This is Part-3 of our 3-part series on the drone business. Parts 1 & 2 covered photography and mapping services. In this article, we’ll cover inspection services.
There are drone inspection business opportunities in telecom, infrastructure, and utilities. You will need to create a solid business plan, find and attract customers, assess competition, learn the technology, and have a way to receive and track payments.
We’ll review some of the lessons learned from starting our business. Hopefully, this will save you some time.
Is This a Good Time To Start a Drone Business?
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) reported that the drone market has nearly doubled in size between 2017 and 2022, from $6 billion to $11.2 billion. This growth is driven by the continued development of drone technology.
The commercial drone market is expected to reach $11.5 billion by 2025, and the military drone market is expected to reach $14.3 billion by 2023. The drone business is still in its infancy, but it has immense potential. The future of the drone business looks very bright indeed.
So the answer is yes, this is a great time for starting a drone business.
This is part 3 of a 3-part series covering our best ideas to start a drone business. I‘ve decided to split this into 3 parts so I can discuss each one in detail. So, our #3 idea is drone inspection.
What is Drone Inspection
Aerial inspection is the process of using drones to inspect the equipment, structures, or other objects. Drone inspections can be used to assess the condition of a structure, check for damage, or investigate potential safety hazards.
Drones are perfect to inspect hard-to-reach or hazardous areas, like roofs or water towers. Drone inspections are often faster and more efficient than manual inspections that may require scaffolding.
In addition, aerial inspections are done without disrupting normal operations. As a result, drone inspections are becoming increasingly popular in a variety of industries, ranging from construction to telecom.
Why Should You Consider a Drone Inspection Business?
Starting an aerial inspection business using drones can be a great way to provide a valuable service to clients while taking full advantage of the latest technology. Additionally, there are many opportunities to generate revenue with your aerial inspection businesses.
Not only is drone technology becoming more sophisticated and affordable, but there is also an increasing demand for these services. You can tap into this growing market and provide a valuable service to businesses in your community.
Because of recent advances in drone technology, the devices are incredibly easy to use — giving any business owner the ability to get started in this domain fairly quickly.
Drones are changing the way businesses operate, and aerial inspection is one of the most promising drone business ideas. There are a number of markets where drone inspections present an easier, faster, and more cost-effective solution than traditional methods. In this blog post I’ll cover five main business topics you need to consider:
- Markets and ease of entry
- Target customers and how we’re finding them
- The best products
- Product pricing
- Skills sets, hardware, and software you’ll need
Best Markets for Drone Inspection
Construction projects often require a large amount of time and money to complete. In many cases, drone inspections can help reduce costs and save time by identifying potential problems early on. In addition, drone inspections can be used to monitor progress and track construction activity. For more information on this topic see our article “Construction Drone Services: Present & Future “
The energy industry is one of the most promising markets for drone services. Drones can be used to inspect power lines, pipelines, and other energy infrastructure. In addition, drone inspections can help identify potential safety hazards.
The government is increasingly using drone services for a variety of inspection purposes like border control, disaster relief, and infrastructure development and maintenance. In many cases, drone services can save the government time and money while also providing a valuable service.
Drones are used to inspect telecommunications towers and antennas. This provides a more comprehensive view of the structure and reduces the need for climbers to ascend to high altitudes. Drone inspections are conducted more frequently than traditional inspections, providing telecom operators with timely information about the condition of their assets.
Barriers to Entry
Although drones have become an increasingly popular component for aerial inspections in industries such as infrastructure, agriculture, and even spacecraft surveillance, there are a few potential barriers to entry.
Establishing a successful aerial inspection business requires training to operate drones safely and responsibly given that there are specific rules regarding acceptable altitude, airspace boundaries, and other factors. Additionally, local ordinances may limit operations or place restrictions based on particular circumstances when it comes to flying drones on public lands or near airports.
Drone inspection requires some technical expertise and training to capture the appropriate raw data or images. Then you will need to convert the data into useful information and reports for your customer.
