Pricing for Drone Mapping

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If there were only a simple answer to that.  It kind of depends on your value proposition.  

If your a service provider and your business model is based on your ability to deliver your service cheaper than your competition then you can do a cost per acre, per job, based on cost of equipment and you can divide that by how many projects you can sell.  Trouble with that is you quickly get "commoditized" out of business by your customer or high schooler that buys the same equipment you have from the local hobby shop and does the same thing you do for half the price.  So about the only way to win and be profitable is through the economy of scale, you can concurrently do a factor of 10x more projects.  Low margin, high throughput.

If your value is derived by your ability to do something much better, more accurately, better quality data, or possibly enable your customer to do something not currently possible or safer, then you need to determine the cost of the status quo.  Your competition isn't another drone based business but how are customers currently doing it?  For example your inspecting cell towers, how much does it currently cost for a human to climb and inspect, how does your service make that inspection safer and how more efficient is it?  If its any or all of those things then you have to prove it to you clients and earn their business.

Some of the most profitable projects didn't pay us anything but they provided access to demonstrate our ability to accomplish the task.  They helped us understand their needs better and validate our service or products.  

If your a startup then each project only needs to make enough to help you live to fight another day.  The more you do this, the better you'll get at doing it, the more others will notice that your good at doing it and the price you can charge for your service will become self evident.  


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21 hours ago, Tim123 said:

Around how much should I charge per hour when it comes to mapping a construction site with my drone. I want to be reasonable but also make enough money to grow my company in the future. 




This stuff is mapping construction sites and farms with a drone. Other companies are other companies that do that.

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What problem are you solving for your customer?  That's what determines how much you get paid. 

Commercial drones that fly real sensors and cameras get $1600 to $2500 per day.  These drone systems typically cost $25k or more. 

If you have a Phantom or expire you should expect $300 to $500 per day.

Most instrumentation that is accurate enough that can provide the type of actionable data is expensive and heavy so the drones that carry them are not converted toys.  


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AV8Chuck - 

Great breakdown up above on calculating your overall price / cost.  Particularly about distinguishing yourself from others and how that will help you not become commoditized across your area of business.  On the part of equipment directly above though the piece about expect to make "x" with a commercial drone and 300-500 with a Phantom (or I am guessing you mean Inspire) is a bit off base.  The "value" that you bring isn't in the equipment (unless the equipment you are flying can't meet the requirement of the job and fulfill the clients need), the value is in the service that you bring to your client.  When I went from shooting architecture on an 80MP PhaseOne back and Arca technical camera body to a Canon 5DSR I still charge my clients the same rate for a system that is $70K less.  Likewise I charge that same rate for my aerial work (the rate are higher than the rates you have posted) and that is whether I have flown my 5DSR below something or my Inspire or Phantom (sometimes the Phantom is the right piece of gear depending on the area).  

Now to get there is another story.  I spent a few hard years building a customer base with large companies, continuously provide FANATICAL service and am regularly innovating their image for them, I don't rely on them to lay a vision out.  With that though someone else could come along (and a couple time they have) and undercut me, but in the past 5+ years I have only lost 2 clients due to that.  

I do almost all my aerial work with clients with  and Inspire 2 or Phantom 4.  So I wouldn't discourage anyone from thinking that you are going to be "stuck" in a 300-500 range with either of those.  You may be, but that is up to you. You can build a service business where you are right in between $3k-$5k / day, but it us up to you, and your hustle.  Some will say it is up to your market as well and to some extent that may be true but my market is global (not just for aerial, stills as well) so my "market" doesn't matter.  How much outreach, follow up, proposing, refining, networking, pitching is what makes the difference.

Great thread on this,

Bill Nichols

Edited by Bill Nichols
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  • 2 years later...

So I jsut got my commercial license and am relatively young. I plan to do real-estate and fly the inspire one. What would be a good starting price seeing that I don’t have any clientele. Should I do more of a day by day rate or a fixed rate depending on the size of the job and the amount of content I produce. 

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  • 1 year later...

hello ,

I am new to the business and i have a dji matrice 300 plus lidar l1 thoughts upon a service pricing might be  a little bit expensive ,but

i will take off a matrice for a what you say about the pricing of a lidar?

should i charge per acre?should i charge by the job ?

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On 3/13/2017 at 10:19 PM, Bill Nichols said:

Now to get there is another story.  I spent a few hard years building a customer base with large companies, continuously provide FANATICAL service and am regularly innovating their image for them,

Not sure why I haven’t seen this until now. @Bill Nichols I hope that Bill is still apart of the forum. Great advise. 

Not all LiDAR is created equally. A Riegl LiDAR, kind of the standard for aerial LiDAR, costs $150K to $300K.  Other less expensive LiDAR, $50K, is generally noisier and less resolute.  It really depends on what your customer requirements are.  I don’t know anything about the I1 camera and whether it would meet your customers requirements, I kind of doubt it.  But having said that, if it does then you should charge, as @Bill Nichols recommends, a rate that is commensurate with the quality of the data.  

We, I believe most other companies, charge $2500 to $3500 (plus expenses) per day (for a two person crew)  to fly a Riegl mini VUX.  That rate can be as much as $5K/day depending on the logistics and requirements.  We mostly charge by the day, we have a couple of clients we charge by the job but there needs to be a lot of trust between us because there’s often a lot of mission creep and other than the flying we don’t control the project.  That can add a lot of time and expense that comes down to “they didn’t budget for” making it difficult to get paid. 


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