Flying your drone is liberating… but you know what’s more fun? Starting a drone business and making money from your passion!
If you’re reading this, you've probably decided you want to buy a good drone and finally turn your passion into a paying venture. While there are many resources out there on how to start a drone business, few highlight the step-by-step process it takes to start your drone business with the right foundation.
Which is why I’m glad you’re here! This article will give you a step-by-step guide, as well as best practices and an overall view of what it’s like to run a drone business.
By the end of this article, you’ll pretty much have all the information you need to go out there and start making the big bucks with your drone.
So without further ado, let’s get to it!
Before we get into the step-by-step guide, let's first look at why you should even consider starting a drone business in 2023.
To answer that, let’s simply look at the data – the numbers never lie.
The current US drone market is worth $3.24 Billion. It’s also expected to grow by at least 10 times that come 2030.
*Courtesy of https://www.fortunebusinessinsights.com/
Also worth mentioning, The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) released an economic impact report on the integration of drones in the U.S. The full report lays out all economic benefits including the impact each U.S. state will have. The main economic changes include:
It’s a booming market and with the growth of the A.I the sector which will most likely be integrated with drone tech soon, I’m thinking the drone market will explode even further.
If you think you’re too late to the party, you’re not. The drone wave is only beginning and we’ll see thousands of new jobs created through it.
That’s the cool thing about starting a drone business, there is practically no barrier to entry – you only need some expertise and a good enough drone.
Starting a drone business is accessible to everyone. Two things to note when starting are the part 107 test and the local drone laws, which are easily manageable.
The first step to starting your drone business is to be FAA certified. You’ll need to pass the Part 107 test with a score of at least 70% to become a commercial drone pilot.
The regulatory laws will depend on where you live, so make sure to research your local laws to determine whether starting a drone business is viable.
You’ll find the drone laws of basically every state within the USA on dronesgator.com.
You’ll also need skills and expertise, which are easily acquired either through drone courses or through on-field experience.
So with all of the above in mind, here is a full step-by-step guide on how to start a drone business.
This guide is in no particular order, and you can skip steps if you think they’re unneeded.
My personal recommendation is that when starting out, it’s always best to stick to what you know already!
It’s way easier when you pick an industry you are already familiar with. Let's say you have a background in agriculture, this gives you an edge in knowledge and connection in that industry.
Not only that, but it also makes starting out your drone business much smoother (and faster).
But that’s not an ironclad rule. If you want to start something new, there are lots of alternatives.
Take some time to look through drone businesses you know. See what each offers, learn and think about what could be improved or new ideas that could be added.
Asides from piloting, you can decide to specialize in drone repair services, drone course provision, drone software development or drone rental. But they’re usually less fun and let’s be honest… you want to be flying your drone for a living don’t you.
Also, check market demand. What is the demand for drone services in your area? What types of drone services are needed? This might guide what industry you choose to specialize in.
I’ll talk more in depth about the various booming drone industries below so read on.
People can’t buy your services if they don’t know you sell them!
One of the easiest ways to start gaining traction when you’re just starting out your drone business is marketing them online. If you’ve got a budget, running online ads will be the fastest way.
If you don’t, then putting out content out there and gaining organic traffic to it is the second best way. It can be as simply as taking cinematic footage of your area, starting a youtube channel around it and starting to put out content regularly.
Just make it clear you’re selling drone services if you opt in for the organic traffic way.
Make sure you know who you want as a customer too, dentifying your target market is an integral part of your drone business success.
Every country has their own set of regulations, so make sure you know and understand the process to get licensed in your country.
If you’re in the U.S. you will need the FAA Part 107 Certificate. The FAA Part 107 certificate demonstrates that you understand the regulations, operation requirements, and procedures for safely flying drones.
You’ll need to pass the Part 107 test with a score of at least 70% to become a commercial drone pilot.
I’ve made a detailed article about you can get certified and have a drone business licence.
This is very important, because as a business you’ll be under much more scrutiny from the law.
You need to check in and consider your country's and state’s drone regulations and service demands. You want your business to run hitch-free without you being on the wrong side of the law.
If you’re in the USA, I’ve made a detailed article about drone laws within the USA which you can check over here.
Professional drones can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $20,000 each. In order to get started, you’ll have to have at least one drone. (duh)
You may want to start out by renting a few if you want to lower your initial investment and startup costs, which is definitely a great option.
Just note that in the US, any drones that weigh over 0.55 pounds must be registered with the Federal Aviation Association. So be sure to do that with any drones you plan to use for commercial use.
