Drone News

Aerial modelling and inspections using commercial-grade drones offer compelling advantages for the resource sector by increasing safety, saving time and reducing survey costs. Airscope*, a Perth, Australia-based inspections and asset visualization company, has used the Intel® Falcon™ 8+ drone to extend these benefits further by developing computer-generated 3-D models of entire hydrocarbon processing facilities off the North West shelf of Australia and in the Cooper Basin, effectively bringing the field into the boardroom for more effective asset management.

Industrial digitization or “Industry 4.0” is predicted to generate US$421 billion in cost reductions and additional revenue each year for the next five years worldwide, according to a report by PwC. 3-D modelling of resource assets by companies like Airscope is one way of contributing to and driving this digital revolution that is transforming industry.

Airscope’s director, Chris Leslie, and its chief controller, Francois Alberts – both trained commercial airline pilots – saw the potential opportunities drone technology could offer to the resource sector. They reshaped their careers to work with software, survey and geospatial specialists to develop new ways for large resources companies to manage their physical assets.

“When people think of drones operating in industrial applications, they think of inspections collecting data from hard-to-reach places,” Leslie said. “Our business has evolved beyond this where the real efficiencies and return on investment for the client come from providing a digital 3-D representation of their physical assets.

“We made the transition to asset visualization because UAV inspection only gave clients a fraction of the story; without context, the full potential of images captured cannot be realized. So now we create a virtual canvas of the entire site using airborne photogrammetry, ground photogrammetry and laser scanning. Once the virtual canvas is created, you can paint any operational or planning data on it, to serve as a human medium to access and interact with big data.

“You could compare this technology to how our lives have changed with innovations such as the smartphone – the time savings and benefits are hard to quantify,” Leslie added. “The benefits are multiplied when looking at clients managing large-scale resource sites due to the number of employees and the potential cost to the business if decisions are made based on inaccurate or incomplete information. Early indications by clients currently implementing asset digitization into their operations suggest day-to-day cost reductions of between 3.6 and 10 percent dependent on industry, and capital works projects being reduced by more than 20 percent. We are entering a period where decisions are being determined by the data at hand and companies that haven’t started their transformation towards digitization will be left behind.”

Recently, Airscope worked alongside drone manufacturer, Intel Corporation, and local Australian distributor, Position Partners*, to deliver 3-D models of Santos*-operated facilities in Australia’s Cooper Basin. Santos enlisted Airscope to provide not only large-scale virtual models, but also inspection services of critical assets, which are challenging to monitor using traditional methods.

“When looking for the best drone for modelling these challenging landscapes, we compared 37 different aircraft that all claimed to be up to the specifications we needed,” Alberts said. “When Intel’s distributor, Position Partners, showed us the Intel Falcon 8+ drone, we found it to be the only aircraft which met our expectations, for its reliability, stability and true 3-D modelling capabilities.”

The Intel Falcon 8+ is a multirotor-style drone that, through pre-programmed flight plans, is able to capture hundreds of aerial images per flight. These images are then collated and stitched together to form a holistic 3-D model through the photogrammetry process. Due to the accuracy of images capture by the Intel Falcon 8+, Airscope can incorporate laser scanning data into photogrammetry to make the model accurate enough for use in detailed engineering design of major infrastructure projects.

“Intel is committed to producing high-quality, commercial-grade drones that will excel in challenging environments such as the Moomba Gas Plant,” said Anil Nanduri, vice president and general manager of the Drone Group at Intel. “Looking ahead, we will see a greater focus on automation of both the data capture and more importantly data analysis. This will unlock the ability for greater analyses and inference of large data sets that will be captured entirely by drones, allowing businesses to reduce operational expenses by assessing and predicting maintenance needs.”

The quality and rate of data captured from systems such as the Intel Falcon 8+ drone increases efficiencies and lowers operating costs, while around-the-clock access to a full model of the plant on the Airscope Visualize* platform reduces preparation work and disruption to the operation. It also eliminates risks for activities such as working at height or exposure to hazardous working environments.

“The quality and quantity of data we’re able to access from the Intel Falcon 8+ drone just wouldn’t be possible with any other method or technology,” Leslie said. “Moreover, our clients can see every asset from every angle and perspective, providing better situational awareness, insight and increased accuracy for making big decisions.”


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FOX Sports will be introducing new vantage points to its Daytona 500 coverage this weekend, utilizing a tethered drone for aerial views on the backstretch, a record number of in-car cameras including Visor Cams, a Hat Cam as well as a return of the so-called Gopher Cam, an HD lens buried in the asphalt track.

