This is Part-1 of our 3-part series on drone business startups. This part-1 covers photography. In this article, we’ll discuss starting your drone photography business. Part-2 of the series covers the aerial mapping business and Part-3 discusses inspection services.
Drone photography is the service to start your drone business. Real estate, construction, and corporate marketing provide a large customer base. First, you’ll need a commercial pilot license, then you must find and attract customers.
We’ll review some things we’ve learned while starting our drone business. We’ve made plenty of mistakes, so maybe we can help you avoid them.
Is This a Good Time To Start A Drone Photography Business?
According to a report by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) number of drones in use will increase by 280% between 2020 and 2030.
There are many business opportunities in drone photography that weren’t available even a few years ago. Drones are relatively inexpensive and easy to use, so you can get started quickly.
So the answer is yes, this is a great time to start a drone photography business.
Why Should You Consider Drone Photography
There are several reasons to consider starting a drone photography business.
First, aerial photography is in high demand. There’s a large customer base that can benefit from drone photography, like real estate companies, construction firms, and event planners.
Second, You have the opportunity to get started in a new and developing technology. Over the next decade, regulatory changes and technological advances will dramatically increase the use of drones in our society. This is a chance to get into the ground floor of a major industry.
Finally, a drone photography business is relatively easy to start. You don’t need a lot of expensive equipment or technical knowledge to get started. There will be a learning curve. And long-term success requires that you eventually understand the technology. But you can get started making money fairly quickly.
Start Your Drone Photography Business
Aerial photography and videography are in high demand, and there is potential for making money.
I will discuss five key topics that have been important for my drone business:
- Markets and ease of entry.
- Target customers and how we’re finding them
- The best products
- Product pricing
- Skills, hardware, and software you will need
Markets For Your Drone Photography Business
One of the great things about the drone photography business is that there are many markets. The most common markets are real estate, construction, inspection, and marketing.
Real estate photography is one of the most common places to start a drone photography business. Many real estate companies use drone photography to show off their properties. However, there’s still a large segment of the industry that does not use drones. This means there is a significant addressable market.
Aerial photography allows potential buyers to see the property from a different perspective and get a better feel for the size of the property.
Also, drone photography can show off the surrounding area, such as the neighborhood, schools, and parks. For more details see our article on Real Estate Drone Photography
Another common market for drone photography is construction. Construction companies use drone photography to document the progress of their projects.
Aerial photography can generate orthomosaic maps for detailed ground measurements. Drone photography also generates three-dimensional data used for earthwork and stockpile measurements. For more details see our article on Aerial Mapping With Drones.
Drone service opportunities in these markets are expected to grow significantly over the next decade.
Drones significantly reduce the cost and increase the speed of aerial inspections. They are replacing traditional methods that use ladders and scaffolding to survey hazardous areas.
Drones also help maintain safety protocols in industrial applications like roof inspections, oil & gas pipelines, and solar panel fields.
With drone photos, technicians can gain a deeper insight into necessary repairs or maintenance without having to physically access the area in question. This not only reduces cost but also helps reduce any risks associated with human-based drone assessment.
Businesses use drone footage for marketing. Aerial photos can generate stunning aerial videos and photos for marketing campaigns.
Drone photography can also generate virtual tours of businesses or properties. Drone photography is a great way to show off your business in a unique and visually-appealing way. For more information on these opportunities see our article on Marketing With Drones.
Ease Of Entry To Start a Drone Photography Business
Drone operators must obtain a Part 107 pilot certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and they must also register their drones with the agency. For more information see our article “How to Get Your Drone License: A Complete Guide“
Compared to other drone services the barrier to entry is relatively low for drone photography. This is particularly true for real estate. There are many real estate companies and agents and they all need photography services.
But be aware that drone photography has become increasingly popular in recent years, as drones have become more affordable and easier to use. In response, the number of drone companies is growing and most of them offer drone photography and video services.
This means competition is growing so it will require a bit more hustle. The fun factor is high, the pictures and video you can produce are impressive, and you’ll look cool doing it.
Customers For Your Business
When identifying target customers, you should consider how drone photography can add value to their product or service.
The best clients for drone photography are businesses that need marketing or advertising videos or photos. Drone photography is a great way to show off their business in a unique and visually-appealing way.
We’ve targeted commercial real estate, corporate and public advertising as our main clients.
How To Find Customers
One of the best ways to find customers when starting a drone photography business is to network with other businesses that may need drone photography services. You can attend events where businesses gather, or you can reach out directly.
Another way to find clients is to market your drone photography business online. You can create a website or blog to showcase your work, and then use social media to promote your business.
You can also join drone photography forums and online communities to connect with potential clients. Here are a few things that we do
- Create products and send them to potential customers. Offer free first-time service
- Attend construction conferences to meet potential customers
- Leverage personal contacts
- Surprisingly we’ve gotten some jobs via cold calling, but you’ll need to commit some time to this
We have an aggressive digital marketing campaign on social media, this is a new thing and I recommend doing it.
