Emjay

Starting expenses

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Every 2 years, FAA requires you to re-certify with another exam. I haven't heard yet how much this will cost, I doubt it will be more than the initial $150 exam fee so you could use that as running cost every 2 years. No other requirements exist from the FAA for continuing education (that I'm aware of).

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As long as we are talking startup costs, other things you should consider are: 

  • Insurance: Verifly.com offers very inexpensive insurance for drones, $10/hour for $1,000,000 liability coverage.
  • The drone: cost varies depending on the hardware you choose
  • Extras for the drone: Unless you get a package deal that already contains the extras, you're gonna want extra batteries, carry-case, propellers, etc.
  • Setting up an LLC: this is something you might want to consider if you don't already have one. This way, in the event something bad does happen, they can only go after a business instead of your personal assets. www.dronelawpro.com offers great package deals to help you get up and running - check with them for pricing.
  • Safety gear: depending on where and what you fly, you may want to invest in steel toe boots, safety reflective vest, hard hat, safety cones and safety tape to rope off landing/takeoff zone, communication device for PIC/VO, air traffic radio, etc.
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Starting a business based on using drones really isn't any different than any other business.  Do all that you can to limit your liability, insurance, incorporating etc.. Do all of the things that Steve listed.   But there are a million intangible details that if you haven't started or managed a small business before, you won't be able to get all the information online.  This is one of those things that you just have to learn by doing before you can even recognize that you might be getting sound advice.

I have a saying: "We live in a society where everyone knows how to do everything, but hardly anyone has actually done anything."

Starting any new venture is a lot of work and exciting, especially one that has something to do with drones.  A key to a successful startup is your ability to focus on a single task you can charge money for, and then grow the business by increasing sales.  Great if you can do that.  Or, you need to still be focused on a particular niche but be flexible enough to broaden your mission to meet you customers changing needs.  This is more common.

Where a lot of drone related businesses fail is that they get the tools they rely on for success from toy drone manufacturers. These drones have a very narrow mission profile, they can pretty much only fly the camera that came with it.  It doesn't really matter if its the best camera or not or even whether you think its the right tool for the job, it matters what your customer thinks.  What often happens is you provide a successful service to a customer, they think of all the great ways they could expand the role of drones in their business and on the next job your asked if you can fly a five pound $35K hyper-spectral sensor.  If you purchased one of the many hobby grade drones your faced with the prospect of turning the work down or buying another drone.  

In a startup you have to wear many hats and go after a lot of different types of work so you need a platform that can be easily reconfigured to meet a wide variety of missions.  Not just whether you can plug in an additional battery (of coarse it might be nice to be able to fly with less than six if you don't need that many), but what if I need to fly a two pound FLIR for a job on Monday and a 15 pound LiDAR on Thursday.  First of all you should know that its a bad idea to fly a two pound payload on a drone that can lift 15 pounds or more.  

So the moral of the story is you need to buy or build a platform that is modular, open and and extensible, so that your tool can be as flexible as your business.

 

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