Anyone Use Drones Commercially?

Discussion in 'General Business Forum' started by Sean Cordman, Oct 4, 2018.

  1. Sean Cordman

    Sean Cordman UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    3 0
    Over the last few months I have seen news articles discussing how the use of commercial drones will become big business over the next 10 years. Some jobs in construction have been completed for less than 10% of previous costs. Has anyone used drones commercially before, if so what was your experience?

    One article said that drone companies are investing in larger drones which could replace forklifts.

    Also DJI which is the biggest commercial drone maker has been entered into the Top 50 most important companies of 2018.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2018
    Posted: Oct 4, 2018 By: Sean Cordman Member since: Oct 4, 2018
  2. paulears

    paulears UKBF Big Shot Full Member

    3,963 981
    You're coming to the party quite late. I'm member of the Guild of Camera Professionals (GTC) and we have lots of members operating drones for film, TV and broadcast. DJI are in the mainly domestic customer market, and while for ease and speed many pro's do run them, most of us eventually go upmarket mainly because of image quality. Larger sensor sizes are becoming important, with 4K standards, and the smaller drones have what is really a GoPro style camera on it, and these don't hold up in the serious quality stakes.

    DJI are also trying very hard to make drone operation safer and less problematic. There are rules of course, that everyone in the UK should follow. DJI, for example, have software that prevents your altitude exceeding a limit they control - get up to 400 feet and all of a sudden you get a message saying maximum height has been reached. The DJI systems also occasionally insist you answer legal questions before you take off, AND the drone keeps a record of where, when, speed, height and even warning messages provided to you, so if you drop drugs into a prison, and the drone is captured, they know all your history. Cheap Chinese drones do not have these restriction. DJI will also prevent you taking off if you are in a known restricted area.

    Move up to a 6 or 8 rotor drone and the restrictions are totally in the pilots control.

    At many thousands of pounds, this probably makes sense. If you fly for business you will also need to go on a CAA training course, and get approved, and your name added to a register. You cannot work for any of the broadcasters, or now many larger commercial entities without this certification. You can fly for fun with no licence requirements. For business there is also quite serious paperwork for each flight - exactly like flying a real aircraft. You must have a flight plan and full documentation and a log book. The training and test is very similar to some of the components of the PPL spec.

    Purely on a business perspective while rates are very high for aerial footage - used so much now in news and TV, rates are not high enough to make you rich quick. Most drone work is carried out by camera people. A few firms specialise in aerial work for commercial use - estate agents, safety inspections, and of course the Police and Fire services now operate drones.

    You can spend £600 on a DJI or ten grand on an octocopter, but still end up spending two or three grand on your training, to then get into a fight with the local hobby people who have NOT done the training, but nicked your work!

    My own drone use is now occasional hobby flying - not because of the cost, but because when I did the events organised by the organisation I am a member of, it was quickly evident I am totally rubbish at producing decent footage. I've had two very, very close near miss collisions with fixed things like wind turbines and tall industrial structures, and I've realised it's not for me. Quite a few of my colleagues have the knack of producing really good images. Locally, our fire brigade just lost a five grand drone when they crashed it.

    Drone flying is established. Most existing operators have already got the clients. It's saturated with very good firms all with specialisms, very few generic we do everything operators.

    The article you read was written by an idiot. Too late to the party, and worse still, the idiots are going to bring in new restrictive legislation very quickly with all the stupid activity. Most £500 DJI owners who want to use them for business soon, buy a new one, and a new one, and a new one every six months or so - and a price point of around two grand is more typical of the pro operators, with a very short lifespan. The DJIs are often used as disposable drones. If you break them (which is normal) you throw them away and buy another. I'm on my second one, and I do NOT fly for business. In fact, my equipment makes more money by being hired by the two local guys as a second or spare drone. Flying the damn things is not, and never will be, a cash cow.
    Posted: Oct 5, 2018 By: paulears Member since: Jan 7, 2015
    • Useful Useful x 4
    • Thanks Thanks x 1
    • List
  3. Sean Cordman

