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Ooh, hoping some folks will chime in here. I think the general consensus for a lot of folks is that it's very much a one foot in front of the other kind of situation—those that stick it out day after day and continue to build relationships, to fly, to put themselves out there, to learn and to embrace a consultative sales process are the ones who are going to find business. There's absolutely opportunity out there, but it's a brand new industry, and people looking for market rates, quick money, and blueprints of how to succeed don't get what it takes to hustle and to build a service-based business. It's tough work! #mytwocents

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Great question and I hope others chime in as well.  I'm based in Atlanta and moved there about a year ago.  I also do ground photography which is the majority of my business. However I've been getting more and more inquiries on drone and have probably about 10 quotes out right now including a few that are recurring shoots for construction projects over a few years.  Hoping I get them.  

 

I'd say overall I'm about as busy as expected.  Obviously I'm not pushing drone maybe as much as those who only do drone but still getting a number of jobs a month. Those clients that understand the value of the drone are great. Others it is still a work in progress.  "Why are you more expensive than a helicopter?". I think that's the big hurdle to overcome.  I've actually leveraged this to my advantage too.

 

As Alan said.  There is work out there and how much you push for it and do good work and stick it out is important.  

 

Cheers All!

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Realizing that all my opinion and $5 dollars will buy you is a latte at Star Bucks, I am  truly concerned....I can certainly understand an appreciate that there are reliable, honest, hard working folks out there who want a chance to perhaps capture the future or realize a passion for flight, photography even editing but to provide services for an insurance company at what has to be considered minimum wage (regardless of volume) is a danger to all pilots and the industry in general....

...It sends a message to these companies that there is an over abundance of pilots who perhaps do not know how and/or where to prospect for business and are willing to fly for next to nothing just to get a ROI and in my humble opinion..... that sets a very dangerous precedent when it comes to establishing the value of our services....

....Those $70 (Drone Base) and $82.50 (EagleHawk Platform/Droners.IO) missions cheapen the value of our services beyond redemption because they will be seen as the norm for excellence as well as industry rates for that kind of service...

...Each pilot regardless of flight or business experience does put in the time, effort and costs to be able to enter into an industry that in some instances may even change a person's life forever....not sound overly dramatic but the issue is serious....

....The UAV Industry as a whole should be looking to establish general/standardized commercial rates that are equitable and compensatory with the services being provided.  Nothing cast in stone mind you, but average rates that any industry/company can expect to encounter which would in essence derail their ability to put pilot against pilot in a bidding war for mission volume.... 

Perhaps it's time to start talking about forming a pilots association that believes in standardized rates for the good of its pilots. If rogue pilots continue to support the rates of these Insurance Claim Centers, any opportunity of procuring any other business connected with or that can be referred by them, will be unavailable because they believe they have set the industry rate standard for claim investigation because they have pilots that will fly for that rate.... 

....Let's be candid here....It's only a matter of time until said Insurance Companies, the Utilities, Law Enforcement, Construction and etc., will provide their own drone operations....business connected thru them will also be affected....translation....there will be even less elephants to bag when on a prospecting Safari....Claims may very well become one of the only ways to generate continuous income as a pilot in the future...if we give the store away now, what will we have later...

....We need to be organized....We need to become more than just a flock of professional rogue pilots in competition with one another....it's time for growth....if there is at least some standardized acceptable rates for ALL then each pilot/drone business can still compete based upon, services, experience, reliability, etc., but at least not for pennies....

....If we let the claims industry believe that we got our birds at Toys R Us and we don't mind spending perhaps 2 or more hours going and coming to the claimant while burning $10-$20 in gas doing so.... all for $70....then that's all the pilots experience, certification, craft, photography, effort and cost as a pilot is worth to them....

.....Yes, there's always going to be an dissenting opinion and that's America but I've been around the block and I think we all should take a pause and see it from a little different perspective....aerial claim assessment could become the next customer service call centers and right now some pilots are flying for the equivalent of less than minimum wage....not good! How much hot water am I in?

 

 

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It's been less than expected, and clients ideas of what things should cost are entirely way too low.  I am apart of Dronebase and droners.io and it's insane.  On Droners.io I have seen multiple people requesting commercial photos/video 1-3 min for $150.  And what's more insane is that there are 15 bids on it!  

In any case I do believe my business will eventually grow, but I know its going to take a lot of work to develop it.

