Kirk

DroneBase, too early I think?

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Alan

You sent out a email about the company Drone Base. I was excited about not having to go out and find customers. I logged in as a pilot on Drone Base and started looking into how this business model works. Drone Base gives lots of information about how they work, one grade that caught my attention was "potential to get paid". Long story short all of the jobs shown on the map are generated by MLS data (Homes for sale), I could not find one paying client job marked on the U.S. Map. I'm personally not going to waste my time taking and uploading stock footage to a website without a client for 2 reasons.

1. I'm "potentially" (90% sure) not getting paid.

2. As a commercial drone business and not having a signed release/contract for the job these MLS generated job locations present issues. The owner of the property is rightfully going to know why a drone is circling his property. Also in my neck of the woods (Los Angeles) someone will at some point call the police and their going to want to see some sort of documentation on the job.

So although I love the idea of Drone Base until they get some actual cleints I see "potential" trouble for us.  

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Hey @Marcel Graham thanks for the heads up, and @Kirk thanks for taking the time to post this publicly.

With sponsored email campaigns like this, we do our best to perform due diligence (and have certainly turned companies away in the past that haven't met our standards). With DroneBase, we read a bunch of articles about the company, spoke at length with folks who have had good experiences with their platform, and spoke with their team about their track record, business model, and future plans.

I wouldn't ever assume this model to bring riches and fame to an individual operator. Any aerial service business that relies on one sales channel isn't going to be around for very long, particularly in such a quickly moving industry.

I felt comfortable sharing DroneBase with our community because I thought it was a good way to get people some real-world flight practice with a specific mission, something so many beginning pilots and budding entrepreneurs are lacking right now. A clear plan to get outside, start filming, build the demo reel, build out the website, log flight hours, build credibility, etc. etc. etc.

All of that, AND I've talked to people who have gotten paid for their missions. Not a bajillion dollars, but they got paid for their time and had a good, pleasant experience.

Re: privacy, here's a great article on the current state of drones and privacy law:

http://www.consumerreports.org/electronics/drone-privacy-is-anyone-in-charge/

Bottom line, it's a bit of a grey area from what I understand. There's the law, and then there are ethical / decent human being / protection from local angry neighbors and uneducated law enforcement considerations. I was just on the phone yesterday with someone who got into a skirmish with city police about an unwarranted drone privacy issue.

I can see how, because of all this, the DroneBase business model might be interpreted poorly and appreciate you bringing this to the community forum. Makes complete sense.

Thanks again for taking the time to post your thoughts here.

I'm going to ping DB to see if we can get a response!

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Hi all, just got a written response back from Drone Base, with their permission to publish. See below!

--
 
1. We completely understand the concerns of the "potential" to get paid on Pano Missions. This is a new business model and we're working with customers up and down the real estate stack (agent/broker, owners, and data services companies). We've had some tremendous success so far in the first month of launch with thousands of Panos being completed with hundreds of distinct pilots getting paid. We're getting very creative in our sales + marketing channels and on the other side of the coin, how and what we're offering. Prices have varied bc it can come down to a quick negotiation of the assets. End of day, we'd rather the pilot get something vs nothing if we stick to a price point and the buyer is unwilling to budge. But then again, I'm also seeing some local pilots on Thumbtack or other drone marketplaces selling full shot lists and editing for $75-100 flat rates. Its definitely a fast moving industry, especially in the real estate vertical. Our pilots on average are taking about 10-15 min of flight time to complete these Pano Missions. No heavy editing required. 
 