The drone, which will be affixed to a line to increase the duration of its flight time, will remain elevated outside the racing area and provide an unprecedented angle on the track.

As for its point-of-view cameras, FOX will deploy 14 in-car cameras; two Visor Cams (made by BSI and to be worn in the Daytona 500 for the first by Kurt Busch and Daniel Suarez); one Hat Cam (to be worn by two-time Daytona winner and FOX analyst Michael Waltrip on pit road before the race); and three Gopher Cams, which are provided by Inertia Unlimited and are said to have a wider, clearer picture than in years past.

“Each year, Daytona Speedweeks allows us to develop, test and deploy more and more technical enhancements than we are able to do at most other events,” Michael Davies, FOX Sports SVP for field and technical operations, said in a statement. “The sheer mount of multi-day, multi-platform programming FOX Sports has over multiple races, qualifying sessions and practice sessions allows us the reps to do so.

“This year is no different, as we are using the popular Visor Cam for the first time in a Daytona 500, our first fiber NASCAR IP transmission, different stabilized camera mounts to access different areas of the pits and our digital mosaic offering.”

The FOX Sports GO app will offer a variety of in-car camera views — building on the introduction of Car Channels in previous years — and telemetry for fans to analyze the ongoing race more closely. These elements are in addition to the network’s linear broadcast.

“With such amazing resources and technology around our NASCAR coverage, we are excited to provide the fans with some great additional content,” said Zac Fields, FOX Sports SVP Graphic Tech/Integration. “We look forward to growing this throughout the season.”


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When the small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were first released commercially, they attracted hobbyists and those who loved flying machines. Now that these hobby-sized drones are getting more accessible and practical, both because of lower prices and ease of flight control, it is easy to start a business using this technology. Drone cameras are getting better too – they don’t only get smaller and lighter, but they are also now available in much higher resolutions with better lenses. The top rated drones in the market surely have this feature.

Here are ten ideas on how to start a small business with your drone:

1. Events photography and videography

This is an exciting and really profitable application of drones, as it is used to capture special events like sports competitions, graduation events, parties, weddings and many more. Drones capture amazing outdoor photos and videos, like in landscape photography, but this is getting more popular in the wedding photography field. The aerial shots bring out the beauty of the wedding arrangements and the spectacular location and scenery in a way that on-the-ground coverage cannot achieve. Couples are willing to pay top dollar just to ensure that moments of their big day would be beautifully recorded and so it can be treasured forever.

Same as with sporting events – all those action and splendor cannot be captured by cameras on land only. Drones are perfect for capturing out-of-the-way bike races and some skiers jumping off cliffs.

Tapping the aerial photo and video coverage business with drones is a great idea, especially if this is your area of interest. You would need an expert who knows how to use drones in events where there are a lot of people, since they can be unsafe and irritating due to the loud sound it can produce. If that expert is you, and you already own a drone, you’re good to go.

2. Agricultural surveying

Drones are the future of agriculture. To reduce the time required walking in the fields and making use of expensive piloted aircrafts, farmers can use drones armed with specialized cameras and sensors. This enables farmers to collect useful data regarding soil and field condition, variations in soil composition, pest or fungal infestation, overall health of crops and others. Other specialized agricultural drones can also deliver crop treatment and irrigation.

Agricultural drone renting and selling shops could serve the needs of farmers for a quicker, more sustainable and effective crop care. This could also lessen their needs for more workers to save more income. It’s a new market that has great potential, and if the farmers don’t want to rent and fly the drone themselves, you can provide flight services for them.

3. Aerial surveying

One of the most notable advancements in the field of land surveying is the use of programmed drones. Before, aerial surveying is dominated by commercially piloted airplanes and helicopters to perform topography, cartography, feature recognition and GIS applications on sites that are difficult to see or measure from the ground. But using airplanes or helicopters are expensive and labor-extensive, considering the logistics you need to take care of to use them. Now, UAVs make it easier do aerial surveying.

Small drone operators are already finding a foothold in digital mapping and ortho-photography services because of the huge cost savings it can offer. Drones are also capable of going slower and lower, creating a better visual imagery than larger traditional aircraft.

