Drones are gradually becoming ubiquitous and taking over many traditional human jobs. While the drone business industry is still fairly new, it’s growing rapidly with more and more people trying to find a way to get involved.

However, it’s not as easy as it might seem to break into the field of drone business, especially because of the drone business startup costs that many don’t take into consideration.

The drone industry is still new and valued at $13 bln globally. Still, it’s expected to grow rapidly in the next few years thanks to the drone service providers that are constantly creating great products.

If you want to start your own drone business, however, be prepared to spend around $30,000 for a basic office set-up including one full-time employee and two mid-range drones.

You could develop your drone business now and be ahead of the competition by following this guide, which walks you through all the steps needed to get your idea up and running.

From learning about different aspects of the industry to making a profit, this guide has it all covered in what you need to know to start your own drone business.

When it comes to drones, where is the market headed?

The commercial drone business industry is not only predicted to grow but to branch out into multiple other areas including delivery, agriculture, security, and more.

This provides a plethora of opportunities for those in the field!

According to research firm Grand View Research, the global commercial drone industry is expected to grow at an annual rate of 58% through 2028, reaching $132 bln.

The most impactful economic changes are as follows:

  • According to studies between 2015-2025, the economic effects of drone integration will amount to $82.1 bln.
  • As much as $482 million in tax revenue could be available to the states by 2025.

The size of the drone market

According to Goldman Sachs’ 2016 report, the drone industry will see a continuous surge in growth within the consumer, commercial, and military sectors until it reaches an estimated total market size of $100 bln by 2020.

The commercial sector of this business is projected to grow by $13 bln between 2016 and 2020, though 70% percent of the market is linked to military activities.

Top-notch business ideas for starting a profitable drone company

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You may be wondering if starting a drone company is the right thing for you or not. Well, there are many advantages to starting such a company and you should consider taking this step if you want to build a successful business.

Below we will highlight some of the best drone business opportunities and ideas that can help you in launching your own company offering drone services.

Aerial surveying

Aerial surveying and photography are one of the most exciting and profitable uses for commercial drones.

The cost of purchasing and maintaining a drone is relatively cheap, making it an accessible business opportunity for anyone looking to make money with their flying machines.

Drone photography services

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In addition to aerial surveying, there are lots of drone businesses at the moment focusing on photography.

This could include taking photos and videos of weddings, sporting events, real estate listings, or even YouTube vlogs. Your list of potential clients could be almost infinite here.

Real estate agents especially have started to invest in real estate photography done with drones or even drone videos to make their listings look better. Considering how big the real estate market is in the US, your first customer might be even closer than you think.

Sports video footage

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Another profitable use for drones is sports video.

Whether it’s capturing a live sporting event or shooting action footage of an athlete practicing, there are many opportunities to create stunning, high-quality videos that can be sold or used as marketing materials. You might need professional drones here, especially if you want to film car chases or anything else that’s blazingly fast.

Delivery services

One of the most talked about uses for commercial drones is delivery services.

Whether it’s carrying supplies to remote locations or delivering packages to customers’ doorsteps, drones have the potential to disrupt the traditional shipping and delivery industry.

Security surveillance

Commercial drones can also be used for security surveillance, providing a low-cost alternative to traditional security systems.

Industries like construction, mining, and oil & gas are ideal for using drones for this purpose, as they often require around-the-clock monitoring of remote locations.

Search & rescue operations

Drones can also be used for search & rescue operations, providing a highly efficient way to locate missing people or objects.

They can easily reach steep or otherwise inaccessible locations, making them ideal for use in emergency situations where time is of the essence.

Building inspection

Many building inspectors are now using drones to carry out routine inspections on tall buildings and structures, saving time and money compared with traditional methods.

Whether it’s doing a thermal scan for leaks or inspecting the exterior of a skyscraper, drones can reliably get the job done quickly and accurately.

Agricultural inspection

Drones are also being increasingly used in agriculture to monitor crop growth, irrigation needs, and other key factors that affect yield.

They can help to reduce costs by eliminating the need for manual inspections, while also providing more detailed information than conventional methods.

Mapping and surveying

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Mapping and surveying are other areas where drones can be highly effective.

Whether it’s creating detailed topographical maps or gathering data for environmental studies, drones have become a key tool in these industries because of their accuracy and efficiency.