 

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I hate to be Negative Nelly here but my optimism has turned to pessimism lately.  I attended Drone Focus in Fargo last week (mainly because I could drive there and my kids live there). My thoughts, for what they are worth and in no particular order:

  • It seems like many in the industry are mainly trying to come up with an idea that they can then leverage into a "start-up" rather than solve real world problems with the technology (not all, but many).
  • In the ag arena, it looks like companies that provide or use the large military style drones are going to move into the ag sector. Those drones can fly more acres in a shorter period of time making them more cost effective because,
  • In talking to some drone service providers, they mostly expressed that there is no viable use case for drones in ag, at this point. There may be some insurance work for hail/crop damage claims but farmers aren't willing to pay to see a pretty map that tells them something they may already know or are unable to fix anyway (I concede that there is a large difference between small grains and orchard/nut/other tree crops).
  • We have alot of licensed pilots but the average Joe isn't aware that he can't hire the kid next door with the drone to take pictures for his business. Therefore, we have alot of unlicensed people getting paid a few bucks to do something that is technically illegal but not being enforced in any way.
  • It looks to me like the little "mom and pop" shops probably aren't going to drive this business. You are either going to be an employee of a large corp or you have the resources to start your own "large-ish" business with pilots dispersed over a large area. 
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Glad to see honest feedback and discourse, here... I'm a newbie just considering getting my feet wet as a 'provider', and this is really valuable stuff.  It's all food for thought.  Keep it coming!

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Darshana....Stay the course if you can.... Every industry constantly shifts for various reasons but opportunity abounds for those with vision and the courage to turn that vision into a reality...Whatever the industry in general is going to morph into...it will become....and we all have to "go with the flow"....  

...But....If you're looking for a "ground floor" opportunity, the drone industry at this moment in time...is "it"! The sky's the limit (no pun intended) for one to achieve all the success they can want and handle. Respectfully I submit..."get your feet wet"...you may be the next aerial Picasso or National Service Provider...it's up to you....it takes hard work and focus as in any industry but there is a much clearer path to the top right now for one who can stay focused....

...Something for you to consider....As a service provider you provide, a pilot, the craft, the photographer and perhaps editor. By my count 4 services, all having a specific value. When it comes time to  post your rates, you may want to ensure that said rates reflect their real worth to the client and enlighten the client as to the cost they would incur, if they had to procure each service separately for their project....most clients really need to be educated...once again, like any other industry....

....And yes....There maybe some pilots that don't care what they charge so long as they get business... but in my experience, it's the service provider that is reliable, provides excellent customer service and produces an affordable but equitable quality product... that usually develops into long standing and profitable relationships with some client(s), which can lead to a steady revenue stream....there will be no other time like right now....Hope this helps....Success and Good Luck!

 

 

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I agree with a lot of the concern about some of the negativity but also with @L&L DRONE VIEWS to stay positive and it is still early.  Dronebase and Droners.io are tough because folks are willing to do that work for so cheap (more of a concern on Droners.io IMO).  Also, I know a lot of people locally who fly commercially without a license and they are canabilizing some of the business as they are willing to do it cheaper than I ever would.  

I would stick to your pricing and show the quality of your work.  That is what I have done with my repeat clients and it has paid off.  Do I make all of my money from my drone - no.  I am lucky to do ground photography and have a successful business there.  That said, I enjoy the drone work and know that if I was 100% focused on it, but sticking to my pricing and showing the quality of work to all of the available clients (while perhaps supplementing with Dronebase and Droners.io at a price point I was comfortable with), I would be successful.

Clients are still figuring the drone thing out as others have said to include cost, quality, etc.  As such, getting in now and pushing will lead to success.  

Cheers!

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Yep it is a jungle out there.  My best day on Drone Base was $500 or so.  Driving from one end of the county to another.  That was months ago and have not seen a mission posted in my area in over months.  Have never been able to crack the Droners.io yet since it is by bid.

Ditto on all the comments of unlicensed operators out there.  Without enforcement it will continue to get worse.  As L&L Drone Views said, the uberdrone models are normalizing the service rates.  We are subcontractors to subcontractors in those models.  I also agree that drone pilots should form local associations that advocate for drones and push back on the local associations of realtors etc about their professionalism and ethical and legal behavior.

Fly Safe!

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...A very telling post Cyclops 55! ....It's too bad Alan can't wade into this dialogue....With his connections, resources to include a sterling reputation in the industry, he could get the ear of those individuals that could sponsor a National Association of Certified Pilots (NACP) who's membership would agree to observe at least a minimum hourly rate for services rendered....

