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Part 5: The Truth About Running a Drone Business

10 mins
Drone Blog
Table of Contents

If you’ve been following along, you know I opened my business twice. One time in an area of my growing up.

Things there came fairly easily, due to the many connections only a lifetime can provide.

Then I moved. With me moved my business. Which, in turn, led to me having to start over again and re-open in my new home and state.

Basically, I enjoyed the expense and paperwork of starting a business so much I did it twice. No, that’s not true at all. It was just some of those changes that pop up in life.

In the new location, I found things to be a bit more difficult. I had none of the connections I had called to account before.

One totally unexpected thing was the Pandemic. Didn’t see that one coming. As a result of that, the tactics I had used before were not going to work this time around.

This forced me to do some out-of-the-box thinking. But it was a struggle, all the way through 2019. I didn’t qualify for any of the help many businesses received, either.

**» MORE: **The Truth About Running a Drone Business

As the bank account slowly drained and things grew more concerning, some of that out-of-the-box thinking became urgent.

Tactics such as stopping by construction sites and talking to project managers started to pay off.

By 2020, things were looking up, albeit slowly.

Heading into 2020, the pandemic was still making a mess of things. Growing through this period was immensely tough, it was.

As I had a comparison, I was doing only around half the work I had managed in year two at our previous location.

**» MORE: **United States to Ban DJI and Autel

The real thing to keep in mind is that mine was a business working on expanding its client list as well. For the time that it was, I can only say I did alright.

D&Ds did, after all, weather the storm that was Covid 19 and is still here operating today.

Yet More Background #

As we were progressing through 2020, I was still unable to have a face-to-face with any of my new local area realtors, and many that I did speak with already had pilots, if not exactly Part 107 pilots.

The other side of that, however, was my growing relationship with the land brokers that covered my new area. That was going especially well.

Then, in June, calamity happened.

When you own and operate a small business such as mine, the buck starts and stops with you. After all, like many of us out here, I am a company of one. I’m the owner, the pilot, the secretary, the janitor, all in one.

As such, when something happens either in your business life or your personal life, it affects both regardless.

In my case, it was a botched knee replacement surgery my wife had undergone. Starting in June of 2020 and immediately after the new knee was put in place, my wife had issues with it.

By September, she was so riddled with infection, I nearly lost her. This culminated in her ultimately losing her leg above the infected area, so above the knee here in 2023.

Throughout this entire period, she was mostly bedridden and in and out of the hospital.

During the end of the pandemic and with the growing issue of my wife and her failing health, I still had D&Ds to operate and commitments to fulfill.

To say that my personal life wasn’t affecting my business life would be a straight-out lie. It did and had quite the effect. Life’s little setbacks you know.

Before we move on, the wife is doing well and has been since the removal, and as she is no longer giving her all to fight off infection, her health has improved.

She now has a prosthetic leg and is learning how to use it. She’s struggling with it, naturally, although she has been able to maintain good spirits through much of this ordeal.

For the first time in a while, I think it’ll work out.

**» MORE: **Part 1: My Journey from Drone Hobbyist to Part 107 Pilot

Determination, Perseverance, and All That #

This does bring up a good point, however. You will meet with adversity in any endeavor in life. It takes grit, determination, and perseverance to overcome.

Running and operating your business requires all of this and then some. Some even just call it stubbornness, and that’s OK.

No matter what you label it, you have to have all of it to make a go of a business. There’s also the moment you need to realize when it’s time to pull the cord on something that just isn’t working.

One of the fateful decisions I made at the time was to get into a rather unknown area of droning, which was thermal.

I bought a Matrice 210 and a Zenmuse X5S, and to go with it a Zenmuse XT2. Oh yeah, I know! What a cost!

I also followed it up with a certification course, for which I had to travel to attend, another not small cost.

Now, education is critical to any drone pilot’s existence. As a drone pilot, you will always be learning and improving yourself and your skills. It’s one of the best parts of what we do.

As every flight you take is different than the last, you learn something from each one.

Then there’s the everything else, as well. I don’t regret the purchase and the certification. I regret doing it so early and the expenditure, so maybe a little regret.

The reason for this is that the market wasn’t quite ready at the time and now lower identical to similar quality equipment is available at a much lower cost.

It was a bad purchase from a business standpoint, although I did enjoy flying that thermal around. I no longer fly thermal, or at least not at this time.

As it was clear the return on the Matrice 210 and the XT2 would never be profitable, I had the pull the plug on it as far as operations go. This was just over a year ago.

That equipment, however, allowed for the investment in the future, by trading it for newer day-to-day equipment.