Utility Equipment inspection work

Drones can also be used for inspecting equipment in the utility and energy industries.

They are often used to inspect cell phone towers, wind turbines, power lines, oil rigs, and other structures that need routine monitoring.

This helps to reduce both time and costs while ensuring the safe operation of critical infrastructure assets.

The average cost of starting a drone business

The cost of starting a drone business will depend on what type of drone business you are trying to start.

For example, if you are planning to run a photography business using drones, then your expenses may be higher than other types of businesses that have lower costs.

How to Select the Ideal Drone for Your Business model

Unless you carefully consider these factors, you won’t be able to make an appropriate decision on which drone best suits your business needs.

  • Needs
  • Systems
  • Hardware
  • Software
  • Although not the primary concern, cost and ROI are two additional things to keep in mind

Deciding on picking the right drone: Which one should you choose?

If you want to provide high-end photography for clients, you need to have a drone with an excellent camera, powerful dynamic range, and a high-megapixel sensor.

It might also be beneficial to have interchangeable lenses.

On the other hand, if your target market is estate agents who take pictures of houses and properties, then a good all-rounder like the DJI Mavic 2 Pro should suffice.

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The type of drone you choose depends on the work you want to do with it.

If your goal is to capture footage for movies and television, then you will need a different kind of drone than if you simply wanted to provide inspection services.

Also, if you plan on mapping out large areas, it would be more efficient to use a fixed-wing drone rather than a small multi-rotor.

A great starting drone for anyone is a quadcopter.

Most quadcopters contain obstacle avoidance, the capability to hover, GPS with Return-To-Home, system warnings, and a top-of-the-line 4K Camera– all controlled by an app that can be easily installed on your phone.

The price typically varies according to camera quality. Other pieces of equipment you might need are batteries, a travel case, a flight logbook, and ND filters.

The Right Computer Hardware and Software For the Job

If you want to do any basic editing, a regular computer will suffice (you can even use the mobile device you’re flying your drone with in some cases).

However, if you want to edit 4k footage in near-real time, be prepared to invest in a more powerful system–especially once you start adding graphics, transitions, titles, and filters!

Make sure your Drone is Insured

There are two types of insurance you need to cover any type of damage caused by your drone when using it for business purposes.

No matter how cautious you are, accidents can still happen.

Even if you’re a Part 107 licensed drone pilot with UAV training, you could still crash your drone or have a mishap while in flight.

Weather conditions can be unpredictable and interfere with radio signals, which may cause your drone to lose communication and crash.

Or, the drones themselves might malfunction.

There are two types of drone insurance:

  • Drone liability insurance will pay for any expenses associated with property damage or personal injury that results from an sUAS operation. This type of insurance coverage usually comes with high premiums but also provides the most protection.
  • Drone Hull Insurance protects your property whether you use your drone for personal or business purposes.

The necessary training, certifications, and licenses needed

Before you can start your training, you need to get licensed in your home country.

Different countries have their own set of regulations, so it is important that you understand the process and what is required of you.

The best place to find this information is through your local Civil Aviation Authority.

In order to operate a drone commercially in the United States, you must obtain an FAA Part 107 Certificate.

This certificate proves that you understand the applicable regulations, procedures, and operation requirements for flying drones safely.

You will need to pass the Part 107 test with a score of at least 70% in order to become a licensed commercial drone pilot.

How to Ensure Your Drone Business is Successful

With each expense itemized here, we’ll go over a break-even analysis for a brand-new drone business focusing on real estate.

By the end of this, you should have a clear understanding of when your business will start making a profit after all expenses are covered by your services.

After you’ve deducted your fixed costs from your average price, whatever is leftover will be your profit.

The break-even point is how many times you’ll need to provide this service before begin seeing any sort of ROI.

Fixed costs (monthly)

With the DJI Mavic 2 full kit, which includes all the batteries and accessories, you can start a business for around $3,000.

The initial purchase of the Mavic 2 kit is approximately $2,500 with other expenses such as website hosting ($15 peryear), registration ($200), and insurance ($200) totaling an additional $500.

By spreading these costs out over 12 months through monthly payments of $250, this dream can become a reality without breaking the bank.

Variable costs

Your expenses for each project, such as gas and travel costs to your destination, can rack up quickly.

To be conservative, let’s say it totals $100 per project.

