Drone services


Good morning.

I have started a previous thread about drone services in the UK, asking who uses them, their uses etc. This one is more specific.

Currently I am thinking of completing my drone licence (needed in the UK for commercial work) then teaming up with a few friends to offer services to different companies, such as construction, mining, waste management etc. The standard fare of aerial shots will be a given but we want to go further. 

For example in construction, offering progress images and helping with reporting and costing. With the right software it is easy to measure grade and distance very accurately and provide the information to surveyors and site managers. Basically anything where we come in cheaper than hiring full time will result in a winner. In mining for example we would be able to to measure stockpile quantities and progress in hours rather than days. 

As you know I am currently a first year AT student but seriously looking into developing a side line of work that means I don't have to do my sh itty admin job (which I am OK with, but ideally would prefer something else).

The research I have done shows there is a huge market for these services, I just wonder how saturated it already is. 

So to go over my old thread, what experience have you had with drones? What sort of costs have you heard of per day to hire these sorts of services? The big mining companies have their own drones surely and if not Id assume a rival is already in there (I will research this further but on first glance it seems to have room in there for other companies)?

Before anyone says "haven't you just started your course? Calm down". This is true, but I have a background in 3D design work, mapping and thermal imaging from previous work. Add to the fact I am very proactive and if I spot something, I will pursue it 100%. Plus my friends who would do this with me, one is a structural engineer and one is a site surveyor so we between us have the background to offer the right advice. 

Thoughts? Thank you. 

Sep 26, 17 5:46 am

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I am in the US, but my firm works only in historic preservation work.  We often use drone services when it is impractical for us to survey existing structures, for instance if we are working on a tall (50'+) project that is hard to access via lift.  Examples include monuments in a city square or on lighthouses.  Otherwise, we would have to scale down the monument (or hire someone to scale for us) or hire a probes contractor with a lift and city permitting to see things personally.  We often do hire probes contractors, but for something like a monument done for a city government, the budget is typically pretty tight.  For something like a roof replacement, we can normally access that fine and don't use drones.

For project under construction, we don't typically use drones.  Cameras are mounted at various places around the site and the feed is continuously livestreamed so that we can login 24/7 anytime we want and see the progress/activity on site.  Given, this is typically for projects with very large (for us) budgets that are located in a different state than our office.

Sep 26, 17 9:30 am

Thank you.


By the time you finish your course the whole world will change - point clouds are being used in architecture school now and the technology is getting cheaper but the day.  

Tonight is the opening of Bartlet BPro programme - get yourself down to London and get inspired - will open up your eyes to the potential of the technology -

Sep 26, 17 12:35 pm

Work at 6am or this is something I would have loved to nip down and see. I will follow it up though online. Thank you.


Thank you. The more I read about their capabilities the more excited I am by them. Literally endless possibilities.


First, the services for drones is just photography. It's basically a form of aerial photography but you can refer to the services as drone-assisted photographic documentation services. Really, the photos are used to A) create image-based 3d models and B) Some of those photos are used for other elements of documentation of buildings. 

That point made.... time to move on.

Drones can be rather inexpensive as in a few hundred dollars from use of drones made in China. Sure, you can pay top dollar for a DJI drone but you may consider the Chinese "equivalent" which you can find for as much as 1/5th the price or less than that. Since you have to develop piloting skills to begin with (the way to do that is use inexpensive drones in "hobbyist" flights as your practice and training your piloting skills so you can reliably pilot the drone). The expensiveness of the drone is rather irrelevant. A good camera is usually all you need. It doesn't need to be a $10,000 camera. I can get 3d image model from an inexpensive 5 megapixel camera. Image models are generated by the number of photos from various positions that overlaps. Sophisticated software will take common reference points from multiple photos to ascertain a relative position of the camera from the referenced points and from that, eventually these so called "point-clouds" and "vertices" can be generated. 

Therefore, it isn't as necessary to collect  20+ megapixel photographs for that process. You may carry with you a higher resolution camera for individual photography shots you want that maybe best to use the highest quality highest resolution photographic shots and having one of those more expensive cameras is good. No need to put that on the drone. Use a less expensive "GoPro" clone for under $100 then you piloting and an assistant with a tablet taking photographic snap shots from the camera on the drone.

I suggest not spending too much because if it crashes, you're not out a whole lot of money and you can buy multiple inexpensive drones with inexpensive camera so you have a backup drone in case something happens and causes the drone to fail. When starting out, start out on the "beer budget" not the "champaigne budget" because it will cost too much if one day your company's employees with a so-called government issued commercial "drone pilot" license with mediocre real world drone piloting skills went out and use the drone and crashes.

It's not always like they actually are testing the actual piloting of the drones. They may test your academic understanding of laws and rules but it's not exactly like a DMV test where they have you go out and drive and test your actual driving skills. They aren't exactly doing that.

You only hope the pilots of these drones have refined their piloting skills to a reasonable level as you would any pilot.

There could be malfunctions. There could be any reason where the drone could crash including interference by radio communication or just because some person you don't see uses an RF Jamming device and effectively causes you to lose control of the drone and the drone then crashing. There are people who will do things to f--- with you because they don't like what you are doing or these so 'drones' flying around. It bothers them and they are on a personal 'war' against drones and drone pilots. 

This is surprisingly prevalent all around and don't be surprised. There can be a variety of reasons for a drone to crash and don't go expensive when starting out. and probably don't go expensive on drones used by your business. They'll most likely get wrecked sooner or later so don't want to be out thousands of dollars every time a drone crashes when you can be out less than $500.

Sep 26, 17 1:42 pm

That is great advice, thank you.

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Joeuk, ignore Rick, he has a bad reputation on these forums for chatting bullshit.

I have experience with drones and in the construction/surveying industry. I have worked with drones, these services are saturated and most firms off them. 

Clients arent too interested to be honest for a number of reasons and a lot of times it's not plausible.

Sep 27, 17 9:39 am

Ok, ill take with a pinch but he still put good time into the reply, so any advice is better than I have.


What barriers did you come across? What do you think puts them off the tech?


Problem is why would anyone go to you unless you are RICS accredited? It's the same with architects, in the UK you need to be accredited with RICS.


I think there is more of a gap towards agriculture in the UK. As long as its cost effective, valuable and all insurance etc is cover. I think there is a market. Does RICS accredit drone services?


I think it makes a lucrative side-money, even with a DJI Mavic Pro($1300+ extra batteries) you can earn more. I am actually contemplating on this

Sep 27, 17 10:41 am

Im looking at the Typhoon.


The Mavic is quite limited I think in a few things.


It is the one i wanted, but I dont think there are any thermal camera options for it. I may be wrong though.

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