Digital marketing can be a useful tool for finding clients. Create a website, blog, youtube channel, or podcast devoted to your drone business.
Be sure to post your products on social media platforms like Facebook, Linkedin, and Instagram. Potential customers can see what you do.
By using digital marketing strategies, you can reach a wide audience of potential customers for your drone photography business.
It’s a learning curve but if you integrate this with your website (you do have a website, right?), it’s a powerful combination. You can read our blog “First 9 Steps To Start A Drone Business” where we discuss the need for a website.
Best Drone Photography Products
We’ve developed 3 basic products: photos, videos, and virtual tours. The first 2 don’t need much explanation, but you can find more information on aerial photography and videography in our blog “Drone Photography: A Practical Guide“
Virtual tours are going to be big. This is because drones offer an aerial perspective. The tours are interactive, allowing users to control the view and get a closer look at landmarks and attractions.
Drones are unique because they can be used for indoor and outdoor work. This means you transition smoothly from an external virtual tour to an indoor tour. Most decent drones can generate panoramas and we use Kuula (kuula.com) to build our virtual tours. You can integrate photos and videos to create some great commercial products.
Pricing For Your Drone Products
There are several factors to consider when pricing services for your drone photography business.
Your Time & Equipment
First, consider the cost of your time. Not only the time you spend flying your drone but also the time you spend editing and delivering products to your client. Of course, the cost of your drone is a major concern. For more details on this subject see our article “How To Build A Profitable Drone Business“
Next, you need to consider the cost of any additional equipment you might need, such as props or a gimbal. If you’re offering video services, you’ll also need to factor in the cost of storage and delivery.
And don’t forget about liability insurance! Drone insurance is essential for any drone photography business, so make sure to factor that into your prices as well.
Finally, you need to decide what kinds of products or packages you want to offer as a drone photographer. Do you want to sell individual photos or videos? Or do you want to offer packages that include multiple products?
We’ve done a bit of research on drone service pricing. These are averages, but we recommend staying close to these numbers when starting your business.
Skills For Your Drone Photography Business
Your drone photography business can be very successful if the proper skills are learned. Some basic drone flying skills are sufficient for a good start. You’ll only need basic proficiency because most of the best videos can be obtained using intelligent flight capabilities. Definitely learn how to leverage your drone’s intelligent flight modes.
I recommend taking a course that teaches the basics of photography (framing, rule-of-3, etc.). Fortunately, the newer drones have amazing cameras that don’t require much knowledge. Plus you will do a lot of post-production to polish your photos.
Software For Your Drone Photography Business
If you want to distinguish your business then I’d recommend spending some time learning color grading for photos and video editing. We use Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop for photos and Adobe Premiere Pro for video editing.
These have a learning curve but if you want to do commercial marketing then you will need to develop professional-level skills for your drone photography business.
So there’s a LOT to consider to start a drone photography business. I’ve observed a significant increase in the number of drone photography services popping up, but most of them do not provide professional video editing so there are plenty of opportunities if you’re willing to invest some time into building an advanced skill set.
Hardware For Your Drone Photography Business
Of course, you’ll need to get your drone. I use the DJI Air2S as my photography drone and have been completely satisfied. It’s not too expensive, the camera is awesome, it’s easy to fly, and it has a small footprint so I don’t attract too much attention.
Whatever you choose to start a drone photography business, I recommend a smaller drone like the DJI Mini, DJI Air 2S, or DJI Mavic. These all have great cameras, are durable, and won’t break the bank.
How To Market Your Products
There are a number of ways to market your drone photos and videos and start earning an income.
Stock Photo Sites
Consider selling your photos and videos online through stock image sites. These sites allow people to purchase images and videos for use in their own projects.
Many stock photo and video websites now accept submissions from drone photographers. By submitting your best work to these sites, you can earn passive income each time someone downloads one of your photos or videos.
Build a website or social media account dedicated to your drone photography business. Create a portfolio to show off your work. This will give potential clients an idea of your style and the quality of your work. It is a great way to reach out to potential clients.
Creating various social media accounts on platforms like Instagram and YouTube will help you reach out and expand your business audience. It’s an ideal way to showcase. Also, you will network with other drone photographers for potential collaboration projects.
Another way to market your drone photography business is by attending trade shows and events related to drone technology.
This is a great opportunity to network with other drone enthusiasts and professionals, and it can help you get your name out there.
You can also offer demonstration flights or workshops at these events to show off your skills.
Starting a drone photography business can be an exciting and rewarding experience. First, determine what type of drone photography you’d like to specialize in. Drone photography covers an array of genres. Get your license, get your drone, and get started.
Create a portfolio to market your work and attract clients for your drone photography business. With a little effort, you can easily turn your drone photography into a profitable business.
Lightwave Aerial is a professional drone service company based in Northern Virginia. Our pilots are all FAA Part-107 certified. We offer a full range of aerial photo/video production services, aerial mapping, and aerial inspection.
At Lightwave Aerial, we are dedicated to providing professional drone services that help our clients achieve their goals. Contact us today to find out more about how we can help you with your next construction project!