According to a recent Fortune Business Insights report, the global commercial drone market is seeing incredible growth and is forecast to continue exponentially growing to $11,295.1 (USD) by 2028. For comparison to where we’ve been recently, in 2020 it was reported the market was sized at $1,915.0 (USD) and saw a growth rate of just over 20%, even with the COVID-19 pandemic raging across the globe. Much of this demand is related to industries innovating to find new ways of doing business with less human-to-human contact to help reduce the spread of the virus.
Having done some quick research before diving into this pursuit head first, reports like this and the alignment with my background in technology, photography, and mapping, areas that are well-positioned to leverage drone operations, were key motivators to jump in. I realize its a long-haul and an tangental career path to the one I have spent over two decades pursuing, but the more I learn about opportunities and applications in this field, the more excited I get.
Crawl. Walk. Run!
Being new to this, I need some experience, both in the more creative aspects of cinematography, editing, video production, and a lot of the things my wife has made a career of, as well as the technical and aerial operations aspects of flying these unmanned systems. There are a ton of resources out there to help, but time at the controls and flying in various environments and capturing diverse footage to edit and learn what works is a huge challenge. Fortunately, Western North Carolina and this area in particular afford a lot of open airspace with gorgeous views to hone the craft.
I have always been a big consumer in the “gig economy” and have gotten a lot of use out of AirBNB, Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash over the years. My research in the drone space quickly led me to find there are pilot gig platforms available as well, and I have been pursuing them to see what works and doesn’t. These could be gateway projects and jobs that really help me develop my skills by finding real work applications until I determine the particular niche that I gravitate to. That said, I am keeping my mind open to anything and everything and approaching each opportunity to learn as much as possible from.
Initially, I identified some interesting applications in Residential and Commercial Real Estate (CRE). The visual perspectives achieved through aerial photography and videography are incredible to view and understanding the operations behind capturing those views seems within grasp for a newer pilot, like myself. Aside from my own special interests in capturing the mountain views and waterfalls I find along our exploration of this region, CRE is where I am focusing to build up my skills, gain a better understanding of the business, and begin to establish professional relationships and clients in this space.
With our own property and home as the main subject, I’ve been flying A LOT over my house, taking care to not hit any of the trees and hillsides that surround us, which is some respect is giving me additional challenges in my skill building. I have found that a matured sense of my surroundings and situational awareness coupled with a lifetime of manipulating video game controls of various complexities, has really helped my comfort level flying these very capable quadcopter aircraft systems. My smaller Mini 2 is certainly capable of diminishing out of visual line of sight (VLOS) in a much shorter distance than it is capable of flying and maintaining control over. Regardless, sending a few hundred dollars flying off was a little harrowing at first. I think I needed to gain a trust in the connected systems, controls, and software applications that all work together to make these drones so capable. Technology continues to blow my mind.
Back to the platforms, I have found 3 drone pilot networks that I have been pursuing for as much experience as I can get. They are Drone Base, DroneUp, and Droners.IO. Each of these platforms or networks has something unique about its onboarding, its pilot validation and verification process, and the way it connects their clients with pilots to work with to complete their projects. I will cover each of these, based on my experience so far, in separate posts.