Where do you draw the line between start-up commercial operators and hobbyists when it comes to a comprehensive breakdown of upfront hardware expense? For Ian Titchener, founder and manager of Ely Aviation, which officially opened its doors for business last month, the boundaries are not as great as some might perceive.
As the commercial UAV market grows, he says that it is possible for new entrants and young start-ups to develop a professional service without running out of cash.
1. Barriers to the industry are not as high as you think
The drone industry is one that many enthusiasts aspire to get into. Flying drones is a lot of fun, and many of us started in just this place. There is a perception that getting into the industry is cost prohibitive, and some people do end up spending thousands on setting up their drone business, where in reality it can be done for less than £2,500.
2. The cost and flexibility of training are coming down
The done industry is still very young, but that said there is now twice the number of companies (NQEs) offering drone training than there were even just two years ago. This and the higher numbers of people attending the courses are making the market far more competitive.
Prices now range from around £750 and can be anything up to £1,500 depending on where you train. Personally, we always send people in the direction of 3iC, (who charge as little as £825) primarily because the ground school element is delivered online, but with the full support of a tutor.
This means that you can fit it around your current job. Some ground schools last for three days. Cramming information it isn’t necessarily productive, and taking a bit more time in an environment that is more relaxed will make a huge difference. At the end of the day, you still have to take the prescribed test under exam conditions and having had more time to absorb the information you could find yourself much better prepared.
3. You don’t need to blow all your start up budget on the most expensive kit
Buying drones can be an expensive exercise (it can also get you into trouble with your wife!) When you start any business you have to ask yourself ‘Do I really need this? Will it make a huge difference?’ Nine times out of ten the answer is no.
Believe it or not, you can start a drone business with a standard Phantom 4. It’s all about delivering the results safely. If you spend £5,000 on an Inspire 2, not only will you be broke, but you will also have a drone that is total overkill for the work you are going to initially be doing and you may not be able to afford the safety equipment you need to mitigate on-site risks. If you can afford it get a Phantom 4 Advanced/Pro.
You can buy a lot of drone these days for under £1,000 so don’t be tempted by bigger cameras and flashing bells and whistles. They won’t win you any more business, it will just take you longer to break even.