Personally, I recommend starting with a quadcopter drone. Many 'smart' drones today come with obstacle avoidance, hover capabilities, GPS w/ Return-To-Home, system warnings and a 4K Camera, and are controlled by an app and your phone.
All of that makes flying a drone like playing a video game, really easy and hassle free.
Other equipment you need are a compatible SD card, takeoff/landing pad, batteries, travel case, flight logbook (needed for insurance) and ND filters.
Your business name is your business identity, so choose one that encapsulates your objectives, services, and mission in just a few words.
Try not to sound cute or quirky in your name, make it direct and professional (your clients will respect you for it).
You want a name that’s short and easy to remember. And obviously, be sure the name is not already registered and being used.
For the business structure, the best thing is to open an LLC – it’s pretty easy and can be done in under 48 hours.
For payment, you can use all sorts of invoicing systems which you can find online.
Note: I’ve written a detailed article about this which you can find here.
Insurance protects you from unexpected events that can have a devastating impact on your business. When insuring your drone for business operations, you'll need two main types of insurance to cover any type of damage caused by or to the drone.
You can add more, but these two are the most important:
Liability insurance is coverage for any damage caused by the drone i.e. hitting a car, or hitting a pipeline that causes a leak. Hull insurance is coverage for any physical damage that happens to your drone.
Regular use causes wear and tear for all electronic devices.
If you’re running a drone business, you’ll be flying your drone every week (daily if business is booming), it’s advisable to implement routine maintenance on a per-flight basis. Take care of each piece of equipment. A drone flies through the air, comes in contact with all sorts, and accumulates dust buildup to create time to clean dirt.
It’s all about the money at the end of the day, and you have to make sure you’re getting your worth as a pilot and business owner.
Once you know what services you want to provide, you’ll have to decide on a pricing structure.
You can choose to price by hourly or daily rates. Or you may want to charge per project or go on retainer with a regular customer (I personally prefer this).
Long-term service contracts can provide your own business an advantage because you will have work you can count on and you’ll be able to staff and grow the business. You’ll also want to decide on a billing cycle and communicate that to clients in a clear and regulated way.
This is not an important step, but drone pilots are among the coolest people to hang out with.
Drones as a product are going to continually evolve–as will the market.
So it might be good for you to stay on the pulse of change by being involved in drone communities. This will help you be better aware of trends and changes that are in demand.
There are many drone business possibilities when it comes to drones. For example, if you decide to do a one-man business (where you work solo) If you can create content for:
And here are some booming industries in which you can either work in solo, or as a business owner with your own staff:
Starting a drone photography business is practically the same as starting any other drone business but with a few key differences.
You see, when it comes to this industry the bulk of you work will be spent marketing your footage and pictures on social media.
There are many people who have use for this sort of service, with the top paying ones being realtors and wedding planners.
Any good drone will work here, most low-end DJI drones like the DJI Mini 3 will work too!
Among all the types and structures of drone businesses that you can start, I’d say starting a drone mapping business is the most lucrative and profitable.
Drone mapping is the process of using drones to capture images or data of a specific area or object and then create a 2D or 3D map or model of it. The process involves using various techniques and technologies to collect, process, and analyze the data.
The reason it’s profitable is because you’ll be working mainly with medium to big sized companies if you choose an industry like energy & telecommunications – mapping in agriculture can also earn you the big bucks depending on who you work with.
This is a long a subject but if you’re interested, I’ve written a detailed article about the best and fastest way to start your drone mapping business here.
I’ve already written a detailed article about this which you can check over here. But here’s the quick rundown:
All professional drone pilots require Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification to obtain a remote pilot certificate. In the U.S., you need to be at least 16 years of age before you can apply for one. The cost to take this certification is relatively low, typically around $150. It’s possible to take it either online or in person.
Specifically, you’re looking for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) training. Once you’ve passed the training, you’re a certified drone pilot.
Owning and running a drone business doesn’t mean you have to be a drone pilot, but if you’re a one-man business then you need to be one.
A drone pilot is someone who operates unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones for a variety of purposes. These can include commercial uses like real estate photography, agricultural monitoring, or search and rescue operations, as well as creative hobbies like cinematography or FPV (first-person view) racing.
I’ve made a detailed guide on how to become a drone pilot which you can read over here.
Starting and running a drone business is no easy thing, but if done correctly can allow you to make big bucks.
Especially now when the industry is booming more than ever. As long as you’re consistent and can take a few rejections from prospects initially, there is no reason why you can’t make it in this market.
I hope you enjoyed reading this guide and learned a lot from it!