During my free time while working towards becoming a full-fledged commercial drone pilot, I’ve explored a few gig platforms. Partly to keep some small amount of income flowing and partly to keep me busy. I dashed a few days, too little for too little in this area, not a whole lot of demand during the day time and I really didn’t want or need to work nights. I found a platform called WeGoLook, seemed interesting enough and offered some automotive and real estate opportunities to go out, inspect, take photos, and report back. More along the lines of what I am looking to apply my drone pilot skills to, but the opportunities have so far been pretty sparse. Again, this is a different market with different needs and these types of gigs aren’t quite yet supporting a side hustle approach.
The one platform I’ve really enjoyed working with recently has been Rover.com. We have been clients of Rover for several years, having found a great couple in Atlanta that stayed with our dogs, at our home, while we traveled a a few occasions. Overall, the cost wasn’t that much less than boarding them at a kennel or having them stay with a sitter, but at that time we had older dogs that seemed to be over the kennel environments. So, for their sake and our own peace of mind, this was a great arrangement. Fast-forward to current times, I managed a dog playground locally for a short stint and learned a few things about dogs, their owners, and local market factors. For a couple of months now, I have been walking, hiking, and watching really fun dogs for a dozen or so clients and have been loving it. I am now trying to ramp down my bookings to focus on drone gig opportunities that are popping up on the platforms that I’ve established myself on, like Drone Base.
As I recall, Drone Base was the first platform I came across in a group discussion on social media and began my sign-up process for. The website description of the platform, services offered, and what I should expect as a pilot applicant all made sense and I quickly realized I would be held up by a couple of key requirements. More on that in a moment. I also did some quick searches and found some YouTube videos talking about what doing Drone Base missions was all about and how much opportunity is really there. One pilot recounted being able to string together a few accepted missions in a single day to net a few hundred dollar and not have to travel all over the state to complete them. Seems like a possible source of work, variable, repeatable, something to start with.
The main challenge was that I was still early in the process and did not yet have my FAA Part 107 Certification for commercial work. So, I filled out as much of my profile as possible and moved on to other things on my to-do list.
Once I obtained my certification, at least a virtual certification ahead of getting my little plastic card in the mail, I was able to complete that portion of my profile Easy enough, right? Well, during my time focused on the other to-dos, flying my little Mini 2, and playing with a bunch of dogs, I also realized that to truly pursue legitimate commercial jobs, the little Mini was probably going to fall short of the capabilities and specifications required by potential clients and these gig platforms. I was able to confirm this quickly after getting my certification and attempting to onboard with a couple of other similar platforms. The other last piece of the puzzle was what every smart self-employed freelancer needs, maybe more so in other lines of work, was liability insurance. Well, some further Pilot Institute course watching, some group chats on Facebook, and some more videos watched on YouTube helped me identify the solutions to both of these requirements.
Spend a little to make a little…just not too much
At this point in the pursuit of becoming a commercial drone pilot, I had only spent a little over $1,000 on the drone, exam prep, the exam itself, and incidentals. Not too bad for a hobby, at least not by my experience with other hobbies and toys I’ve plunked down change for. But, I was about to go in for a bit more to really follow through. Insurance is reasonable, and honestly, I am still surprised at the quality of drone systems available out there in the market, as well as the kits available to ensure you can really fly as much as possible.
The Mavic 2 Pro sits at a good price point and does have the capabilities needed for commercial work. Its been out a few years and the rumors are there’s version 3 coming soon. That said, this model is recommended as one of the base levels for general photography, videography, and flying commercially, before stepping up to a larger system. Still light and easy to deploy and my bundle came with a smart controller that I can use for both of my DJI drones. The camera has a larger sensor as well. So far, I am really enjoying flying this unit.
Acquisition of this drone and insurance seemed to put me in play with Drone Base. I received an invitation to onboard for their Commercial Real Estate (CRE) opportunities, which consisted of some online training and a training mission. The training mission was to be done around my own home and property and follow specifications for shots they provide. I spent an hour or so taking some test shots based on those specifications ahead of the actual mission to identify any potential challenges. Well, our property is situated in a low area of a narrow valley surrounded by high ridges and dense forest. Awesome place to live, not ideal for grabbing long views of homes with a horizon. I did my best to get the shots with the angles and distances specified and just explained that in my submission. They accepted it and I got my badge. I’m excited to accept my first commercial gig now!
In the meantime, I’m enjoying flying, snapping, and filming and logging hours in the air. Running some flight drills and maneuvers, and editing footage. There’s so much more to learn here.