There are lots of Drone Training Companies in the industry; particularly in the UK who it seems are 'Selling the Dream' of becoming a VERY well paid commercial drone operator... But, is it possible to earn the kind of amounts which some of these Drone Training Schools are telling people or is it just a lot of hot air?
Approx read time ~9 minutes... Or you can watch the video below! :)
Before you can begin to earn money as a commercial drone operator, it's worth noting that you'll probably have to complete some form of training in order to be able to fly a drone commercially.
The requirements vary considerably by country and here in the UK at the time of writing, you need to have a permission from the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in order to be able to fly a drone for commercial gain.
This is set to change on 1st July 2020 though, as the UK CAA adopt the European Drone Regulations and the UK Drone Laws state that you'll no longer need to have a permission from the CAA in order to fly a drone commercially.
That being said - there are some caveats to this which are worth being aware of; it's not going to be a 'free for all'!
In order to fly a drone commercially in the UK as of the 1st July 2020 without a permission from the CAA, you'll need to ensure you have the following in place/abide by the following criteria:
Long story short; if you want to fly commercially without any qualifications, you can under the new regulations BUT you'll need to stay away from people and 'things' at all times.
If you want to get closer than the 150m/50m, then you'll need some form of CAA Approved Drone Training qualification by completing a course such as the CAA General Visual Line of Sight Certificate (CAA GVC) or the CAA A2 Certificate of Competency (A2 CofC).
You can find out much more about the different qualification by watching the videos in the playlist HERE.
This is an entire course in itself - but there are a few fundamentals to bear in mind if you want to start a successful commercial drone business.
First up - it's a business; if you want to do it as a side-hustle that's fine but don't expect to do much more than cover your basic costs... This is great for lots of people, as it allows them the opportunity to 'play' with the latest tech, without having to lose too much cash but, if you want to earn that magic £65K plus wage that you've been promised by your CAA Drone Training School, then you're going to have to go into this with everything you've got.
It really is a case of risk vs reward. If you can't take the risk of leaving your current line of employment, then you've got no choice but to run the drone business as a side-hustle until it (hopefully) gets to the point that its earning as much or more than your 'day job' and then you can make the leap... It'll be a while until you can get the 'reward' of a £65k salary.
On that - I think it's also important that we put the £65k salary into perspective too... To some, it's an astronomical amount of money. To others, its 'normal' and to some it may even be pocket-change... Either way, to earn £65,000 per year means that you've got to earn £178.08p EVERY SINGLE DAY. Which, if the hype is to be believed, shouldn't be too hard with a drone, right?
Well.. Maybe - if you consider that the average price we're seeing for a drone operator and a 'consumer' grade drone to go and do a day's work is around £350. There's even then the chance to charge extra for editing the footage, delivery of data etc in addition. But, there's a few things that people tend to miss out from these numbers.
THE GREAT BRITISH WEATHER
Yes, there may be 365 days in a year BUT, in the UK in particular, there are an average of 180-200 'flyable' days each year. This immediately means that in order to earn your £65k, you've now got to be able to charge £325 - £361 per day. Still doable I hear you cry and; I'd agree, in the most part.
You need to have some way of generating leads. You need to have a process which makes people aware of who you are and how you can help them... You then need to be able to deliver enough perceived 'value' to them, so that they come and ask you to be the solution to their problem...
This take time; and generally, lots of it!
Now, I'd recommend using those 165 'non-flyable' days as days for you to go out prospecting. To get out there and generate your leads; make your noise and get people to know, like and trust you... But most people don't realise the effort and energy which goes into doing this. And, after all - you want to be your own boss so you can take weekends off and spend time with your family, right? ;)
Ok, so I'm being a little flippant - but you need to build something which helps you generate a business pipeline... So that whilst you're out capturing the data; you've got assets like a blog, a YouTube channel and a downloadable 'e-book', doing the work for you and generating leads for you whilst you're working.
There's a helpful video HERE which explains some of the steps and tricks we use to help us generate leads on autopilot.
When you've generated your leads and managed to close the deal on enough clients to keep you with a constant flow of business - you need to deliver a product which is amazing!
Unfortunately, there's no shortcut to this part of the process; you've got to get out and practice, then practice some more. It's also worth learning how to edit properly if this is going to be an additional service which you'll offer to your clients.
Also, it's not good enough to just be 'good at flying' your drone - you're going to have to learn how cameras work, what settings to use and what additional equipment (such as ND Filters) you should be using.
Even in our professional 2 or 3 person drone setups, the Drone Pilot having a very good understanding of the camera settings and how and where to place the camera in the sky allowed us to deliver FAR better data and footage to our clients than anyone else.
There are lots of ways to earn good money as a commercial drone operator but, unfortunately, as is the way with all industries; you need to be very good at your job (or qualified over and above other people) in order to earn more money than everyone else... Otherwise everyone would be earning £100k+!
So, what's your superpower? What do you have which will allow you to be able to charge more to your clients for your time and services? Maybe its a massive list of contacts who would use your services, maybe you're a chartered surveyor who could add the drone in to your arsenal as a tool.
For us, we leveraged our aviation and model flying experience... To be able to fly heavy and super heavy lift drones, in high risk environments, where other people simply couldn't operate safely. This allowed us to charge upwards of £1500/ day for our equipment and crew and we were always fully booked...
We leveraged our Unique Selling Points, became genuine experts in our field by practising at every opportunity and worked hard on our relationships with our clients, so we could amaze and delight them. Our clients became friends and that meant our pipeline was ALWAYS full!
You can do exactly the same - you just need to work out how you can create a value proposition which makes you stand out from the crowd and means that people are happy to pay you for the VALUE YOU DELIVER to them.
It takes a LOT of hard work and perseverance but it's worth it in the end!
In general, we see most people earning £300 - £350/day when they're operating a drone like a DJI Mavic 2 Pro. If you want to earn more, then having a more 'bespoke' set of equipment can make a huge difference. For example; a step-up to a thermal capable drone or a DJI Inspire 2 could see a 'basic' operator being able to charge in the region of £500 - £600/day, which is getting toward the kind of figures which you'll need in order to make a reasonable amount of money.
Far and above the best way to make money from running a drone business is to get yourself up to the point where you are able to offer some kind of bespoke service. Capitalise on a niche which puts you into a place where there is less competition... Maybe this is by having better equipment than the majority of the other operators, or maybe it's by learning how to fly heavy lift drones in congested areas under an Operating Safety Case; that'd certainly set you apart from the 10,500 other commercial drone companies in the UK!
In summary, it is definitely possible to earn £65k per year (and potentially a lot more!) from flying a drone commercially... But, you must realise that you're operating a business and it's much more than simply getting a drone and going flying occasionally. If you want to earn the big bucks and get paid well for your services, then you've got to find your niche. You've got to get qualified or position yourself such that you break clear of the majority of the other commercial drone operators and are able to get paid for the value you deliver to a client, rather than simply being paid for your time on a standard 'day-rate'.
Just to put some meat on the bones, presuming that during a 52 week year, you're going to want to take 2 weeks off to cover a week at Christmas and a week with family and friends in the summer, you're going to have to be able to generate £1300/week, in order to make £65,000.
Now, the question I'd ask is - are you going to tackle this challenge by trying to get ~4 £300 jobs EVERY week (and still find time to generate leads and develop your business), OR, are you going to try and do this by finding your superpower, upskilling yourself and upgrading your equipment so that you can do 1x £1300 job per week?
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