....Even if only a minimum hourly rate was observed on a National basis, it would send a message to those industries that intend to out source their drone needs what to expect. There are general standard minimal rates for attorneys, doctors, plumbers, barbers even baby sitters....However, the reality of organizing Local Chapters of the "NACP", let alone investing in a National effort re same would be difficult at best.... not impossible...but possibly a monumental task....

...Perhaps one day the majority of Certified Pilots will start an organization that can not only benefit all members but the industry itself....an organization that helps to enlighten and make potential clients get as comfortable as possible with services they are not familiar with....maybe raise a war chest for client educational subject matter... 

....I don't have the answers, so I guess that's makes me part of the problem....I just know that this industry is in the embryonic stages of growth and we all share in it's parenthood, growing pains and all....but....If we don't take a hand in raising this child now, it will undoubtedly become unmanageable the older it gets....

....Quite frankly, I'm somewhat disappointed..... I thought this subject would get allot of play and feedback from this membership of fellow pilots but apparently it's the elephant in the room....perhaps some feel it's not worth the time 'cause business is good and they need to stay focused there or others may feel if it's too hot in the kitchen, get out, competition is tough in any business....and still others may think there is nothing anybody can do about the rouge pilots that devalue our services and risk our reputation....and just maybe they're right....all I know is that after being in business for over 30 years, I'm getting a "red alert" in the back of my neck...I just don't think we can allow the "tail to wag the dog" for too much longer.....be cool and stay alert out there!....

 

Edited by L&L DRONE VIEWS
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1 hour ago, L&L DRONE VIEWS said:

It's too bad Alan can't wade into this dialogue

Here I am :)

In the future, use the @ symbol before my name and I'll get a more direct notification.

I participate in the forum where I can but am laser-focused on hitting a few strategic initiatives so don't always have the time.

1 hour ago, L&L DRONE VIEWS said:

still others may think there is nothing anybody can do about the rouge pilots that devalue our services and risk our reputation

To me, worrying about other pilots devaluing your services...that's not something you can control. No centralized national body or membership will change that. My advice would be to focus 110% on what you CAN control...building your own business and kicking ass while doing so. Some inspiration for you:

There's no silver bullet here. Just a lot of persistence and focusing on the right thing...getting high-quality clients that others can't compete for.

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...@Alan....Thank you for finding the time to respond to this topic, your opinion matters. For the record and what it's worth, I think you have the finest program in the Country and have set the bar for excellence in your school's curriculum, organization, support and follow up....However, I was surprised and then again not, at  your response....

...Your business model as I see it has been to provide the best learning experience and successful acquisition of FAA Certification for your clients....but it pretty much has to end there because you or anyone for that matter cannot be responsible for the clients outside education, motivation, focus, buisness acumen or lack thereof....it's up to each pilot to see to the success of their business so your reponse is the most logical ....but....

....There are numerous National Associations that help if not completely control the dialogue in several of the nations most important industries....perhaps at this moment in time we need not pay attention to the chaos that abounds in the types of services that are being touted out there with the variety of outrageously low rates connected to them as well as the lack of education the potential client has in order to make an informed decision re their aerial needs....for example, they need to learn that their 12 year old grand child with their Toys R Us or Hobby Lobby equipment can't do what we are trained to....

....Maybe over the next several months the industry will shake loose those rogues or starts ups that are trying to turn a hobby into a real business and don't have the first clue how to do it and maybe the FAA will start to enforce the regs in order to help preserve the integrity of the industry itself but I will go out on a limb and declare that when future pilots embrace the realization of just how the industry is like living in the wild west, making it up as they go, every person for themselves where only the strong survive and self reliance and tenacity is one's only option to success (which is life in general)....eventually that environment will flaten out new start ups, enrollments will go down....clients that would have considered out sourcing their needs will bite the bullit and bring the task in-house and eliminate the sub-contractors like us...

....Once again, I don't have the answers...but I believe the hand writting is on the wall....unity in numbers will help to control the flow of future business....at the end of the day if we don't have some kind of unity or industry standards we are not going to be taken seriously enough as an industry to be considered a necessary service to those companies that can actually benefit from said services....and the FAA cannot do it all for us....

....I wish to take a moment to beg the indulgence of any who reads this post...it is not offered as a negative commentary to our fledging industry nor an adversarial position to those of a different opinion...it is offered under the category of "prudence and foresight" for it is not important whether one agrees or disagrees with its content....it's only important for one to undrstand...

...I have learned (sometimes painfully) over the years that change really is a constant....innovation and flexibility is a must and if one is not looking ahead....one doesn't know where they are going.....be cool and stay alert out there....

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