Instead of an aging Phantom 4 Pro, which is still a great, excellent system, D&Ds has joined the modern era with the Mavic 3, and to maintain a similar camera to the Phantom 4, there’s the Air 2S as well.

Additionally, the Avata has proven invaluable for what may be a budding additional service area, the flythrough.

So, it shows even bad investments can be turned around.

You’re probably wondering if I’m looking to go back into thermal. Yes! With most likely the DJI Mavic 3T Enterprise; what a system that is!

As a drone pilot, you have something, a sort of drive that others don’t. It’s that same something that makes for a good businessman, that sort of self-starter sort of thing.

That unwillingness to just give up.

You all know what I mean. Think about that gap you wanted to get through. When you miss it, do you just say, “Oh well, that’s it, let’s pack up and go”? Not any drone pilots I know, nor myself.

No, you keep at it till you make it. Not once, but regularly. Shooting that gap is an excellent way to express what it is like owning and operating a Drone Services Business.

You may miss that gap at first. By keeping at it though, you will eventually start hitting that gap more and more. Then you’ll be hitting it more often than not.

Growth #

As it is, my business was never intended to be very large. That’s not to say, though, that it couldn’t be. With the proper investment and direction, it could easily be grown.

In our current industry, there are many places where growth could be applied. One method is continuing to do the same, growing the client list and hustling for work.

There are other methods and areas, though. Those editing skills that you apply to your videos could be used in other areas, for example, by offering them as a standalone service.

Many in our industry have gone the route of 3D printing. You could get certified for repair; this is a very wise educational pursuit not just for your own equipment but as a service for others.

Growth is all around us in our industry, is the point. Pick a direction and power loop your way there.

Supplementing Your Income #

As a business owner, there are many avenues you can explore to produce revenue. If your main service isn’t quite bringing it in, you can supplement it under the same business banner.

Take, for instance, my writing here at It’s a job, kind of. As an independent writer, I am technically self-employed and looked at as a sub-contractor.

The income provided by Droneblog is applied to the revenue of D&Ds. Now, I would probably still be writing for Droneblog, even if D&Ds didn’t exist, as it’s always been one of my dreams to be a professional writer.

Both of my failed attempts at college were, after all, for journalism. I also met with some publication with other works over the years in various places. It’s all about doing what you love.

Much like offering 3D printed accessories is perfect for some as a means of supplementing, Droneblog is mine.

The reality is you most likely won’t be able to make it on your flights alone. You will need to look further than that to be successful with your drone business.

By supplementing, you aren’t relying on just the singular revenue source. Which is always a good thing!

Other Routes #

One of the benefits of being around for a while is that I’ve had the opportunity to meet and get to know others in and around our industry. Many are much like me.

Others, though, have gone and thought bigger or, in some cases, went in a completely different direction. One of those people is my friend Ken Heron.

Now, Ken is quite the character, and I met him shortly after moving to Tennessee. Like many who know of Ken, I had watched him doing drone-related videos on YouTube.

So, I met him as a fan, which happened to lead to a very good friendship.

Ken doesn’t really do photo shoots, or at least very rarely. He produces his income from the content he produces and the following he has gained.

To be fair, he does also have another job, and that’s as a radio show host. Although content creation takes more of his time and is something he has to do regularly to keep going.

For Ken, it works and is completely different than what I do.

Another example would be Jason Shappert. He’s a manned pilot instructor who has met with great success by providing educational training for the Part 107 exam.

The same applies to Greg Reverdiau, who also has done the same. I know a few guys who only work the software end of things.

The fact is, you can find a spot for yourself within the drone industry, no matter your flavor.

The Truth About Drone Business #

The truth is, you’re not going to become rich and famous doing it the way I do it.

If you want to just be a pilot and generate an income by flying your drone, like me, you will be able to get to a comfortable point with a whole lot of work.

As a self-employed individual, it comes with many benefits with an equal number of drawbacks.

The schedule is a good example of this. It’s yours to do with as you please. However, you also have to generate something to fill it in.

About 60% of my work time is spent getting more work. At this time, anyway, it’s on me to get that percentage down to the goal of 50/50, which is a good place to be or even lower.

Then, of course, things will fluctuate, with some months being far busier than others. As it turns out, Drone flying is sort of seasonal, similar to construction.

At the end of each day, I’m happy. I can’t say that for the end of each day when I was doing something else. Can you put a price on that?

Fly Safe, Fly Always, Always Fly Safe!

**» MORE: **3 Tips to Market Your Business With Drone Photography and Videography


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