How to Start a Drone Business: 9 Important Steps

Flying drones is fun; there’s no doubt about this. But what if you could get “paid” for the same? 

Yes, you read that right!

With the drone market size all set to breach the mark of $54.6 billion by 2030, there’s still time to start your own drone business and ride the tide.   

But how to start a drone business? What are the legal requirements for drone business? 

In this article, I’ve covered everything in detail, step-by-step. So, let’s get started.  

List of Steps to Start a Drone Business: A Quick Look

Turn your passion for flying drones into a rewarding business with these nine simple steps:  

  • Get Your Commercial Pilot License
  • Identify Potential Drone Business Opportunities
  • Build Skills and Expertise
  • Invest in Equipment and Technology
  • Build a Portfolio 
  • Pricing
  • Focus on Marketing and Branding
  • Client Acquisition and Relationship Building
  • Legal and Ethical Considerations

Step-by-Step Guide Explaining How to Start a Drone Business: 

Here’s a detailed discussion of the above steps to set up your drone business in today’s competitive environment: 

Apply for a Commercial Pilot License

A commercial pilot license is mandatory to fly your drone for commercial or business purposes under the FAA’s Small UAS Rule (Part 107).  

Assuming that you’re a first-time pilot, I’ve compiled the complete application details below (also accessible from the official website)

Eligibility

  • Be at least 16 years old. 
  • Be able to read, speak, write, and understand English. 
  • Be physically and mentally fit to fly a drone safely.  
  • Pass the initial aeronautical knowledge exam: “Unmanned Aircraft General – Small (UAG).”

Requirements for Remote Pilot Certificate

  • You must be easily accessible by the remote pilot during all UAS operations. 
  • You must complete an online recurrent training every 24 calendar months to maintain aeronautical knowledge validity. 

Step-by-Step Process

  • Pass the initial aeronautical knowledge test: “Unmanned Aircraft General – Small (UAG).” 
  • Complete FAA Form 8710-13 for a remote pilot certificate using the IACRA system. 
  • After the TSA security background check, a confirmation mail will be sent to your registered email address. 
  • This email will also contain instructions for printing your temporary remote pilot certificate from IACRA.
  • You’ll get your permanent remote pilot certificate once all other FAA-internal processing is complete, which typically takes around six to eight weeks. 

Congratulations on completing the first step in starting your drone business. Let’s move to the next! 

Identify Potential Drone Business Niches

Now, it’s time to identify potential niches your drone services will or can tap into. 

But how? 

The best way to do this is to look around your local competitors and see their target industries. Alternatively, I also suggest digging into a niche that your rivals have hardly touched. 

To make things easier for you, check out my six drone-based business ideas below: 

  • Event photography
  • Training
  • Warehouse inventory management
  • Drone light show
  • Underwater inspections
  • Crop monitoring

Build Skills and Expertise

Before you move ahead, you need to build skills and expertise in operating drones. 

If you’ve already obtained the necessary certifications for flying and operating a drone, you might further need to build niche-specific skills. 

For example, using a drone for doing aerial shoots that help in creating a film, is different from operating it for remotely surveying a mine and obtaining relevant data. 

You must also be well-versed in deciphering the data that you obtain using your drone. 

Apart from these skills, you must sharpen your business acumen. 

Although there are several drone business opportunities currently, you must learn to address these questions first –

How do I create a business plan for my drone business? How do I create the financial projections for my drone business plan? What pricing strategies are effective for drone services? 

Once you have comprehensive answers to these, it implies you have a solid business model in place with all the necessary skills at your disposal. You’re ready to go ahead! 

Invest in Equipment and Technology 

The most important equipment to start your drone business is, of course, a drone. 

Note: If you’re short on finances, you can also rent a drone instead of buying it. 

But that’s not the only thing you need! 

Along with it, you’ll also need to invest a significant amount in other tools and technology. 

Consider this example for a better understanding: 

Let’s say you plan to start a drone business with services like infrastructure inspection, crop monitoring, mapping, and surveying. 

In this case, a camera with HD resolution, good low-light performance, and suitable lens options is a must-have.

Add to this a payload like LiDAR sensors, multispectral cameras, or thermal imaging cameras for dark conditions. Don’t forget the drone gimbal

If I talk about the technology, your business will require flight planning and automation software, cloud storage, and advanced data processing software(s). 

And as you can see, there will be a lot of drone equipment and technology required to build a sustainable drone business. 

Pro Tip: Plan your budget to accommodate all the necessary equipment and technologies, depending on your business vertical and its requirements. 

Build a Portfolio 

The next thing you need to focus on is a portfolio, apologies, the BEST portfolio. 

Consider it your visual resume, a powerful tool to present your pilot skills, experience, and capabilities to potential clients.

But how do you build a portfolio for a drone business? 

It’s simple. 

Assuming you offer real estate inspection services, you only need to find a well-manicured or landscaped property. 