    Sean Cordman UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    3 0
    Yeah, I watched a YouTube video of someone who claims that some people are spending $15k on equipment without any idea on how to sell their service. I have also seen some people suggest starting out by using hire equipment.
    Posted: Oct 5, 2018 By: Sean Cordman Member since: Oct 4, 2018
  4. Noah

    Noah UKBF Ace Free Member

    1,200 299
    That's the sort of non-specific hype that doesn't even justify wondering whether it is actually true in one specific case; sure as chips it won't cut your construction cost by 90%.
    I need a raised-eyebrows smiley-thing here. I claim no expert knowledge (as usual), but any "drone" that can carry the weight of a typical forklift is better described as an unmanned helicopter, because it is going to be far bigger than anything people generally recognise as a drone. On top of that (ha!), the thought of heavily-laden drones whizzing around in an environment that otherwise used forklifts gives me the willies.
    Posted: Oct 5, 2018 By: Noah Member since: Sep 1, 2009
  5. Sean Cordman

    Sean Cordman UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    3 0
    If I remember rightly a roof inspection requiring scaffolding can cost £10k+. Oil platforms are using drones for inspections because if they shut down for a day they can lose $4m. Plus DJI who is the worlds biggest drone maker has received $70m of investment to develop industrial drones. DJI has also been named as one of Times Top 50 companies of 2018.
    Posted: Oct 5, 2018 By: Sean Cordman Member since: Oct 4, 2018
  6. The Byre

    The Byre UKBF Ace Free Member

    8,978 3,509
    Along with all the other bumf such as clearance and release forms, you now must supply CAA documentation copies for all drone footage used by broadcasters and in films.
    Posted: Oct 5, 2018 By: The Byre Member since: Aug 13, 2013
  7. estwig

    estwig UKBF Legend Free Member

    12,262 4,293
    Posted: Oct 5, 2018 By: estwig Member since: Sep 29, 2006
  8. Noah

    Noah UKBF Ace Free Member

    1,200 299
    With respect, three posts in and you're reading like a thinly-disguised shill for DJI. Could you perhaps help us understand your interest in drones from your "Ecommerce" perspective?
    Posted: Oct 5, 2018 By: Noah Member since: Sep 1, 2009
  9. atmosbob

    atmosbob UKBF Ace Free Member

    3,879 874
    Which for multiple locations takes a lot longer than using a manned helicopter.

    Safety is still a big factor with larger drones.
    Posted: Oct 5, 2018 By: atmosbob Member since: Oct 26, 2009

    JEREMY HAWKE UKBF Legend Full Member

    4,032 1,276
    Anyone Use Drones Commercially?

    Well I am very interested in doing one trip if it gets us the coverage
    Posted: Oct 6, 2018 By: JEREMY HAWKE Member since: Mar 4, 2008
  11. londonbiz

    londonbiz UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    6 0
    Do you realise how stupid this sounds? Accusing someone of being a shill for DJI lol

    They don't need shills, they are absolutely massive and sell themselves, they are the go to company for a drone in the amateur to mid range segment.
    Posted: Oct 7, 2018 By: londonbiz Member since: Sep 9, 2018
  12. ADW

    ADW UKBF Enthusiast Free Member

    1,129 171
    Don't think it is a late to the game scenario. Drone usage is still at the beginning of where it could possibly end up. Anticipating the growth areas is the key. Yes, photography is a fairly saturated factor but where is it all going next.
    Posted: Oct 7, 2018 By: ADW Member since: Oct 25, 2007
  13. Chris Ashdown

    Chris Ashdown UKBF Legend Free Member

    10,644 2,152
    When they are larger, then spraying farm crops should be on the list, butmore than likely just run in automatic mode following a pre sent pattern and holding a good few gallons of spray material flying just above the crop
    Posted: Oct 7, 2018 By: Chris Ashdown Member since: Dec 7, 2003
  14. atmosbob

    atmosbob UKBF Ace Free Member

    3,879 874
    And first they do a UV and IR photo scan to see where the spray is needed.
    Posted: Oct 7, 2018 By: atmosbob Member since: Oct 26, 2009
  15. The Byre

    The Byre UKBF Ace Free Member

    8,978 3,509
    As @ADW states, we are only at the very beginning here.