2. A lot of our pilots only want Client Missions (the ones that have guaranteed payments). For now, we only notify pilots about Client Missions when they are geo-located close to the property. So a pilot won't see any Client Missions until they get the notification. Trust us, we wish our map was full of client missions vs pano missions. This leads me to #3 below:
 
3. We recently were invited to our investor DJI Airworks Enterprise event last week, and the overarching theme was a focus on 2017 and if/when the large enterprise customers will finally deploy drones and/or have a need for a national service partner. These large enterprises have assets all over the country/world and can usually be performed on spec (ex. cell towers, etc). It'll be interesting to see if these enterprise customers will deploy because the drones & outputs/analytics must be magnitudes better vs business-as-usual (sending a person in a bucket truck up for inspection or on a roof for an insurance claim). Magnitudes better can mean a number of things from being cheaper, better data, safer, etc. 
 
4. For privacy, the drone actually isn't circling their property or supposed to be even over the property. We understand pilots concerns and get that some may not want to fly. That's totally fine and there are no costs to be on our platform. We have our FAQ and video that explains that you are shooting in front of the property, on public ground. For this particular poster, we've actually had a ton of traction in the LA area. We obviously stay off the forums as much as possible, but we completely know that this is probably one of the biggest concerns. We've talked with DJI about our biz model and they are very excited that someone like us, is building out a platform for pilots. We put a lot of thought into this, and we know we're not privacy experts at the local level. Thats why we try and be as transparent in our FAQ about 1) following FAA guidelines and 2) local laws, etc. We firmly believe in safety as our number one operating principle and there are thousands of pilots that have done both Client and Pano missions who an speak highly of us. 
 
5. Also for privacy, even when pilots do have approval to shoot a property, we've seen issues with peripheral properties being in frame that never provide permission. Its just the nature of photography in general. We're not asking for pilots to fly over peoples homes for Pano Missions. Hence, front of property, and then back off to take the Pano. We also mention the idea of Google Street View. These google cars are taking 360 images of cities + streets. We liken it to this. There is no permission because its not needed. Imagine if a family is walking down the street, pulls out their iphone to take a "kodak moment" picture, but has to ask permission of surrounding business or homes because the are in frame. 
 
6. We also understand there is a large public perception of drones and how a few rogue pilots can ruin it for the industry. We're trying our best to continually update our data and remove panos that have bad addresses. Sometimes, we get pilots emailing us that properties are off market now. Thats fine, but we're also selling off market data to data services companies. We're seeing pilots actually email us with new properties that aren't on our map, so that's been pretty amazing. 
 
7. Having DJI as a 2x investor in us has been amazing and we're pushing for more stuff with them that will trickle down into the pilots on our platform. Again, our platform and business model is continually evolving and thats just the nature of the game in startup land. We're a small and nimble team and we're continually trying to improve both the pilot and customer experience.
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I just want to say thank you to Alan for taking the time to talk about this topic, and I also really appreciate the response from Drone Base - very helpful.

I intend to give Drone Base a shot. I like their business model and really hope that it works because it cold mean a lot of work for drone pilots. Plus, I'm not super busy with other shoots yet so I sort of feel like I have nothing to lose. I will update this thread with how my experience goes.

Thanks for everyone's input!

Chris

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I have a real-world testimonial about Dronebase.  I've been doing pano missions for them for a few weeks now, usually going out a couple days per week.  And I've actually gotten paid.  Without being too specific, I got paid on about 40% of the properties I've done.  And as mentioned above, it takes about 10-15 minutes at most.  I do spend a little time logging my trips, the houses I do, and driving.  But it's not too bad.

There is the advantage of logging hours, if you're new and need some hours, and getting in some practice and confidence.

On the privacy issue, I will point out that while you are not "over" the property you are doing, when you back out to do the pano part, you are over other peoples' properties, as you're in the middle of a neighborhood.  But you're 100' up, and I haven't had any issues with people.

I have even had neighbors doing stuff outside, coming out to do things.  They have seen me, saw the drone, everything I was doing, and not a single person has said anything.

So I'll be going out some more, and hopefully will eventually get some client missions(higher paying).

Andy

 

 

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Hi Andy,

Did u have any problems uploading your images? Seems like most upload right away, but one just sits there processing...indefinitely.

