E Hernandez

Just starting up

13 posts in this topic

Hello, I am new to this community and very excited as I see tons of information being shared. I am an aspiring entrepreneur and would like some information and or guidance on starting a drone inspections company. I figured I should start with inspections that wouldn't require me to purchase high dollar equipment until I am able to afford it. Eventually I would like to get into the wind farm inspections but I have to crawl before I walk. Any help is very much appreciated. 

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The info in the pilots lounge and a few other forums should be helpful, along with this recently released report. Roofs and other low rise type structures would be the easiest. Perhaps look to provide a service to real estate inspection companies?

 

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I also have been considering making a career change into the drone inspection business but I have a couple of questions.   

  1. Would I be required to have expertise in roofing, if doing roof inspections; or cell tower inspections if inspecting cell tower or would I be  responsible for taking images (video or still photographs) of the structure?
  2. Can the camera on the DJI Inspire be swapped out easily – like from the normal camera to a infra-red camera?
  3. Have there been any drone use in chemical plants or in the oil and gas industry?

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Hi Charles, here are a couple answers:

  1. It would always be helpful to have expertise in these areas, my guess is you would likely team up with someone who already has the experience. Each company likely has their own requirements though.
  2. I would check the DJI website and look at the specs for the inspire.
  3. There was someone in the forums recently looking for people with experience in this sector. It's ripe for use of drone for inspection at these facility types due to the environment. You will likely be looking at a drone platform more robust than the Inspire like the Matrice line of products at DJI.

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1 hour ago, Charles said:

I also have been considering making a career change into the drone inspection business but I have a couple of questions.   

  1. Would I be required to have expertise in roofing, if doing roof inspections; or cell tower inspections if inspecting cell tower or would I be  responsible for taking images (video or still photographs) of the structure?
  2. Can the camera on the DJI Inspire be swapped out easily – like from the normal camera to a infra-red camera?
  3. Have there been any drone use in chemical plants or in the oil and gas industry?

Charles,

This is a tough business to make a profit (don't give up your day job:D). I know only a handful of people doing it full time, out of the thousands of 107 certificates issued, all very large companies in very large metro areas w/ very expensive industrial level drones.

Do a lot of research before you make any serious investments. It can, however, make for a nice part-time gig. Just my 2 cents....

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18 hours ago, Charles said:

I also have been considering making a career change into the drone inspection business but I have a couple of questions.   

  1. Would I be required to have expertise in roofing, if doing roof inspections; or cell tower inspections if inspecting cell tower or would I be  responsible for taking images (video or still photographs) of the structure?
  2. Can the camera on the DJI Inspire be swapped out easily – like from the normal camera to a infra-red camera?
  3. Have there been any drone use in chemical plants or in the oil and gas industry?

We manufacture industrial drones, part of engineering users requirements into our products involves us flying a lot of commercial missions with what we call our "pilot study" customers.  Although you might not need to be an expert in roofing or cell towers there's a lot you need to know about them if you want to provide actionable data for your customer.  We don't know anything about the technology on the cell towers we scan other than how it might effect our ability to maintain control of our drone systems, but you have to know what goes into the engineering report so you can make sure your gathering all the required data.  

Yes drones are being used for industrial inspection in the oil and gas industry.  Keep in mind that depending on the type of inspection this can be a vey dangerous environment for a drone to operate in.  Also the sensors used in this type of inspection can cost as much as $120K and weight seven to ten pounds.  There's a lot of liability for this type of inspection so very few people trust consumer drones manufactured in China for this work.  

This is certainly an exciting time to be in this industry but as others have pointed out its a challenge to be profitable.  If your planning on purchasing a DJI, Yuneek, or consumer anything and hanging out a shingle to be in this business, there's no barrier to entry from the thousands of other's attempting to do the same thing.     

I'm certainly not trying to discourage you from a career change, but there's very little value in flying drones that pretty much fly themselves.  If you are an expert in roofing or some aspect of oil & gas and can leverage a drone to replace or augment something your already doing then the probability of such a transition increases.  If your not an expert in a particular area that your trying to apply drone technology then making this a full time gig is very difficult.  

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@Charles, the advice from @Av8Chuck is sound advice indeed.  It's very easy to be lured into this arena, and it certainly will become a massive industry, but you need to view it from a serious professional aspect.  Chuck is right about the equipment required to do it right and to stand out as a professional.  As @Uaviator53 said, "Don't give up your day job." As an example, I know fully well that I am not going to be inspecting Georgia Power's transmission lines here where I live.  I don't have the equipment nor the expertise for that.  They will continue to use the small helicopter approach with an inspector on the skid, as dangerous as that may seem, until they are confident enough to make the switch.  And from what I am told, they are developing a program in house for that.  Chuck's point about liability is major as well.  I live in a small community and there are and will be opportunities for the little guy - at least for now.  Be realistic about what you can and can not do with the equipment, knowledge, and expertise that you have right now.

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Great responses, all. Echoing sentiments re: not giving up your day job unless you have serious traction / business plan / connections / hustle / grit and understand that it might take a while to get off the ground.

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@E Hernandez @Charles  First step knowledge up and take the Part 107 test, since without this you can't do anything. Step to is to take some time to identify potential drone jobs in your area.

As @Steve Bennett mentioned real estate or restate inspection companies are easier to get jobs with. Use these to build up experience while researching and networking toward what you really want to do (like wind turbine inspections). My suggestions would be to pick something that is more common place (like power lines...or if you are in Texas, bridges!)