Average price

Here’s how much you charge. In this example, we’ll assume you start as low as $100 and increase to $500 over a few projects–making your median $300.

Now let’s add the expense of your drone business.

$250 / ($300 – $100) = 1.25

According to this model, you would need to complete your real estate service a minimum of 2 times in order to start making a profit off of it monthly during the first year.

This is actually a good thing since you should be flying more than that each month!

Additionally, we recommend tracking your expenses and prices as time goes on so you can continue using this model effectively as your business expands.

Follow Federal and State Laws

Before you begin, research your country’s and state’s drone laws and requirements to make sure you are compliant with the local regulations.

Additionally, assessing local demand will help ensure that your business does not encounter any unnecessary obstacles.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), drone pilots don’t need a license if they adhere to a set of pre-existing guidelines and regulations.

When using drones for commercial purposes, here are a few key regulations to keep in mind:

  • All drones that weigh between 0.55 and 55 pounds need to be registered, with a renewal every three years.
  • While commercial drones must stick to daytime flying, they are allowed to fly during twilight if anti-collision lights are used.
  • Drones are only allowed to fly up to 400 feet and no faster than 100 mph.

FAQ about the drone business startup costs

How much does it cost to start a drone business?

Several variables, like the kind of services provided, the size of the company, and the degree of equipment required, can have a significant impact on the cost of beginning a drone business. But, for between $5,000 and $10,000, a simple drone business can be launched.

What are the initial expenses of a drone business startup?

Drone business startups generally incur startup costs for equipment including cameras, software, and drones in addition to costs for business registration, legal services, and marketing. Also, you might have to spend money on training and certifications to make sure that your company is run securely and legally.

What are the ongoing costs of operating a drone business?

The continuous costs of running a drone business could include fees for things like repairs and maintenance of the equipment, insurance premiums, employee wages, and marketing costs. In order to stay current with industry rules and best practices, you may also need to budget for regular training and certifications.

Do I need a license to start a drone business, and how much does it cost?

To use a drone for business purposes in the US, you must have a Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate. Depending on the training course you select, the cost to earn this license normally ranges from $150 to $300.

How much should I budget for drone equipment?

Depending on the type and caliber of equipment you select, the cost of drone equipment can vary significantly. But, a top-notch drone, camera, and other accessories would cost you at least a few thousand dollars.

What are the costs associated with drone insurance?

Depending on the coverage you require and the level of risk connected with your business, drone insurance can cost anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars annually.

How much should I budget for marketing and advertising?

Depending on the size and extent of your marketing initiatives, marketing and advertising costs can vary greatly. To promote your offerings and develop your brand, you could want to allocate a few thousand dollars per year.

Are there any hidden costs I should be aware of when starting a drone business?

Unexpected equipment maintenance or replacement, unanticipated legal fees or fines, and unanticipated training or certification charges are just a few of the hidden expenses related to beginning a drone business.

How much should I budget for hiring employees or contractors?

The cost of employing staff or independent contractors will vary depending on a variety of variables, including the level of expertise and experience needed for the position, the amount of pay you are willing to offer, and the state of the local labor market.

What are the costs associated with drone maintenance and repair?

The price of drone upkeep and repair will depend on the kind and frequency of required upkeep, as well as the price of replacement parts and labor.

To keep your equipment in good working order and your business operations running smoothly, it’s crucial to budget for routine maintenance and repairs.

Conclusion on Drone Business Startup Costs You Should Know

If you’re a professional looking to get into the drone industry and start a drone business, you may be feeling lost on where to start.

To help you out, we’ve put together essential steps for creating a drone business.

Here, we provided you with a list of steps to take in order best utilize drones for your commercial operation.

If you are someone who is trying to get their foot in the door with drone usage or an experienced user looking to branch out and start a business, this guide will serve as starting point full of information that can help pave the way for success.

Although it takes more to start a drone business than what is initially apparent, you can adjust the size of your equipment and services to match your budget.

If you have room in your budget to ‘go-big,’ that’s amazing and may give you an edge against other lower-budget start-ups.

However, don’t think single-operator outfits always need expansive aircraft; we’ve seen many small drone businesses succeed in winning big contracts that help them rapidly grow.

If you liked this article about drone business startup costs, you should also check out this article about the cheapest states to form an LLC.

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I'm the manager behind the Upcut Studio team. I've been involved in content marketing for quite a few years helping startups grow.