Learn to use drones, and you will get in on the ground floor of an industry that is taking off.
Drones can be the foundation for a business that provides aerial views for a wide range of purposes and industries. High-end drones can cost thousands of dollars, but entry-level models with high-resolution cameras that cost hundreds could work for some commercial uses.
For more drone shopping guidance, check out: “Exploring the World of Drones? Get Started With This Buying Guide.”
Once you have a drone — and know how to use it — you’ll need appropriate clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration, which has authority over U.S. airspace from the ground up. Before you use a drone for commercial purposes, check out the FAA’s “Unmanned Aircraft Systems” webpage to learn more about government rules and requirements.
Obtain any business licenses required by your state or local government as well, and check into local laws that may prohibit or restrict drone use.
After making the government happy, turn to these eight ideas for drone-related businesses:
1. Aerial surveying
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Aerial surveying is already used in several professions, including map making, agriculture, real estate and construction. These professions require detailed studies of large tracts of land.
While the traditional business model uses helicopters or other aircraft, a drone can do the same job with lower expenses. Plus, drones fly slower and lower than many other types of aircraft, which can sometimes allow drones to pick up more detail than larger aircraft.
2. News gathering
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Drones can go places that might be too risky for even the most intrepid reporter. They also can send back live video of the action, getting get views of fires, traffic accidents or riots.
High school athletic teams — and youth sports or some college sports teams — might need drone photography. You can sell drone photos to the athletes, their parents or the local media.
Starting your own news site might be more than you want to take on. So, start by reaching out to local newspapers or TV stations that might hire you and your drone on a contractual basis, or buy images on a one-off basis.
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Think of a clear day at the beach, where a low-flying aircraft zips by towing a banner about the local crab shack. Now, think about your drone doing the towing instead. Just make sure you don’t fly too low — the salt and sand are bound to be bad news for those little rotors.
Drone-captured videos can also help clients with marketing. A hotel in a prime location might be able to make use of a sweeping aerial shot of its grounds, for example.
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There are miles and miles of pipelines and electrical lines crisscrossing the U.S. that need to be inspected regularly. Once again, a drone often can do the job more cheaply than a helicopter or people on foot.