rescue group to use a drone for them.
Active Shooter Scenario
Sadly, this is a scenario we now must recognize is happening in our world. Police units can use a drone to survey the danger before any officer is at risk. Experienced drone pilots are needed. Your local police have a contract with you to use a drone in this instance. Otherwise, if you just act on your own, you may be endangering others.
In recent hurricanes, we have seen how unmanned aerial vehicles have been able to pinpoint areas and people who needed help. Communities deal with natural disasters by collecting information and acting upon it. Your drone can collect information safely, without endangering individuals.
Some drones are even being used now to deliver emergency supplies to areas aid workers can’t access. Your drone would have to be capable of carrying items to complete this task.
Again, to be paid, you would need to contract with your local government or aid agency for providing drone services.
Fire and Drones
You may be able to obtain a contract with your local fire department, and be able to survey fire-damaged structures for them.
In the West, during forest fires, the fire managers and incident management teams use drones to scan large areas and see where the fire lines are. This is legal drone flight, for the fire service controls the drone flying.
However, there have been a number of unauthorized drone pilots who have been flying over the forest fires without permission. When this happens, the fire service has to down all planes until the drones are gone. It is a federal crime to fly near a forest fire without permission. It puts everyone in jeopardy and may cause big fines (up to $20,000) and prison time (up to 12 months) for the unauthorized drone pilots. Doing this could kill your drone business permanently.
Wedding Photography, Event Photography
Your drone can do stills or videos of weddings or events from a unique perspective. There is a great deal of competition in this field, so you will have to build a reputation. The pay is good, and the hours are even better if you are working a full-time job during the week.
Event photography can also include business or corporate meetings, family reunions, or any time people congregate. Try to make your pictures unique and fun to create good memories.
Marketing for Hotels and Builders
Drones can give a bird’s eye view of a building under construction or a hotel beach. This unique perspective makes for beautiful marketing materials that sell homes or entice visitors to the hotel.
Real estate sales and marketing people have discovered how effective high-quality images from drones are. Sometimes, they will want video, while other times, they prefer stills. Your drone should be able to handle either.
Whether the drone is used for a simple roof inspection, a skyscraper under construction, cell tower inspections, or power line inspections, this unmanned aerial vehicle can provide unique details of the construction work. Drone operators doing drone inspection service and progress monitoring are just several aspects of what a drone can do for a builder.
Insurance companies can use drones to inspect damaged or collapsed buildings safely without risking human lives. This type of insurance claim could be easily handled.
Anything up high could be surveyed, including solar panel inspections or inspecting power lines. Think what an easy job inspecting concrete support beams would be with a drone! Aerial inspections have great potential for business opportunities.
Stock Photos and Videos
If you are really good at photography and have your own high-end camera on your drone, you can sell images on many of the commercial photo sites. Drone imagery is fairly new, and high-quality images are in demand. You have the ability to capture aerial stills. If this is your interest, there are many outlets to sell your product.
Many times we have seen drone footage of a breaking story. More news outlets, both print and internet, are using drones today to be current on news stories. If your talent is journalism, this should be a skill you consider.
Offering your drone operator services to a private investigator can open up a new income stream for you. You will get an assignment, then produce photographs. Working under a PI might put you into some interesting situations.
Drone deliveries won’t work in all communities, but they are becoming more popular in the larger metropolitan areas. A number of companies have been experimenting with this concept, including Amazon, but it is still too new to determine if it is going to be successful.
No, you probably won’t break into the Hollywood network, but local film-making companies may be able to use your drone piloting skills. You can produce imagery and aerial footage for ads or documentaries, as well as for families chronicling their histories. Drone photography is unique, and when marketed well, should sell.
Teaching Drone Flying
If you love the drone industry and become really good at flying/operating drones, you might find a niche in teaching aspiring commercial drone pilots about drones in person. There are many drone flying clubs around now that might give you access to teaching students.
You could start a YouTube channel teaching drone flying, and then spin that off into an online course of drone flying. A drone pilot is in great demand these days.
Building and Programming Drones
If you are a techie and love building, you could produce a side income drone business building and programming drones for other people. There are so many industries that need specialized drones to complete their needed tasks, yet there are just a few people who know how to do this.
If you don’t know how to program or calibrate, but want to learn, there are courses online (some even free) to help you get started. Also, some state universities are teaching the programming.
There is an opportunity in repairing and reselling drones. Many people, once a drone crashes, will just toss it away. Or, they want it fixed. If you have the skill of repair, you can fix it for the client, or sell it on the market as used, refurbished. A drone repair shop is in demand. Drone sales of used drones are growing.
How to Get Started
Before you can start any drone business, you have to really know drones and what they can do. You also need to be a proficient pilot as well as knowing the software that most of them operate with. To become proficient, you can take lessons or courses.
Plan your drone business just as you would any other small business. You need to create a realistic business plan as well as a marketing plan. Review these plans regularly and make appropriate adjustments according to the market conditions you are experiencing.
Code and Calibrate Drones
Your next step is to learn to code and calibrate drones. One expert suggests, “buy and learn to operate editing software.” Again classes, either online or in person, will help you gain this skill.
Get your license from the Federal Aviation Administration. At this time, it will cost you $175 for the license after you pass the test. There are courses online where you can study for this test (cost around $140).
Also remember that every state and many communities have specific rules for drones used within their jurisdictions. You will need to check your locality rules to legally fly.
Buy drone insurance and any liability you may need for the work you want to do.
Buying a Drone
Research drones and buy one which is appropriate for your skill level. You may have to start small with an inexpensive drone and work up to a commercial expensive drone.
If you are clever at constructing things, you might think about starting with a drone kit. That way, you will know everything there is to know about your drone.
Your Own Drone Business
As with any business, you must have a plan for your drone business, preferably written down. Explore the market and make sure there is enough business there to make you money. These are just some of the best drone business ideas today, but watch the market around you and see if there are other opportunities that you can take advantage of.
What is unique about what you are offering? How are you different from the other drone businesses in the area? Stress this uniqueness. Show how you will benefit your customers.
Good Business Practices Required for Success
Keep good records. Develop a strong marketing plan. Work hard and keep your eye on your goal. Good luck!
Want More Info?
There are a number of free drone classes available online. Alison.com offers two that I think you would find valuable. The first, INTRODUCTION TO DRONES, offers basic information and how to build and program a drone.
The second class is more advanced. Learn to FLY DRONES LIKE A PRO.
Other Business Ideas
You are only limited by your imagination when it comes to new small business ventures. If you decide that a drone business is not for you, consider other ideas such as agrotourism or microgreens. Follow your interests, develop a strong business plan, then follow it up with a good marketing plan, and work hard focusing on your goals. Good luck!