The Drone Training industry in the UK has been a fairly significant vertical within the drone industry, since the CAA introduced the initial Permission for Aerial Work (PfAW) system, back in 2014. Since then, there have been a number of iterations of the training system, all of which have been fairly similar.
With the changes coming to the UK Drone Laws in 2020, will there be a new 'boom' in the drone training market and oportunity for people to enter the market and create a successful business, servicing the commercial drone industry?
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Whilst it's pretty difficult to put a definitve figue on the total value of the Drone Training Sector as a whole, it's pretty easy to make some assumptions based on the data which is available. These assumptions shouldn't be a million miles away from the truth; there's a large enough dataset and evidence base to allow a fairly solid analysis of the sector as it stands today.
If you take a look at the number of people who have held a CAA Drone Permission over the last 5 years (circa 10,500; according to the permission numbers which are being issued to new permission holders by the CAA at the time of writing) and multiply the number of issued permissions by the £1000 weighted average cost of a CAA Drone Training Course (Initially course cost was ~£2000 and, more recently ~£700), the figures show that the UK Drone Training sector has netted the UK Drone Training Schools ~£10 Million over the last 5 years; just for training based on permission courses.
It should be noted that in addition to the ~10,500 people who hold a Commercial CAA Drone Permission, there are likely to be many people who have attended training courses, who didn't then go on to apply for their own CAA Drone Permission. This includes companies who have multiple donre pilots operating under one CAA Drone Permission and others, such as Survey and Production Companies who have placed 'admin' staff onto courses, in order that they have a solid understanding of the concepts, regulations and challenges involved in conducting commercial drone operations.
The empirical evidence for our customer base at UAVHUB shows that this equates to about 30% of the numbers of students who we see coming through the Drone School... So, an additional £3 Million in lifetime revenue for the Drone Training Sector.
In addition to the primary function of getting candidates through the initial CAA Drone Training Courses, such as the GVC and A2 Certificate of Competency - many Drone Training Schools offer additional training related services such as CAA Drone Operations Manual consulting, creation and updating, Practical Flight Training and Industry Specific Training Courses (such as mapping, surveying, Pix4D training etc). Again, the empirical evidence from our journey to creating the UK's largest Commercial Drone Training School, UAVHUB, shows that done correctly, there is scope for an average order value uplift of ~45% over a customer's lifetime (excluding hardware sales), by servicing them with additional training services.
The basic evidence presented therefore suggests that the Drone Training Sector in the UK has generated in the region of £20 Million in the last 5 years for the CAA Drone Schools which have managed to leverage the adoption of drone tech and have serviced the requirements of the rapidly expanding drone market.
Like any business, operating a drone school in itself won't necessarily make for a successful business. You'll need to ensure that you understand how to market, sell and deilver on your product... AND, you'll need to ensure that you're able to deliver your product to a high standard. All of this is in addition to the requirements which you'll have to meet as a representative of the regulator, the UK Civil Aviation Authority.
Over the last 5 years, the sector has seen a number of Drone Schools come and go... Some appear to have done everything correctly - others were clearly in it to make a fast buck. But, it's those who offer something different who seem to be prospering.
Many will claim that the 'market is saturated' (the same people who state that the donre market itself is saturated). These same people are those who expected to buy a drone, complete a drone course, have a website and make money.
The simple truth is; that isn't how any viable business works. All businesses require an understanding of the core business pillars and a large degree of hard work.
If you're able to do something which others aren't (such as delivering exceptional customer service), and/or you're able to deliver more value to your clients than another company, then you'll be able to generate more leads, more business and acquire more customers than the competition... A process which allowed us to quickly create and now maintain UAVHUB as THE market leader in the Drone Training Industry.
We're always innovating, always improving our products and are constantly delivering value... Even to those who ultimately don't use us for our paid services. There's more to this 'game' than simply closing a sale (although that's a VERY important piece of the puzzle too!).
To put some figures on the table; last year at UAVHUB, we put more than 600 people through the main CAA Drone training course alone... When you then factor in Flight Training, Marketing Courses, Seminar Sales, Sales and Marketing Courses and Hardware Sales into this product mix; it makes for a very viable business - provided you're willing to put in the work, provide a diverse offering, deliver a great product and market yourself so that people know who you are and how you can help.
All of the steps to becoming a CAA Drone Training School are fairly well documented in the CAA CAP 722B. The syllabus which you'll need to create and teach to people, the examination process and the flight exam requirements are all listed in there. Obviously, there's a lot of work to do to ensure that you can teach the required information and deliver a training product which will keep your customers AND the CAA happy.
The road to becoming a CAA Drone Training school is a fairly well-trodden one now, as there have been around 50 different schools set-up over the last 5 years or so but, the switch from NQE (Nationally Qualified Entity) to RAE (Recognised Assessment Entity) is going to present some new challenges; particularly for those looking to enter the market in the next 12 months or so.
The main reason for this is that there is a lack of material out in the 'wild' which people who wish to become an RAE are going to be able to absorb and regurgitate. We saw this happen a lot in the early NQE days... People would attend a course and a few months later would 'pop-up' as a new NQE! I think the training providers are more savvy to this approach now, as are the CAA and, unless you've got a proven track record within the industry, you're unlikely to pass a CAA RAE Audit, without some expert guidance and knowledge.
Essentially though, provided you have enough relevant experience (or are being mentored/coached by someone who does), you will need to do the following in order to pass a CAA RAE Audit and be granted CAA Recognised Assessment Entity Status... Thus being authorised to deliver Drone Training Courses on behalf of the UK CAA:
For the General Visual Line of Sight Certificate - The CAA GVC
For the CAA A2 Certificate of Competency (CAA A2 C of C [ or CAA A2 CofC ])
All of the requirements outlined above are those which are required to meet the CAA RAE regulatory requirements - this doesn't include everything else you'll need to do in order to create a viable business as a CAA Drone Training School, such as:
With the changes occurring in 2020, it looks like there will be a consolidation within the drone training industry in the UK. I expect that we'll see many current NQE's / CAA Drone Training Schools not make the transition from CAA NQE to CAA RAE because they've not seen the rewards and benefits of being an NQE in the initial stages of the industry.
This consolidation will inevitably create opportunities for those who do make the transition to CAA RAE Status AND for people to enter the Drone Training market, under the new CAA RAE system, who wish to do things the 'correct way'; delivering a great product (rather than one which has been copied from the person's original training provider!) and with slick process and great customer service - a combination which has been severely lacking within the industry, thus far and the reason I am convinced that we have benefited so well over at UAVHUB. We made the decision years ago that our mission was to deliver an unrivalled customer journey with unrivalled products... Something which our TrustPilot reviews and the number of people we put through our courses each year reflects.
If you want to know more about the process to becoming a CAA RAE and starting your own CAA Drone Training School; we are offering discreet packages to companies and individuals who are appropriately qualified and aligned to our goals. These packages will provide you with everything you need to become a CAA Recognised Assessment Entity and start your own successful Drone Training School.
In addition, we can offer business advice, guidance and assist you in creating the processes which allowed us to build UAVHUB into the UK's leading Drone Training School.
If you want to know more, please don't hesitate to get in touch by dropping us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org or complete the enquiry form below and one of the team will get in touch ASAP!
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