Drone Business Startup: Your 6-Step Launch Plan
Ever since the technology arrived to make high-quality and reliable drones accessible to the greater public, they been all the craze. The drone (or UAV) industry is one of the fastest growing today, soon to be worth over $5.5 billion. So what do you do if you want to get in on the action and become a dronepreneur?
Here is a 5-step guide I put together based on the actual question my clients were asking and the issues they were facing.
Step 1. Learn How To FlyYou have to admit, drones are pretty cool and at first, they seem easy to fly. That’s leading many to jump in to launching a drone business head first even though they’ve never flown a drone, let alone one with complex features like a gimbal and camera system.
Before rushing out of the gate, you should get some experience with flying a UAV and get comfortable with different aspects of a UAV – the ins, outs, ups and downs.
Step 2. Recreational vs. Commercial FlyingTrekking out to the park with your kids and their teeny drones is nothing like Being a weekend piloting drones in urban areas for commercial purposes. Flying commercially requires a much higher level of training and in-depth skill set. In order for your drone business to work, You will need to demonstrate your industry knowledge, understanding of air theory and technical skills in flying confidently in order for your clients to trust you to do the job.
To get there, choose a training school with instructors who have strong aviation knowledge gained from real-life and practical drone experience. Schools with great instructors and guest lecturers will provide invaluable tips and useful information needed to kick start a successful career as a UAV pilot.
Step 3. Get EquippedSelecting the right equipment is going to be paramount to your business. Use these questions to guide you in choosing how to get equipped:
- What will be the purpose of this business?
- What service will you be providing?
- Who will be your target clientele?
- What kind of technology will be required to deliver on this promise?
The applications of UAVs are endless, ranging from aerial photography and videography to search and rescue, agricultural spraying and even police and military uses. Each of these applications requires different and highly specialised equipment. Choose the wrong equipment and it might mean the end of your business and the loss of your investment.
Once you know exactly what service you want to provide and to whom, it’s time to do your homework. Search online, read reviews, and reach out to industry competitors to find out exactly what your tech requirements will be. You’ll want to find the right manufacturer or supplier and make sure it’s someone you can build a long-term relationship with. They will want to help you because your success will mean their success.
Step 4. Get Complianta. Training
While you don’t need to become a certified drone pilot (a requirement in the US and Europe), in Canada you do need to complete specific training to operate a UAV under the exemption rules. Each exemption actually has has its own training requirements depending on the mission being carried out that you can check out here. Taking the right training and getting accredited from a drone flight school will show that you have taken the appropriate steps in be responsible and taking the initiative to learning the practical and aviation theory for your new vocation.
b. Getting An SFOC
Knowing how to fly a UAV is a great start, but in order to fly legally you may require an SFOC or exemption for an SFOC, given out by Transport Canada on a case by case basis.
To obtain an SFOC, your request must contain:
- Detailed technical data on your UAV
- Your policies and on the mission
Even with an SFOC, waivers are important when you are flying close to a person’s property that isn’t yours or your client’s and to notify those in the area that you are flying.
Getting each affected person to sign a waiver prior to taking flight will cover you and your business from any disputes with regards to invasion of privacy or disturbing the peace. To that point you should notify the closes air traffic control tower if you are flying in a 10KM radius from that airport.
d. Operations Manual or Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)
To that point you are also going to need an Approved Operations Manual or Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) Manual that must be adhered to for each flight and that the documents cited in the manual are completed and filed. It is important to take the proper steps to being compliant to remove the possibility of getting a fine or jail time.
Step 5. Market YourselfOnce you’ve got your tech setup questions answered and you’re confident you have a great service to provide, it’s time to start working on building up your client base. When it comes time to market your drone biz, you might think of websites and social media, but if you’re going to be catering to business and government, your website, Facebook posts and tweets might not go very far.
With a B2B model, you’ve got to find out how to get in front of the decision-makers who can benefit from what you have to offer. This means developing a direct outreach strategy that will get attention and land you meetings with those people. Instead of sitting behind your computer tweeting, you’ll need to hit the ground running with a grassroots strategy – phone calls, networking events (with the right people), and tradeshows. For super tips and tricks, check out The No BS Guide to Grassroots Marketing and Outrageous Advertising (which is more about direct contact than it is about direct contact).
When you get that meeting though, you’ll need to have a solid pitch and be able to convey why your prospect should choose you over any one else. For help with that, check out Dan Kennedy’s The Ultimate Marketing Plan.