Whatever you do, buy a drone that is most suited for the type of service you want to provide.

Also remember there is help out their like my company Up Sonder. We are a platform to rent your drone and a place for drone service providers to find jobs. Check us out!

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7 hours ago, Up Sonder said:

@E Hernandez @Charles  Whatever you do, buy a drone that is most suited for the type of service you want to provide.

Also remember there is help out their like my company Up Sonder. We are a platform to rent your drone and a place for drone service providers to find jobs. Check us out!

I think the service your providing is great and can certainly help people like the OP who want to buy a drone and hang out a shingle declaring their new business.  If that's a teenager in a college dorm that's one kind of decision, if that's a 40 year old with three kids and a mortgage that's another.  Obviously the elder should be better equipped to consider such a career move but with companies like Measure [http://www.measure.aero/] its difficult for newcomers to discern what the real possibilities are.

There is so much disinformation about commercial drones, the overwhelming percentage of it seems to stem from people purchasing consumer drones with a smart phone app thinking they can provide valuable, actionable data.  The issue quickly becomes define actionable and value?

Its not my intention to be a gate keeper, if your providing a service for commercial operators I'd love to hear more about it.  How it works, success stories, whats working well, what isn't etc.. Not just a link to your site...  

 

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1 hour ago, Av8Chuck said:

 If that's a teenager in a college dorm that's one kind of decision, if that's a 40 year old with three kids and a mortgage that's another.  Obviously the elder should be better equipped to consider such a career move but with companies like Measure [http://www.measure.aero/] its difficult for newcomers to discern what the real possibilities are.

There is so much disinformation about commercial drones, the overwhelming percentage of it seems to stem from people purchasing consumer drones with a smart phone app thinking they can provide valuable, actionable data.  The issue quickly becomes define actionable and value?

 

 

 

I think you are right Av8chuck there is alot of information out there that is of questionable value. I have been looking about for several months now with the intention of opening a drone inspection business; and it has been interesting the information that I have gotten from different people that directly contradicts what the other has said.  Case in point, the question about needing expertise or at least experience in roofing or cell tower inspections;  I have been told, as in this post; Yes! without a doubt and "No, most times the company will have someone looking over your shoulder."   I hope the answer is somewhere in the middle.  I think the drone industries is seeing what the computer networking industry saw when it first became viable; every Tom, Dick and Harriet go running in and some are able to make it thru the early years and will become successful; while others fall out of the business completely.

I will continue to do research and figure out what works best for me - but i did want to thank all that responded and that will repsond.

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Hi Charles,

You're right, the truth is in the middle. 

You will have someone looking over your shoulder that know's a lot about cell tower or roofing inspections but next to nothing about how aerial photogrammetry differs from how they are accomplishing that on the ground.  So there's this situation where if you don't know what makes a successful survey and they don't know how to achieve that then the likelihood for failure is much higher.  

Depending on the mission drones are a bit of a zero-sum game, it needs to be 100% right because if its only 95% right, which 5% is wrong?  

That's not to say that you need to be an expert on cell towers or roofing, you just need to be knowledgeable of how your workflow you effect the accuracy of the data.  The more accurate the data, the more knowledgeable about the thing your inspecting you should be.  There are plenty of opportunities to use consumer drones where accuracy is not a factor, but cell towers isn't one of them.

Also keep in mind that there's a difference between surveying a structure and inspecting one.  But its a little like being a wedding photographer, you know right after showing bridezilla your portfolio she's going to ask you to do the video.  If you can't she's going to ask someone else... 

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@Av8Chuck First off I agree with you that getting into the drone services sector is not easy. Every potential pilot should be aware of this, but in the end if you do choose to build your own drone business you are going to need help.

This is the impetus behind Up Sonder, to help droners by building a marketplace that will give you options and visibility to promote your service or by renting your drone to others. (FYI, Up Sonder launched March 1st 2017 and we are still in beta, so we really value any feedback you can give!)

Our platform is free to use (we only charge a % of a transaction, like Uber). We believe in transparency and giving complete control to the members. Up Sonder ONLY allows FAA certified drone pilots and FAA registered drones to list on the site. This is what we do:

-Provide a platform to rent your drone (peer-to-peer) powered by UberRush and Postmates. You just have to register your drone with the FAA and then you can rent it through our marketplace. To protect you, we offer a $1,000,000 liability insurance to the provider (not the operator that rents the drone) and up to $2,500 in damage protection for the drone itself.

-Provide a platform to connect drone pilots with companies that need their services. This platform is market-based. We don’t assign jobs or tell you what to charge, or what clients to accept, or allow bidding for projects, we let the market determine these things—We do however, provide you with information so you can make informed decisions about your rates (which are all displayed beforehand so clients don't have to wait on a quote and fully understand what they are paying for). For instance, we are finding that real estate companies in Los Angeles that are looking for drone video/photography services are willing to pay $200-$250 for this service. 

As of now, our drone rental service has gone well, people like how easy and safe it is to use our platform. We are still working on building up the marketplace to connect drone pilots with companies that need their services. We have real estate companies on board and we are out there working to get more companies like insurance, construction, home inspection, telecommunications, etc. on board.

We are not here to guarantee jobs; we are here to help you monetize your drone in an open transparent marketplace. We are also looking towards the future. If you want to know more about that you can message me…this response is getting a bit long.

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