The Art of the Niche: Using Drones to Generate Income

Photo: An aerial image of a parking lot put in central Pennsylvania by a construction company. This was one of many photos captured to demonstrate the progress of the project from beginning to end.

LANCASTER, Pa. — Perhaps the biggest challenge when it comes to flying drones commercially is understanding how to utilize your aerial tool to generate income. Whether you are flying for cash to offset the costs of this rather expensive hobby or attempting to make a full-time career out of it, the challenge remains the same overall: how do I get companies to pay me to use my drone?

The first step is understanding fully what you want to accomplish as an aerial entrepreneur. As of right now, there are roughly four mainstream categories of industry in which a drone can be used:

  • Cinematography
  • Digital Mapping
  • Photography
  • Site/Structure Inspecting

After you have an idea of how you plan on implementing your drone, it is time to learn what industries look for aerial imaging services most often so you can attempt to tap into those markets. Right now the industries that are most widely using drones are the multimedia and entertainment industries, but if one were to dig just a bit deeper, they would find industries such as  agriculture and farming, architecture and construction, logistics, real estate, and insurance all require the use of drone technology in some way or another. What is important when considering which markets to enter with your drone is the additional tools and software you need to properly conduct business within those industries and how they fit into your current mix. For example:

Kevin is a photographer who recently purchased a DJI Mavic 2 Pro for his business. Kevin intends on using the Mavic 2 Pro to take stunning aerial imagery to supplement his photo collages and give his portfolio some depth of content. Ted then sees there is a need for aerial imaging in the logistics industry — particularly in warehouses and better understanding stock levels as well as traffic within warehouses and how to most efficiently navigate in order to meet customer demand.

First, a Mavic 2 Pro is not necessarily the best tool for this job. DJI makes some very high-level drones, extending down to their Mavic series which are fantastic prosumer unmanned aircraft. However, it is not equipped to handle the demands of monitoring the stock of goods within a warehouse or its traffic on an hourly basis. Could it be accomplished? Sure, but it won’t be cost efficient for Kevin or the companies that hire Kevin out as a contractor because one of them will be operating at a giant loss when all is said and done. Kevin will either need to value his time as the operator at less than $0.00 an hour or the company will have to pay an absolute premium on Kevin’s time.

However, Kevin could opt to search the construction industry for work — especially when it comes to providing regular progress reports for a construction company on one of their work sites. The Mavic 2 Pro takes fantastic photos and crisp 4K video that would demonstrate regular changes to an entire work site in one of the most stunning ways possible. In other words, Kevin will become very popular to his construction clients after delivering multimedia that combines his Mavic 2 Pro and his background in photography.

Understanding where you are starting within your drone niche and then moving outward into different niches responsibly is the best way to grow any business that relies on drones to generate revenue.

On that note and in closing, it is important to remember that you will not thrive as a “drone only” business. There are admittedly not many companies looking to hire full-time or contracted drone pilots unless it is for a very specific purpose and those jobs are few and far between. Understand that your drone is a tool that allows you to do business. It is a powerful tool and it can even be your “main” tool that you do most of your work on, but it will not sustain your business by itself.

You must diversify the tools, equipment, and software you need in order to provide to your niche industry. Only after you have comprehended and brought that understanding to life will you find enough success to begin branching out into new niches and begin relying more and more on your aerial imaging equipment.

Published by The Drone Geek

28-year-old Pennsylvanian armed with nothing more than a drone and a passion for sharing.

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