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I'll add my 2 cents worth:

I've done quite a few missions so far for Drone Base. I started with some basic Pano's that didn't have a guaranteed payout for several reasons:

  1. I wanted to get a feel for where a drone needs to be to get the shots they wanted.
  2. I need to build flight hours for legitimate jobs.
  3. I want to get more comfortable flying my Phantom in different locations.
  4. I have implemented my own Standard Operating Procedures and want to become efficient in following these so I'm not spending a ton of time planning a 15 minute job.
  5. I've flown 8 Pano's and received payment for 2.
  6. Doing this on the side means I am not that concerned about how much they pay, rather the experience and confidence gained.

This has led to them contacting me for several client missions. They've asked me to fly 4 client missions. One was canceled a few days prior to my flight by their client. Another ended up being in Class C surface airspace and the client couldn't wait for FAA approval after I pointed its location out to them. The other 2 for which I did fly, I got paid for.

As I gain more experience, I'll likely fly less Pano's - mostly to keep myself and flights skills fresh.

I will add that several Pano's I uploaded resulted in their tool being unable to stitch together the Pano. Light level and time of day is very critical to determining if these can be done or not. So in the winter, I have a very narrow time of day when I can fly these Pano's to get optimal results. Also, uploads are painfully slow and you can only upload one job at a time. So when I go out and fly several Pano's, I'll upload one batch at a time while I do other stuff around the house.

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On 1/31/2017 at 11:18 AM, Steve Bennett said:

I'll add my 2 cents worth:

I've done quite a few missions so far for Drone Base. I started with some basic Pano's that didn't have a guaranteed payout for several reasons:

  1. I wanted to get a feel for where a drone needs to be to get the shots they wanted.
  2. I need to build flight hours for legitimate jobs.
  3. I want to get more comfortable flying my Phantom in different locations.
  4. I have implemented my own Standard Operating Procedures and want to become efficient in following these so I'm not spending a ton of time planning a 15 minute job.
  5. I've flown 8 Pano's and received payment for 2.
  6. Doing this on the side means I am not that concerned about how much they pay, rather the experience and confidence gained.

This has led to them contacting me for several client missions. They've asked me to fly 4 client missions. One was canceled a few days prior to my flight by their client. Another ended up being in Class C surface airspace and the client couldn't wait for FAA approval after I pointed its location out to them. The other 2 for which I did fly, I got paid for.

As I gain more experience, I'll likely fly less Pano's - mostly to keep myself and flights skills fresh.

I will add that several Pano's I uploaded resulted in their tool being unable to stitch together the Pano. Light level and time of day is very critical to determining if these can be done or not. So in the winter, I have a very narrow time of day when I can fly these Pano's to get optimal results. Also, uploads are painfully slow and you can only upload one job at a time. So when I go out and fly several Pano's, I'll upload one batch at a time while I do other stuff around the house.

I am having a hell of a time getting missions accepted. One out of a half dozen. Most are rejected and I have to guess why...Did u have the same problem?

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On 2/8/2017 at 9:17 AM, Uaviator53 said:

I am having a hell of a time getting missions accepted. One out of a half dozen. Most are rejected and I have to guess why...Did u have the same problem?

I have had that on a number of missions. I forget how many, maybe 30-50% of the missions I took on had trouble getting processed once the images were submitted. I only went back to redo a couple of them (for practice) and when I redid them they were accepted. Based on my other experiments with taking photos of a site to turn into orthomosaics for use in CAD applications, you need a lot of image overlap. More than you think is necessary. On the ones that did not get accepted, I went back and looked at the images - I could see that half of them were really dark, due to in part to natural shading of areas from trees which left the sky above those parts over exposed.

