Curt Eckert

Looking to start a new career and is DJI a good idea

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I find out this week if the California Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) Vocational Rehabilitation counselor will approve me for Voc Rehab. If the answer is yes the next step is whether I can be approved to take Dronitek Flight Academy Ground School to get ready for the Part 107 exam. I am truly hoping that my employment plan (if approved) will include the additional advanced courses they also provide. I also am hoping they will provide me a mid level commercial drone and laptop. 
 
So I need to use CAL VR resources to the max. What I need to figure out are what sector(s) provide the best Return On Investment (ROI) and also what sector(s) have the most job opportunities. I also need to add one more criteria and that is can I complete the aforementioned missions with a Skydio 2 commercial drone or an Autel Evo Pro II commercial drone due to their autonomy on detecting and avoiding obstacles.  
 
I am scared to put money into the DJI line, that offer the best there is, due to security issues with data transfer. 
 
If CAL DOR is capable and willing to help me procure a higher quality commercial drone then I am considering the US-1 Impossible Aerospace commercial drone. 
 
I need to start a new career, I no longer fly due to chronic blood pressure issues resulting in three heart events. But my background in aviation should help me in becoming a capable commercial drone pilot. 
 
I would love to get into thermography operations and flights using a LIDAR too. If I can prove myself capable I want to eventually get involved in BVLOS operations. 
 
I do not have deep pockets so Drones like Inspire and Matrice, which are both high quality and very expensive, are off the table until I can establish myself and have a real income. 
 
As such I’ll be open to any advice you could provide please. I believe working on AUVSI TOP Level 1 and Level 2 as I develop my skills and hours may open doors. 
 
Curt Eckert
Manned Commercial Pilot #2199681

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Hi @Curt Eckert,

Welcome to the UAV Coach Community Forum! It can be difficult to say that one sector of the industry is more lucrative than the other because the industry is still young and it is always developing at a rapid pace.  

However, we do have some resources that might help guide you in the direction that you are looking for. There is an abundance of opportunity in the drone space: filmmaking, inspections, and real estate are some good opportunities just to name a few.

Here some resources:

Industry Report/Projection for 2020.  

https://uavcoach.com/drone-pilot-salary/

To get started, I suggest taking a look at our 'UAV/Drone Jobs' guide which goes over the different types of jobs and applications out there. It is pretty thorough, have a look and find out what applications interest you the most, this will be a great starting point. It is always best to stick to one or two applications instead of trying to offer ten different services. 

The Skydio 2 is a great drone because of its intelligent autonomous features, but it does not have the sensors required for thermography, if that is the direction you want to go. As for the Autel drones, their new EVO II Dual drone has both a visual and thermal sensor. The pricing has not been released as you must contact Autel for that information. 

Wishing you the best of luck with your new career and please let us know if you have any questions! 

Best, 

 - Chase 

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For what it’s worth, I think your assessment and the way your looking at the commercial UAV market is good.  A lot of people looking to make this sort of career transition are too focused on the drone.  

On 3/24/2020 at 8:42 AM, Curt Eckert said:

I am scared to put money into the DJI line, that offer the best there is, due to security issues with data transfer. 

There’s a lot of misinformation regarding the federal ban on DJI and data security.  The ban includes the Pentagon (DoD) and any federally funded “critical” infrastructure projects.  Some things to keep in mind that may influence your decision.  The Army Corps Of Engineers is part of the DoD and included in that ban and they manage two thirds of the civil infrustructure in the US.  There is a lot of infrastructure that is not considered critical and a lot of utilities, construction and inspection companies, and DOTs etc use DJI, but the amount of infrastructure that is being reclassified as critical is growing quickly.  

https://www.wileyconnect.com/home/2020/3/20/draft-executive-order-would-tighten-limitations-on-chinese-drones-covid-may-spur-other-similar-measures

How long will it be before DJI is precluded from federally funded projects is anyone’s guess.  It’s conceivable that you could use DJI drones on non prohibited projects for years.  Having said that, it’s doubtful that as a single commercial operator that you can win much of this work anyway.  Some companies like PrecisionHawk might hire you for industrial inspection but that will likely require 50-100 hours of direct experience flying an Inspire2, M200 or M600 inspecting substations, transmission and distribution towers etc..  

On 3/24/2020 at 8:42 AM, Curt Eckert said:

If CAL DOR is capable and willing to help me procure a higher quality commercial drone then I am considering the US-1 Impossible Aerospace commercial drone. 

Again, try not to focus so much on a particular drone, focus more on what customer are you trying to solve a specific problem they’re willing to pay for and how.  What problem does the US-1 actually solve?  One of the logistics all commercial operators must deal with is battery management and safety.  The US-1, the drone is the battery (so to speak), so managing battery consumption might be a lot more difficult on a drone where you can’t change the battery.  We fly a mission and can swap the flight batteries out as many times as necessary, while concurrently charging the spare batteries.  Also, batteries are only good for a limited number of cycles.  So for that reason I’d be sceptical of aligning its capabilities with the right application. 

48 minutes ago, Chase Flynn | UAV Coach said:

The Skydio 2 is a great drone because of its intelligent autonomous features, but it does not have the sensors required for thermography, if that is the direction you want to go.

If I were just starting out with this decision I’d go with the Skydio2.  The Skydio2 is an intelligent UAV, which means it’s likely to be successful on a much broader range of missions.  The Phantom series is long in the tooth and if you need it to perform any kind of inspection beyond what it was designed for, it can’t.  It really depends on what the application is.  With its global shutter you probably can’t beat the price performance for mapping applications but that doesn’t require thermal.  

The Skydio2 will have thermal on it way before DJI has an intelligent drone.  We’ll have to wait and see how good a theremal sensor but it can’t be any worse than the XT2.

On 3/24/2020 at 8:42 AM, Curt Eckert said:

I would love to get into thermography operations and flights using a LIDAR too. If I can prove myself capable I want to eventually get involved in BVLOS operations.

When you talk about LiDAR your getting into a very expensive and heavy niche which requires a whole other level of UAV.  

We develop and manufacture our own UAVs in the US but we don’t sell them.  There are many others, here’s a few:

https://terraview.com

 

Obviously these are more expensive but they can do so much more of what a professional operator needs.  

There’s no simple, right answer to your question.  If you want easy and something the DOR is likely to accept, go with DJI.  But if your looking for a serious career then you’ll need to research the path less traveled. 

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