Also, your aerial inspection business will require investments in training, equipment, and insurance. If you’re not comfortable with flying, you’ll need to hire someone who is. Business owners must consider all these costs before deciding to take this route as a potential source of income.
Finally, drone businesses will face competition from traditional inspection services that have already established a customer base.
There are some barriers to entry, but with the right planning and preparation, these barriers can be overcome and drone businesses can be highly successful.
Our Target Customers
Drone inspection businesses have many potential customers, but not all customers are equally good prospects. The best customer for a drone inspection business is one who has a need for frequent or regular inspections and has an area that is difficult to inspect using traditional methods because of safety or environmental issues.
One of the best customers for drone inspection businesses is the energy sector. Energy companies often need to inspect transmission lines, wind turbines, and other equipment located in difficult-to-reach places. And while traditional methods like helicopters can be used for these inspections, they can be expensive and dangerous.
Other potential customers include is construction companies, which can use them to monitor the progress of building projects or to perform roof inspections.
Lastly, telecom providers use drones for periodic cell tower inspection and maintenance. Cell tower inspection is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, so drone inspection can provide real benefits. The rollout of 5G technology will result in a significant increase in cell tower infrastructure in the near future.
How To Find Customers
If you’re looking to get customers for your aerial inspection business, there are a few tactics you can use to make sure you’re reaching the right people. The best way to begin is by focusing on networking. Attending industry events is an effective way to network with potential clients. You’ll be able to explain the aerial inspection services that you provide and exchange contact information with potential customers.
Additionally, having a presence on social media will help people learn more about your services. By marketing yourself through platforms like Instagram and LinkedIn, you’ll be able to spread awareness of your business and attract more aerial inspection customers.
Look for businesses or industries that would benefit from drone inspections then, reach out to them directly and let them know what you can offer.
Consider partnering with other businesses in complementary industries. For example, if you offer drone inspections of construction sites, you could partner with a safety equipment supplier. By working together, you can reach more potential customers and grow your business quickly.
Reach out to property management firms or real estate companies, as they frequently need to inspect rooftops and other hard-to-reach places.
Another option is to market your drone inspection services to insurance companies, as they often need to assess damage after storms or accidents.
Creating a website with detailed descriptions of aerial inspection services offered can help attract new customers by highlighting the quality and professionalism of your business. You can show examples of your work and provide pricing to make it easier for potential customers to understand your value.
Keep in mind that it takes time and work to build relationships and trust with customers. By targeting businesses and industries that have a need for your services, you’ll be able to find customers for your drone inspection business.
Best Products For Your Customers
Aerial Photography & Videos
Drone inspection businesses use aerial photography and video to capture images and footage of properties from above. This provides a unique perspective that can be used to assess the condition of roofs, identify potential problem areas, and develop repair and maintenance plans. Zoom photos and video provide close-up footage that can document the need for repairs.
Three Dimensional Imaging
Three-dimensional (3D) imaging technology will enhance your aerial inspection businesses. Through the use of 3D imaging, drones collect depth data, as high-resolution images from multiple angles for detailed measurements. Also, inspectors can assess the structural geometry from vantage points that are otherwise inaccessible.
These data sets are rich with spatial information that aerial inspectors can use to identify issues more quickly and accurately than ever before. This often makes visualizing aerial scenes easier, which can save time in understanding what repairs may be necessary.
But what’s the best way to create these models? There are two basic options available, but each has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Photogrammetry. Multiple overlapping images are combined to create a 3-dimensional, georeferences model of the area. The advantage of this method is that it’s relatively inexpensive and easy to do. However, it can be time-consuming, and the quality of the final model can vary depending on the quality of the photos.
LIDAR (Light Imaging Detecion and Radar). This involves using a laser scanner to capture detailed data about the geometry of the inspection site. This data can then be used to create a 3D model. The advantage of this method is that is more accurate, produces higher-quality results, and can “see” through dense foliage. However, it’s also more expensive and time-consuming than photogrammetry.