Personally, I don't think winter time really helps this due to the suns position being relatively low in the sky, even at noon. They recommend shooting between 1100-1400 hours local time to keep the sun out of the images. The thing is, even in winter in SoCal, I still get the sun in images when it is at its peak height for the day. This makes it tough for the camera to choose the right auto exposure setting and the light difference between images with vs without direct sunlight become to much for their algorithms to handle and kicks the job back.

The other thing is quantity of images: they recommend 25 images for the panos (12 for camera at 90deg, 12 at 45deg and one straight down). I tend to send more than this to ensure adequate overlap of images. I'm submitting maybe 30-40 images for the pano's, 5-10 images for the beauty shots.

On the plus side, of the jobs I was assigned from drone base personally, none of them were rejected. I only had trouble on some of the jobs I picked randomly off the map.

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15 minutes ago, Uaviator53 said:

I have ensured I follow the guidelines, guess I'll keep trying. Thanks.

I guess I was trying to say, I don't follow their guidelines 100%, especially when it comes to quantity of images to submit. Hopefully you find a balance that works for you. You might consider playing with exposure settings for the camera while in flight to help balance out the light levels in the photos.

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As to the questions and issues above.  I haven't had any trouble with uploading.  The pics have uploaded fairly quickly.

Also, I've done about 55 missions and only one was rejected due to something being wrong with it.  Probably because it was very windy and the drone probably moved a little too much.  Even though the P4 does phenomenally well in pretty high wind.

I haven't done any for a little while now, though.  I've never gotten offered a client mission... :(

 

Andy

 

Edited by AndyA
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1 hour ago, AndyA said:

As to the questions and issues above.  I haven't had any trouble with uploading.  The pics have uploaded fairly quickly.

Also, I've done about 55 missions and only one was rejected due to something being wrong with it.  Probably because it was very windy and the drone probably moved a little too much.  Even though the P4 does phenomenally well in pretty high wind.

I haven't done any for a little while now, though.  I've never gotten offered a client mission... :(

 

Andy

 

Andy, I've had most rejected. The 2 accepted so far paid up almost immediately. :D 

Am suspecting it may have to do with the 45 degree pics series. I place the horizon edge at the very top of the frame, but am thinking next flight I need to move it past the top edge?

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Yeah, I've had that 45 degree thing as a concern.  I just kinda eyeball it, such that I know that the straight shot pics have some decent overlap with the 45 ones.

Andy

 

 

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2 hours ago, AndyA said:

As to the questions and issues above.  I haven't had any trouble with uploading.  The pics have uploaded fairly quickly.

Also, I've done about 55 missions and only one was rejected due to something being wrong with it.  Probably because it was very windy and the drone probably moved a little too much.  Even though the P4 does phenomenally well in pretty high wind.

I haven't done any for a little while now, though.  I've never gotten offered a client mission... :(

 

Andy

 

Andy, I've had most rejected. The 2 accepted so far paid up almost immediately. :D 

Am suspecting it may have to do with the 45 degree pics series. I place the horizon edge at the very top of the frame, but am thinking next flight I need to move it past the top edge?

1 minute ago, AndyA said:

Yeah, I've had that 45 degree thing as a concern.  I just kinda eyeball it, such that I know that the straight shot pics have some decent overlap with the 45 ones.

Andy

Thanks Andy.

 

 

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I may have to give this a try on a day I am bored.  Looking in my area most of them are within 5 miles of an airport but about a 40 minutes drive and there are a couple available...pano missions.

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Hey everyone,

With those of you who have used Drone Base, how do you go about getting a project to work on? I signed up and see many locations that need a drone pilot for a project but how do you go about contacting that location saying you are going to be flying a drone over the building? Or do you just go ahead and do the project without any prior notification?

Thanks,

Luke

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@Luke Dillon If you read through their FAQ (something I did which was quite informative), they state that for projects on the map, provided you follow FAA Part 107 regulations, there is no need to notify anyone at the properties listed on the map. Just click an icon, and hit the accept mission button, then go fly it. Look for ones with a 5.0 or higher payout anticipation.

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