So you wanna be a drone pilot Part 6

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Part 6: And by the way, drones ain’t drones Solly …

NDVI crop health surveys

Our vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) fixed wing UAV can operate in any terrain and cover very large areas

The skills and experience you need to be successful as a commercial UAV operator go well beyond the skills and experience you might have acquired flying your drone for recreational purposes. Those skills are useful, but they are only a very small component of what will make you successful in this business.

And that drone you thought was so expensive when you bought it? Well it wasn’t. It was so cheap it’s almost useless for most commercial UAV applications.

DJI drones are, in my opinion, great products and I have a few of them that I use from time to time in my business. But they are not the core of my operations. For serious aerial imaging projects we mostly fly fixed wing UAVs that start at around $15,000 and go way up from there.

Integrated cameras, like those in the DJI Phantom, have serious limitations. For real commercial UAV projects we typically fly with near full-sized SLR cameras like the Canon S100 and the Sony A6000, often modified for near-infrared or other specialised purposes. These cameras often cost far more than a DJI drone! In the future we will be investing in even more sophisticated cameras including thermal and multispectral cameras that may cost more than our fixed wing UAVs!

We’re still only scratching the surface of what it takes to be a serious commercial UAV operator, by the way. As we go further and further into this business, we are no longer competing with our neighbour or the kid down the road who go a drone for Christmas. We find ourselves competing with the big operators who are backed by aerospace giants and international technology companies, operating UAVs and cameras that make our equipment also look like toys.

It’s not my intention to put you off going into the drone business. But make sure you go in with your eyes wide open, know what it is you intend to achieve in the business and who your customers will be, know what motivates them to use your services and how you make a difference to their lives by what you do (that they could not do for themselves, or ask a friend to do). Make sure you have the resources to establish and maintain your business – firstly the time to be able to devote to building the business and finding repeat customers; secondly the money (capital) to invest in the right equipment, keep it up to date and refreshed, pay support staff and pay your bills; and thirdly the passion and motivation to make the jump, leave your day job and do what has to be done to make this business work, and keep working.

To my mind, there is far too much hype in this industry and not nearly enough hard, practical graft. Please feel free to ask me any questions you might still have using the comments field below.

And by the way, if you’re a potential aerial imaging customer reading this, I hope I’ve helped you to understand why you should not expect to get your aerial photos for peanuts (unless you can get a monkey to do it).

Get in touch with Queensland Drones

To find out how we can help you achieve your aerial photography, aerial video and aerial mapping needs, get in touch with us using the links below.