After one year setting up a new business, getting certified by CASA and fine tuning my business workflow, I’m happy to finally say Bendigo Aerial is open for business. I never thought that a hobby I started 5 years ago, would lead to a “Drone Pilot” job and an online business.
I’m writing this article to review the first half of 2018 operations to update customers, supporters and everyone who helped make this happen:
- What has happened in the past 6 months?
- How I got here and what’s coming up?
This is almost a diary entry having completed my own venture with identifying my progress, sharing some tips, lessons learnt and with a bit of luck some ideas for your own startup drone business. Learn more as to why I started a Drone Business in Bendigo.
Summary: First half of 2018 has been extremely BUSY! I initially expected that small businesses wouldn’t understand or embrace a drone service. I was expecting I would have to undertake advertising, promotion and selling my drone services to individual businesses. I was WRONG! Small businesses know exactly what they want from drone technology and UAV services, everything from Social Media, Property Photography, Area Mapping, Volume, Distance and Inspections as well as Video Production.
The milestones achieved since Bendigo Aerial commenced:
Major Bendigo Aerial Milestones
- 4 X Full Video Productions (Over 110,000 Views across Social Media)
- Photographed 14 X Real Estate Properties
- Mapped 3 X Farms, 2 X Property Investments, 2 X New Blocks
- Photo Inspections of 2 chimneys and 5 buildings
- Published a Central Victoria Drone Video
- Employed 2 X RePL Qualified Drone Pilots
- Signed 2 contacts for regular drone services and video editing
Bendigo Aerial Statistic Jan 2018 to June 2018
- Flew over 180KM in 6 Months
- 132 Battery Cycles / Swaps
- Took over 10,000 HD Images, 19 Hours of 4K Video
- Mapped over 196 Hectares
- Uploaded 2.5TB of digital content to online services
- 75 Photos featured on Instagram and Social Media (Links Below)
- Spent $0.00 on advertising and promotion < I love this stat!
Photos Featured on Social Media (Highlights)
- Official Love East Gippsland – Paynesville
- Bendigo Advertiser
- Bendigo Weekly
- Explore Heathcote
- P&O Cruises
- Drone Gear
- The Board Walk Bendigo
- Destination Drone
How I succeeded in attaining new customers? Lots of drone pilots and even other drone businesses who I have worked with ask me this same question. There is no secret, I’m happy to share and discuss what I’ve learnt so other businesses can benefit from my experience.
Initially, I thought Bendigo Aerial would be very quiet for the first year, this was expected until I built up my customer base. However, most of my customers came from my social media accounts and existing customers from our web development and internet company. Every time I posted a photo on my Instagram account, I would receive 2 – 3 enquiries for new work. I also built the Bendigo Aerial website myself from my previous experience with Search Engine Optimisation and marketing. The website receives 150 – 200 impressions per day and all our leads are funnelled via the website and helpdesk. From previous experience advertising on Yellow Pages is a complete waste of time and you’re best to invest in your own online service for fraction of the cost.
Referral Marketing and Traffic
I’m a firm believer in referral marketing. Giving businesses within your niche referral work will lead to more work for your own business. They may be your competitors, although I believe good karma will always return back to you favourably. I’ve written articles on how referral marketing can help with your business. In January 2018 when Bendigo Aerial was really busy, I ended up sending 70% of my aerial photography and UAV services to my competitors. Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney drone companies received work from my customers. As a thank, you all of my referrals either sent me leads, equipment or exchanged information that I found to be valuable to Bendigo Aerial. One drone company in the US even advertised my business to 300K customers for free because I referred one customer to them.
Pricing – How to Price Drone Aerial Operations?
I didn’t test the market. I priced Bendigo Aerial services by what I thought was an acceptable use of my pilots and my time. For photos and video, best to consider the editing time and colour correction within your prices. You might be able to capture a photo in 10 minutes, however, colour correction and editing can take 3 – 4 hours. For aerial mapping, I charge a fixed fee per hectare which works well for my current customers. I take into consideration the processing time which can be around 24 – 48 hours. Using software such as Drone Deploy can reduce the time significantly when elevation, 3D mapping and plant health is also calculated in the processing time. If extra permissions and approvals are required from CASA or Parks Victoria, then I charge these to the customer at cost price. See the latest Drone Aerial/UAV Prices.
Costs for Starting a Drone Business
From my experience setting up a drone business can cost around $15K start-up. That includes one drone (+backup drone), various certifications from CASA such as ArOC/RePL/ReOC, drone insurance, communications, EFB (Electronic Flight Bag) software. Then there is the business cost such as business process, paperwork, signage, uniforms, computers, and Adobe licences.
Lessons Learnt in the Drone Industry
- Weather plays an important factor in organising flying. 25% of jobs were rescheduled due to bad weather, high winds and cloudy days.
- The customer is not always right! When it comes to safety the certified drone pilot in charge of the flight is responsible. If it’s unsafe to fly then ground your aircraft and update your risk assessments accordingly.
- Be thorough in your JSA and Risk Assessments. Always check your NOTAMS and if requested or required, make the appropriate radio call so other aircraft know your exact position.
- Add travel, accommodation and meals to your quotes. You do need to eat, sleep and drive. Not all jobs will be at your doorstep. Some even interstate or overseas travel.
- Keep up with technology! Update your software and hardware and always test before putting it into production. Note Wi-Fi and Data are usually unavailable in remote areas.
- Document everything! Just like this blog post, write down every detail so you can track and evaluate later. Keep current with your paperwork (CASA requirement) and fill out your logs. I use online Drone Log Book to keep up with some of the administration. I also use a private cloud server for storage.
Overall it has been a very successful year for Bendigo Aerial. I’d like to thank everyone who has helped me get to this point. To all my customers, thank you for trusting Bendigo Aerial for your Drone and UAV services. It has been a pleasure flying and I hope the projects completed have added value to your business. Needless to say, Bendigo Aerial is now officially open for business.
I will write another blog post at the end of the year once a full 12 months has rolled out. I’m also adding a short VLOG to my YouTube channel later this month that will show a typical day as a commercial drone pilot. If you have any questions or require further information, please get in contact with me.
Thanks again for your support!