Pricing your service can be tricky. Here are a few things to consider when setting your price:
The first step is to calculate your costs, including the cost of drone hardware and software, training and certification, insurance, and overhead. Once you know your costs, you can start thinking about how to price your service.
One common pricing model is to charge by the hour. This can be a good option if you have a lot of experience with drone inspections and are confident in your ability to complete the job quickly. Another option is to charge by the project. This can be a good option if you’re working on a one-time project or if the scope of work is well-defined.
Finally, don’t forget to consider the value you’re providing to your clients. When pricing your service, make sure to keep this value in mind. For details on business profitability see our article “How To Build A Profitable Drone Business“
Hardware For Drone Inspection
First and foremost, you’ll need a drone that is up to the task. There are a number of options on the market, but make sure to choose one that is specifically designed for inspections. Here are the main things to consider
Camera Quality. High-resolution image quality allows for greater accuracy when checking for damage or identifying hazards. This reduces the possibility of misinterpretation or having to go back for a follow-up inspection due to a lack of data or insufficient details.
Zoom Capability. The quality of an aerial inspection is dependent on the camera’s zoom capability. Enhanced zoom captures more detail.
When assessing zoom capability you need to know the difference between optical and digital zoom if you want optimal aerial shots. Optical zoom works by physically adjusting the lens to magnify an image with no loss of resolution. Digital zoom enlarges an image by essentially cropping out the edges of it, resulting in a lower-resolution image.
Pick the camera with the largest optical zoom.
Camera Shutter. The drone camera shutter technology you use can affect the image quality. There are two types of camera shutter options: mechanical and electronic. Mechanical shutter cameras are excellent to capture fast motion, and movement-oriented shots, as well as for low-noise imagery. Electronic shutters have faster response times but create distortion from the rolling shutter effect. This is an issue for 3-D modeling and photogrammetry, but not so much for videography. For more details see our article “Phantom 4 Pro Drone For Aerial Mapping“
Camera Flexibility. How many cameras does your drone support? Less expensive cameras only support a single camera while more advanced cameras drones or support multiple cameras or payloads.
Also is it possible to change the camera on your drone? This is a big advantage because it allows you to upgrade your imaging capability without buying a new drone.
What is the camera placement? Most drones have cameras placed on the bottom of the drone. These do not allow for upward imaging. It’s useful to have a camera on top of the drone that can point directly upward for things like bridge inspection.
IP Rating. The Ingress Protection (IP) Rating defines drone water resistance. A higher IP rating means you can fly the drone in rain and snow without damage. For more details see our article “Can You Fly DJI Air 2S In The Rain?“
Cost. Drones vary greatly in price, from $20K models with specialized cameras, multiple payloads, and high IP ratings to drones costing a few thousand dollars that offer basic aerial imaging capabilities.
It is important to look at what you are getting for your money. A higher price drone does not always mean a better tool for your business. It is essential to do research into what your aerial inspection business requires and compare models for the best value before making a purchase decision. For more details see our article “How To Build A Profitable Drone Business“
Software For Drone Inspection
You will need two types of software: flight automation and image processing. Automated flight may be necessary to collect images for 3-D models. Litchi, Dronelink, and Map Pilot Pro are three excellent and budget-friendly options. For image processing software I recommend Maps Made Easy if you’re just starting because it is a very low-cost option with great products. If you have deeper pockets then Pix4D or Drone Deploy are industry-standard products.
Skills For Drone Inspection
First, you’ll need to be able to operate the drone itself. This requires not only basic flying skills but also an understanding of how to operate the drone’s camera. You’ll also need to interpret the collected data. This will require technical and analytical skills. Finally, you’ll have to communicate your findings clearly; this includes being able to write concise reports and give presentations when necessary.
So that’s it for part 3, the final article of our series. I’ve seen a significant increase in the number of drone businesses popping up so you can expect serious competition. You will also face competition from traditional inspection services that have already established a customer base. However, you will succeed with right plan and preparation.
If you have questions about how to start your business, check out my blog “First 9 Steps To Start A Drone Business” for information on how to get started.
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!