The drone industry is rapidly evolving, creating new challenges for drone operators and businesses. Saturated markets, strict regulations, and increasing reliance on automated flights can all be obstacles to success.
However, there are still opportunities to make drone operations into a profitable business. In this blog post, we’ll outline four steps you can take to stay competitive.
1. Understand emerging industry use cases.
Drones were primarily viewed as military tools until the mid 2000s, but commercial use has grown rapidly ever since. Industry growth is particularly promising in particular areas such as photogrammetry, infrastructure inspection, and delivery.
In addition to these areas of predicted growth, new applications are constantly emerging. As an independent operator, you’ll need to stay up to date on current applications, and keep an eye out for opportunities to innovate new solutions.
2. Think beyond the hardware to define offerings.
The explosion of the drone industry is not just about drones themselves — it’s also about the software that develops alongside the hardware, and how clients can benefit. In fact, software is the fastest-growing segment of the drone market.
Advances in drone technology are intertwined with advances in cloud technology, artificial intelligence, and Big Data. Drone operators have an opportunity to capitalize on the increasing demand for these features. Therefore, it’s not enough to simply be a certified drone pilot. You’ll need to demonstrate mastery of desirable software as well.
It’s important to emphasize the software solutions you can provide, and how those solutions will work for your clients’ needs. Determine the specific data collection and management software, sensors, AI, and workflows that are on your potential clients’ wishlists, and implement the ones that make sense for your business.
Industry-recognized trainings and certifications in various software systems and applications can further prove to your clients that you have the skills they need, and help you compete with larger operations.
3. Join a partner network to broaden reach and services.
While most independent operators and startups know about the industry’s latest technological advancements, lack of resources can prove to be a formidable obstacle.
Large corporations can quickly purchase and implement expensive new tech, overshadowing pioneer businesses who don’t have room in their budgets to take on such a large investment.
Teaming up with a data processing partner can give you access to the features clients want, without the huge price tag. When choosing a partner, consider factors like speed, security, and ease of integration to ensure maximum value for your clients.
Aerial Integrations provides data, web-based management, processing, and Al image analysis software as a service for drone-enabled enterprises. Click here to learn more about our partnership program.
4. Define and refine pricing and market.
While large, established drone companies can provide a wide range of services across different professions, it’s often better for independent operators to narrow the scope — to compete with larger operations, you’ll need to emphasize your expertise in particular areas, and convince clients that your specialized skills are valuable. If you select a few main services or features to focus on, and identify the clients they will attract, your marketing will be much more successful.
Especially for operators who are just getting started, it can be difficult to determine how much to charge for services. Consider the primary service you’ll be providing, and how much investment is involved on your end. Look at who your target audience is, and try to understand their willingness to buy and sensitivity to price.
If you’re starting a drone aerial photography business for which your focus is something straightforward like wedding photography, for example, you don’t need the latest hyperspectral sensor tech. If you’re going to work with agricultural professionals, on the other hand, hyperspectral sensors will increase your value and enable you to charge more for your services.