3 Awesome Ideas For Your Drone Business

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Drone Business
Me with my drone

Drones are a lot of fun and an awesome business opportunity. We started our family business, then created this blog to offer advice to others that are interested in this technology. 

Table of Contents

I was reviewing our company business plan and was happy to see that most of our original market forecasts are still accurate. Even so, we do ongoing research to make sure that we have the most current market information. This article summarizes our perspectives on the best drone business ideas.

The 3 best ideas to make money with your drone business are aerial videography, aerial mapping, and aerial inspection. The most important industries for these markets are construction, commercial advertising, agriculture, and public infrastructure. The overall drone market is forecasted to grow significantly over the next decade. Key future markets will include package delivery, transportation, and disaster response.

If you’re thinking of ideas for drone business, you will need to research the different ways you can use your drone to generate revenue. There are many new drone photography businesses and services popping up, which indicates that there is definitely a market demand. If you’re thinking about starting a business, check out our article which provides a step-by-step detailed process based on how we started our drone business.

Start Drone Inspection Business

When developing our business plan we did a LOT of market research to make sure we picked the best services. This article presents our perspective on the three best drone business ideas. We’ve done the research legwork for you.

Genera Market Outlook

The drone services market was estimated at $4.4 billion in 2019 and is projected to reach $63.6 billion by 2025, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 55.9% from 2019 to 2025 according to a report by Grand View Research, Inc. This is a huge growth rate. Even considering that most market reports tend to be optimistic, the drone industry still looks very promising.

Drone market forecast image

The drone services market is divided into aerial photography and remote sensing, data acquisition and analytics, mapping & surveying, inspection, and 3D modeling. Aerial photography and remote sensing application segments are expected to grow at the fastest rate between 2019 and 2025. There has been an increase in the demand for aerial photography from the infrastructure, architecture, civil engineering, mining, agriculture, insurance, renewable energy, utilities, and oil & gas industries around the world.

Idea#1: Aerial Videography

The market for drone videography services is expected to grow significantly in the next few years. An important driver is the decreasing cost of drone technology which makes it more accessible to businesses and consumers alike. We can expect to see a surge in demand for drone videography services in the coming years. Businesses and consumers will be able to use drones to capture aerial footage of events, product launches, and other commercial activities. The largest market is commercial advertising which is driven by residential and commercial real estate.

Indoor aerial drone photo

Residential Real Estate

Real estate professionals seek differentiated property listings, commercial organizations need to highlight the value of assets, and municipalities want to advertise local attractions. Aerial photos and videos reveal locations of adjacent properties, schools, businesses, shopping centers, and recreational facilities. For real estate advertising, studies show as much as a 300% return on investment for a drone shoot depending on the property and features.

The market for aerial videography is growing. According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), 73% of homeowners say that they are more likely to list with a real estate agent who uses aerial photography and video to market their home.

However, surprisingly only 9% of agents actually employ videos in their listings. According to MLS statistics, homes with aerial images sold almost 70% quicker than homes with standard or still images. This suggests there are significant opportunities for drone business in the residential real estate market.

Commercial Real Estate

While there are many potential applications for drone photography in commercial real estate, we’ve found all of our drone business has been for commercial shopping centers. Drone videography offers a unique perspective that can show off the mall’s features in a way that traditional advertising methods cannot. Drone footage can capture the scale of the mall, as well as the layout and design of the space. Drone photography can also highlight special features or promotions that may be taking place at the mall.

A new and exciting application for drone footage is to create interactive virtual tours.

The drone can take pictures or videos from different angles and heights to create a 360-degree virtual tour, allowing viewers to see the property from all sides. This allows customers to view the facility without them having to leave their homes.

Idea#2: Aerial Inspection

Many infrastructure assets and buildings require periodic and scheduled maintenance inspections (e.g., wireless cell towers, power lines, rooftops). Unmanned aerial vehicles reduce the need for workers to climb towers, high-tension arrays, and service poles to perform routine audits and inspections.

Drones can be operated at a much lower per-hour cost than manned inspection teams. These cost and efficiency savings enable more frequent inspections which potentially reduce asset downtime. In many cases, specialized imaging and machine learning can be applied to predict problems not visible to the human eye. In addition, construction sites use inspection services to identify safety hazards and track progress.

The aerial inspection market is expected to grow from $18.17 Billion in 2017 to $27.84 Billion by 2023 at a CAGR of 7.2%. Rising urbanization is expected to drive the building inspection services market.

According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, an estimated 4.4 billion people lived in urban areas in 2020, and that number is projected to rise to 6.7 billion by 2050.

Compared to manned aerial or manual methods, drone inspections are safer, faster, and cheaper. A Transparency Market Research (TRM) report predicts the drone inspection market will grow at ~23% CAGR between 2019 and 2027.

The need for inspection of public infrastructure will continue to grow, an estimated 43% of public roadways are in poor or mediocre condition, and this situation has remained constant over the past decade. In addition, increased penetration of cellular wireless telecom towers in rural areas and the development of 5G will be factors in the growth of the drone inspection market.

Idea#13: Aerial Mapping and Survey

Aerial surveys can generate topographic maps on par with highly accurate measurements collected by traditional survey methods. Capturing aerial topographic data with a drone is significantly faster, cheaper, and safer than land-based methods. Survey drones generate high-resolution orthomosaic images that can be used to produce very detailed elevation models, contour lines, and 3D reconstructions of land sites or buildings. Construction planning, management, and inspection are among the leading users of drone survey and digital mapping products.

Drone Map of Construction Site

The construction industry is our target market. There are three major drone survey use cases for construction

1. Digital terrestrial topology analysis, contour mapping, and terrain modeling for pre-bid and pre-construction documentation

2. Earthwork and digital elevation modeling for site preparation 

3. Periodic site monitoring for project management and advertising

These applications allow project managers to track material and asset usage, track project progression and compliance, and improve workforce safety at a lower cost compared to traditional approaches.

