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Did it start as a hobby?
Perhaps your parents bought a cheap and cheerful helicopter that you flew around in circles and crashed into the dog?. Now, however, you have a high-end drone which cost far more than you’d care to admit. You own all the must-have gadgets including a state-of-the-art ground station setup, a gyroscopic camera with 360° functionality and perhaps you’re thinking of including some sort of thermal imaging?
As an up-and-coming UAV pilot, you probably want to monetize your drone and equipment investment, which is a great idea. What do you need to know in order to successfully navigate the business space as a commercial UAV operator?
First things first.
Murphy’s law says that whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. And while we don’t want to be harbingers of doom, there are some risks that you shouldn’t take – especially with a drone which costs more than your car. So, a good insurance policy that covers your drone, your ground station equipment and your payload is definitely the place to start. You can’t operate a drone business without a drone.
Any professional organization which hires the services of a drone operator will ask for proof of liability insurance. This insurance can cover a whole host of potential accidents such as loss of UAV, third party legal liability, fire legal liability, personal injury, damage to premises, contractual liability and more. It’s a good idea to chat to your insurance broker to define exactly what they cover, and how much cover is included. A rogue drone or a simple miscalculation can cost you dearly and could possibly sink your business before you even get off the ground – so to speak. Many insurance companies will only insure commercial drone operators who satisfy certain criteria. Visit the SACAA (South African Civil Aviation Authority) website for more information on the requirements for commercial drone operation in South Africa.
As drones become ever smarter and more useful, so do the industries which make use of them. The obvious and well-known markets such as advertising, film and entertainment, and real estate are already making good use of drones. Beautiful aerial photography, incredibly clever and watchable adverts, and impossible stunts are all readily available, thanks to the humble UAV. These markets are a good place to start if you are punting for business, as they already have a need for your services.
Security companies are starting to enjoy the speed and versatility of UAVs, so it may be beneficial to put together a targeted pitch for this industry. Consider what equipment you may have that would be beneficial to them, such as thermal imaging.Commercial farmers find that the security offered by responsive drones, as well as their ability to cover large tracts of land while logging key information on water, livestock, and crops is invaluable. Perhaps they don’t want to invest in a UAV with all the add-ons themselves, so your periodic services would be welcome.
If you want to go big, and perhaps travel a little, then chat to petrochemical or gas companies who have started using low-flying drones to monitor lengths of pipeline in inhospitable places. Engineers and architects are finding it a simple task to monitor a development by using drones to log its process. Additional software that can track the daily progress of a dam, a building, or even a mine will make you even more employable.
Could you offer pilot training to customers who may want their own fleet down the line?
Once you have your equipment, your insurance, and a few key customers in your target market, then you are well on your way to a successful UAV business. Positioning yourself in a burgeoning industry by offering great rates, excellent service and of course, exceptional piloting skills, places you in a strong position. Yes, there is some hoop jumping to get registered and to get all your paperwork in order, but with that comes the peace of mind that you are legal and you have all your bases covered. Harnessing your hobby is a great career choice, if correctly managed. As Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
This article should not be considered legal or financial advice and is for information purposes only. You should consult with a professional financial adviser to determine what may be best for your individual needs.
THE 5 MOST SIGNIFICANT DRONE DEVELOPMENTS OF 2016
By Cor Asada
The drone industry is undoubtedly one of today’s most actively growing markets – to the extent where it’s virtually becoming impossible to keep track of! From pizza delivery via drone, to revolutionizing the way we conserve our wildlife and agriculture. As drone enthusiasts everywhere continue to progress in discovering new ways to create a positive impact within their community, the innovators behind these intelligent UAV’s are progressing even faster.
Let’s take a quick look back to the December of 2012 which marks the first release of the Phantom drone. After receiving such a positive response from the public, manufacturers have responded to the calling by producing more RTF and consumer-friendly drones, whilst the DIY drones started hit a decline. 4 years on and the market has undeniably shifted at an impressive rate. With pre-equipped pristine HD cameras, motorized gimbals, and many other highly intelligent features becoming the norm in today’s consumer drones, let’s have a look at a few significant drone developments that we’ve seen make their mark in 2016.
1. Modern drones are not only lighter but also noticeably faster than previous models; a positive addition in which videographers are pleased with. In just one year, consumer drones became more than 20% faster, exceeding once unrealistic expectations. These improvements now allowing pilots to more expertly capture athletes in motion, animals in the flesh and other swiftly moving objects. In 2015 this wouldn’t have been physically possible using Yuneec’s Typhoon 4K due to a limited max speed of only 28 km/h. Whereas the Phantom 4 has been recorded to reach up to an impressive 72km/h.
2. Everything in 4k is becoming a more recognized product in the drone industry as it has adapted accordingly in addition to receiving a positive response from the growing market. The 3DR solo has been equipped with a GoPro Hero 4. Whereas products such as Yuneec Typhoon 4K, Typhoon H, DJI’s Inspire 1 and DJI’s Phantom 3 and 4 series all capture in 4k, the equivalent to over 8 mega pixels. In addition, a greater breakthrough for the aerial camera commenced when DJI brought the Micro4/3 sensor to the sky. The new Zenmuse X5 gimbal-camera fastly became a five-star choice for drone enthusiasts. Also compatible with the Inspire 1, the X5 has allowed users to capture high-quality footage without the hassle of transportation, heavy lifting and complex preparation for hexacopters.
3. VR Goggles and 360 Video FPV goggles have been around for a few years now, however, haven’t been so common considering the price tag that came with it. With VR goggles, all you need to fly FPV is your phone and software like Litchi, making the setup much cheaper. Using your mobile device’s gyroscope, you can even control gimbal pitch by simply bowing and raising your head.
4. Safety Features Obstacle Avoidance has recently become the backbone of autonomous control for today’s drones, as such systems allow a drone to reach to a destination or return home without collisions. 5. Vision Positioning System Vision positioning systems and sonar altitude holding systems have become popular. Visual position systems give drones the ability to hover precisely, even without GPS signal. Before such systems, flying indoors was extremely difficult, even for experienced pilots. Vision positioning systems allow virtually anyone to fly inside.
5. Vision Positioning System Vision positioning systems and sonar altitude holding systems have become popular. Visual position systems give drones the ability to hover precisely, even without GPS signal. Before such systems, flying indoors was extremely difficult, even for experienced pilots. Vision positioning systems allow virtually anyone to fly inside.