Next, demonstrate your drone expertise by capturing intriguing shots, highlighting the property’s exterior and picturesque surroundings from different angles. 

Use any editing software, edit these clicks, and add them to your portfolio, showcasing the full potential of your drone business. 

Pricing

Coming to your pricing strategies for drone services, you can choose any of these models: 

  • Value-Based Pricing: This helps you charge according to the value offered to the client and your specialized offerings. 
  • Cost-Based Pricing: This helps you determine your drone service rates by considering all operational costs, ensuring it covers expenses, and maintains competitiveness in the market.  
  • Project-Based Pricing: The project-based model is your best bet if you need flexibility in charging for your services.

Each of these strategies has its advantages and disadvantages. Your choice will ultimately narrow down to various factors, e.g., market positioning, business goals, client budget, project, time, and available resources. 

Focus on Marketing and Branding

If you want to give a tough fight to your competitors, your drone business marketing and branding must be top-notch. 

Your business name is your identity; thus, it needs to be easily recognizable, catchy, and non-regional. For the logo, keep it visually appealing and as uncomplicated as possible.  

A simplistic logo that will hold your potential customer’s attention is something you’ll want. 

With the business name and logo done, it’s time to print professional-looking business cards, along with your phone number, email address, and website. If you’ve got a surplus budget, flyers are also worth a try. 

Hold on, your job is still far from over! 

A significant chunk of your client base will come from the Internet, which means your business’s online visibility is highly critical.

For this, creating a Business Profile on Google and launching your dedicated website are the two best options. 

Client Acquisition and Relationship Building

With your initial drone business setup done, you can switch your focus to client acquisition and relationship building. 

Networking in the drone industry is vital. Keep yourself updated with the upcoming industry events and register for them.

The Internet is flooded with forums to connect with potential clients. 

Also, forming partnerships with complementary businesses enhances your capabilities and widens the client base. Prioritize excellent customer service, emphasizing communication and satisfaction. 

In an evolving market, these aspects distinguish your drone business, fostering long-term client relationships and positive word-of-mouth referrals. 

Overall, establishing a robust network and delivering exceptional service are foundational steps toward success in the dynamic drone industry.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

Last but not least, starting any business involves navigating legal and ethical landscapes, and it’s true here as well. 

Privacy and security are paramount. Thus, it’s important to emphasize adherence to national and local privacy laws by implementing robust security measures to safeguard data and your drone operations. 

Recognizing insurance needs is crucial, encompassing coverage for potential liabilities. This ensures financial protection in case of unforeseen incidents, fostering a responsible and sustainable drone business.

FAQ

Q: What Are the Legal Requirements for Starting a Drone Business?

A: As I also mentioned earlier, starting a drone business comes with several legal obligations. You not only need to comply with the FAA regulations but also your state’s local laws. 

These include but aren’t limited to getting a Part 107 license for commercial flying, registering your drone if it weighs over 0.55 pounds, and following the operational rules listed by the FAA. 

Q: Do I Need Certifications to Operate a Drone Business?

A: Yes, you do! A Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA is mandatory to fly a drone under Part 107. 

Issued to commercial operators, this certificate verifies your understanding of the regulations, operating requirements, and procedures for safely flying drones.

Q: What Pricing Strategies Are Effective for Drone Services?

A: Choosing an effective pricing strategy for your drone services is crucial for not just client acquisition but profitability, too. 

Though it’s a personal choice, I always favor a hybrid approach that combines value-based, cost-based, and project-based pricing to navigate the various market’s ups and downs swiftly.  

Q: How Can I Market My Drone Business Online?

A: There are plenty of ways to market your drone business online. Start with building a cool website focusing on your venture and leverage the power of social media to spread the name of your services. 

Don’t forget to create a Google Business Profile to help drone enthusiasts find you online quickly and easily. 

Q: What Are the Key Considerations for Branding a Drone Business?

A: Your target audience, brand story, and visual identity are the three key considerations for branding your drone business. 

Q: How Important Is Customer Service in the Drone Business?

A: Customer service is as crucial in the drone business as other things. It helps you generate more marketing and sales opportunities, meet your customers’ satisfaction, and keep your business on the right path.   

Conclusion

To summarize, launch your drone business by obtaining the necessary certifications, such as a Part 107 license. Apart from a reliable drone, invest in other equipment and develop expertise in aerial photography, mapping, or inspection services. 

Create a robust online presence, demonstrating your skills and portfolio. Network with local players and offer tailored solutions to cater to every type of user.

Not to forget, ensure compliance with FAA regulations and prioritize safety. 

Building a solid foundation, staying up-to-date with the ever-changing industry trends, and delivering exceptional service will not just contribute to your business’s growth but also lead to a better future for drone technology. 

Author
Diptesh Das

Diptesh Das is your friendly ‘content maniac’ and drone enthusiastic! Being passionate about content writing. He is a firm believer of the power of words and thereby ended up leveraging them to create an impact by sharing his drone knowledge and experiences.

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