    Some of the services being tried TODAY are - Painting buildings and other structures. Putting out fires. Rescue and crime surveillance work. Courier services. Sheep herding and other farming activities. Concert lighting. Firework displays.
    Posted: Oct 7, 2018 By: The Byre Member since: Aug 13, 2013
  16. Noah

    Noah UKBF Ace Free Member

    1,200 299
    Ohh, the irony...

    Probably just a coincidence that @Sean Cordman hasn't replied to my question yet.
    Posted: Oct 11, 2018 By: Noah Member since: Sep 1, 2009
  17. Chris Ashdown

    Chris Ashdown UKBF Legend Free Member

    10,644 2,152
    Maybe he has flown off or been droned out
    Posted: Oct 11, 2018 By: Chris Ashdown Member since: Dec 7, 2003
  18. Juraj Vysvader

    Juraj Vysvader UKBF Contributor Free Member

    32 2
    Some years ago, I'd been thinking about the same... However, there are legislative problems with drones, the law limits it. Perhaps, it's prohibited to fly above inhibited areas and to be honest, if an accident happen, it can make huge damages. Yet still, perhaps smaller damages than e.g. a car in a traffic accident. The biggest problem is the law those limit the usage.

    Best regards,
    J. Vysvader
    Posted: Oct 21, 2018 By: Juraj Vysvader Member since: Jul 6, 2018
  19. Woofster

    Woofster UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    2 1
    I have done my CAA PfCO course. If you have the right clients etc you can make a good income from commercial drone ops anything from a few hundred for a wedding day, to upto a few hundred per second of footage used for TV work.

    Obviously there is a range of drones available (I currently have a DJI Phantom and a DJI Inspire). So what you have does play a part in what you can offer. Likewise, what you want to do with the drone plays a part in what drone you get.

    My Inspire for example is a great tool for various uses. The ability to use dual controls is of great use as well. This allows me to control the drone while a second person operates the camera via their own controller.

    Those doing inspectations as well as emergency services are using drones such as the DJI Matrice 210 series where you are looking at upto £20,000 for the drone set up. DJI has many drones that are not so well known given they are Enterprise models such as the Wind Series and the DJI Agras MG-1 crop spraying drone. Many other drone companies are launching or have drones that match the DJI Enterprise ones. (Some interesting developments in the Search & Rescue side). In fact DJI have an announcement on their Enterprise/Commercial side at the end of this month. So new stuff is happening all the time that does not always get the same level of publicity as their consumer drones such as the Phantoms, and the Mavics.

    I had my PfCO course for free luckily. But the first thing is passing your course (well after getting a drone obviously lol) These vary in price from around £500 to over a grand. Upon passing your course you then need to pay the CAA £247 for your initial permissions then £185 per year following that. (These fees have increased annually so expect a higher price from next year). So to get started you are looking at a few thousand to get a drone and batteries etc, do your drone course, pay the CAA their annual fee, as well as all the usual business set up and running costs.

    It is after this when the hard work starts competing with other PfCO holders and those who haven't done their course who are willing to do a few photos etc for £50. You need to find your niche and clients within that market ideally. No point having a thermal equipped drone if you can't interpret the data for example. Or having a drone does not make you an expert photo/video editor is another example.

    The use of drones is increasing and is only set to grow as things progress (though maybe not as much as some reports would have you believe). Many industries are seeing them as a cheaper option to what they currently use as well as quicker. Why pay to hire and erect scaffolding or hire a cherrypicker to inspect a roof when a drone is quicker and cheaper for example. And if/when things change on the Beyond Visual Line Of Sight side then I think things will only explode. As this would allow delivery by drone (such as what Amazon wants to do), as well as increase their use for mapping and inspecations.

    The work is out there if you look for it or go and convince industries of their cost saving uses. Just don't think it will all come landing at your feet.
    Posted: Oct 23, 2018 By: Woofster Member since: Feb 21, 2018
  20. maddie234

    maddie234 UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    1 0
    It is very intereting topic, and I know that filmmakers often use them, but they're completely useless in my field.
    Posted: Oct 23, 2018 By: maddie234 Member since: Oct 23, 2018