The aerial mapping and surveying market will see significant growth between 2021 to 2027. Key growth applications are forestry, construction, energy, oil and gas, and the environment. The development of smart cities and continued urbanization are expected to drive this growth.

The GIS market size is expected to grow from $8.1 billion in 2020 to an expected $25.6 billion by 2030, exhibiting a CAGR of 12.1% during the forecast period. Integration of geospatial technology and increasing accessibility of spatial data and cloud technology are some of the major factors driving the growth of the GIS market. 

We only focused on the markets we are pursuing because those are our areas of expertise. But we’ve provided links in case you want to look into other potential drone markets.

Drone Business Challenges

Currently, the drone industry is facing a number of challenges that are preventing it from reaching its full potential.

Drone Regulations

One of the biggest challenges is the lack of clear regulations for unmanned aerial vehicles. The future of drone technology is highly dependent on the drone regulations that are set by the government. The government has yet to establish clear rules and regulations regarding drone use, which has resulted in a great deal of uncertainty for drone manufacturers and operators.

Flight Time

Standard battery lifetimes are in a range of 20 minutes to 40 minutes which is sufficient for short-term on-site applications. However, more complex jobs require multiple batteries which require on-site pilots to swap out the batteries periodically. This limits the potential of autonomous remote operations.

BVLOS Capability

Currently, drones require a line-of-sight remote control. The future of thrones is remote autonomous operations, this will require beyond visual line of site operation which is currently not possible. However, the introduction of 5G technology promises to enable (BVLOS) capability. There are still many challenges to be solved but the potential is real.

Security

Communication between remote control and drone has very unsophisticated encryption which can be easily hacked. This means that drones are susceptible to being hijacked. For most current applications this is not a serious concern, because there’s no real financial incentive to hijack drones in most used cases. Future use cases like package delivery, create a significant financial incentive and will increase the probability that drones will be compromised.

Drone Hacking Image

Public Perception

The third challenge that drone manufacturers are facing is public perception. There are many people who are concerned about privacy issues and safety hazards associated with drones. Until these concerns are addressed, it is unlikely that drone technology will be widely accepted by the general public.

Despite these challenges, drone photography holds a great deal of promise for the future. Drones have the potential to revolutionize a number of industries. The market for drone photography market looks bright and there are many business opportunities if you’re interested in building this new technology.

Future Ideas For Drone Business

Drones are already making an impact in a number of industries, and their potential applications are only continuing to grow. Here are a few of the biggest future markets for drones:

Agriculture

The global UAS agriculture market size was about $1.6 B in platform, software, and services in 2020. The market is expected to grow at 16% and total about $6.5 B by 2026.

Drones for agriculture image

Drones can be used to quickly and accurately map large agricultural fields, and they can also be equipped with sensors to detect crop stressors like pests, diseases, and lack of water. This information can then be used to improve crop yields and reduce losses.

Main Applications

Crop Spraying – Drones reduce spraying costs and artificial intelligence tools are being developed to use chemicals more efficiently. 

Disease Detection – Drones can be equipped with sensors that detect healthy and diseased crops.  

Mapping – UAVs easily provide detailed surface maps and terrain topology data.

Surveillance – UAVs can replace manual property perimeter checks.

Construction

This market represents roughly 25% of the commercial drone service market, and it is expected to grow significantly between 2020 and 2030.

Main Applications

Earthwork management – Drones provide pre-construction site surveys cheaper and more efficiently than traditional methods, validating project costs faster and giving enough 

Land Mapping & Surveys – Drones employ photogrammetry to generate detailed georeferenced maps for measuring distances.

Infrastructure – Drones can be equipped with cameras, LiDAR, or multispectral imaging sensors to inspect infrastructure. Artificial intelligence can be leveraged to identify defects.

Drone with lidar mapping

Stockpile monitoring – Drones quickly and efficiently measure stockpiles by creating 3D maps

Surveillance – UAVs equipped with optical or thermal cameras, can patrol large areas and alert staff if suspicious activity is detected.

Progress Monitoring – Drones perform periodic flights to document progress records for managers, clients, and investors. 

This application help construction companies avoid costly delays and accidents.

Package Delivery

Drones are already being tested for use in package delivery, and this is expected to become a major application in the coming years. Drones can deliver packages quickly and safely, without adding to traffic congestion.

drone package delivery image

Main Applications

Food Delivery – Primary usage in low-population rural areas 

Parcel Delivery – Primary usage in areas with poor infrastructure.

eCommerce Delivery – retail delivery represents the largest market segment

Medical Delivery – Primary usage in underdeveloped countries

Emergency Response

Drones can be used to quickly assess damage after a natural disaster, locate survivors, and deliver emergency supplies. This information can help relief efforts to be more efficient and effective.

Healthcare

The healthcare industry is another promising market for drone services. Drones can be used to transport medical supplies, conduct aerial surveys of medical facilities, and even provide telemedicine services.

Drone in healthcare image

Search and rescue.

Drones can be used to search for missing persons in difficult-to-reach areas like mountains or forests. The drone’s camera can provide invaluable information about the terrain, which can help rescuers to find their way.

As drone technology continues to evolve, there will be significant opportunities to develop new drone business ideas. If you’re starting a drone business, this is a great time to get started.

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Felton Flood, PhD

Felton Flood, PhD

Dr. Flood has 25+ years experience in telecommunications and is a veteran of several startups in Silicon Valley and Northern Virginia. In 2021 he co-founded Lightwave Aerial, applying machine learning and cloud technologies to innovate UAV services.

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