4. Resort, hotel and real estate advertising

Advertising for real estate, resort and hotel businesses is a growing opportunity for entrepreneurial video makers with experience on drones and aerial imagery. Real estate agents are now observing that low altitude aerial video footages capture the attention of buyers, and that those properties and homes with drone coverage sell more quickly. They are getting more listings as well. For hotels and resorts, those with drone-captured advertisements stand out from the crowd on booking applications. They are more than willing to hire drone video professionals to provide the visuals that can effectively market their properties and services.

Besides a nice pay, some of these business owners give UAV video companies free lodging, free admission and other perks they offer in return for their service. What a nice trade for doing something fun such as flying your drone!

5. Freelance video production

If you love video editing and capturing videos with your drone so much, why not turn your hobby into a profitable venture? You can offer a variety of creative and personalized videos used by individuals to send special messages to loved ones, friends and family; or by professional clients to market and promote their products or services. Not all people know how to fly a drone, plus not all of them knows how to edit videos – so you definitely have an edge. All you need to do is establish yourself as a freelancer and pick the scope of your potential clients.

Other entrepreneurial filmmakers are also offering drone video services on “micro job” or crowdsourcing websites, so that they can be exposed to more clients.

6. Low-altitude banner advertising

Using drones for advertising is still not mainstream, so it has a great potential in attracting customers for small businesses that target local markets. For instance, a businessman with a newly-opened small coffee shop could put up a banner that they are “now open” outside – only capturing the attention of people who happened to go past their location. But if he would use a drone to make his banner “fly” around the locality’s public places, he would surely capture more attention without needing to spend a lot of money. Plus, the drone can be equipped with speakers to blast promotional messages and music. It would be entertaining and intriguing for prospective customers.

You only need to have a reliable drone for this one and offer this idea to startup business owners. Handle your drone really well and you’d probably be hired again by others!

7. Independent film making

Okay, you need a lot more creativity and passion for this one. If you wish to create your own films, having a drone and knowing how to capture great videos with it is a step closer to your goal. In traditional film sets and studios, they own cranes, dollies, jibs and helicopters to help get the perfect cinematography. Hollywood is already using drones for aerial cinematography for TV and movie production.

Indie filmmakers are making a new wave in the film industry, breaking those Hollywood stereotypes and bringing in more culture to the big screen. If you have an interest for filmmaking and an amazing idea for a film storyline (plus a set of supportive friends and colleagues), go for it – you never know what could happen unless you try!

8. Security surveillance

Homeowners and people properties with large area of terrain, for instance a commercial fishery or a vineyard, need security from unwanted trespassers and thieves. Hiring many security officers to properly man it would be difficult as well as expensive. Drones can help with this one, and would be more cost-effective to just hire one person with an unmanned aerial surveillance system that could easily cover a large area. Drones with sensors could be set up to get notified when a possible trespassing or burglary is taking place, and then to capture a live video footage of the intrusion and transmits it to a smartphone.

UAVs are creating new business opportunities in the field security surveillance for wannabe drone-flying entrepreneurs.

9. Infrastructure and construction inspection

The construction industry would benefit a lot with drones. Construction companies, architects and engineers working on big projects are hiring drone operators to capture videos so that they can measure progress, and check if there are problems. Drones could also be utilized by structural engineers and law enforcement officials to survey damages in structures like dams, roads and bridges so that they can easily develop a plan how to fix or reconstruct them.

Periodic inspection of structures, usually done in buildings, would also be more cost-effective and safe with the use of drones than inspection by a hired worker. Roof inspection on multi-story structures, for instance, can be hazardous for the inspector and costly for the owner. With drones, they can perform a close-up survey and deliver high-resolution videos that would enable the owner to detect damages or potential trouble spots. If you have knowledge about construction and/or structural inspections, starting a drone inspection service could be an ideal business venture – or maybe an additional service if you’re thinking of an inspection business as a whole.

10. Drone sales, repair, customization and training

If you’re really into drones and are willing to invest a capital for other people to enjoy it as well, then a drone shop would be perfect for you. By their nature, drones are fragile and prone to damage or failure especially if misused. Although prices have gone down, broken drones are still too expensive to dump in most cases. If you are a technical expert in drones and has a background in electronics, then drone sales, repair or customization could be a suitable business idea for you.

If you have the skills and certification to safely fly a drone and has some interest in teaching, then you could also offer services as a drone trainer. You know that not all drones are friendly for beginners, and even the beginner-level devices might be hard to handle for some. These people need an experienced drone user like you!

You can truly change the way you do business with drones. However, before starting any business, do some preliminary market research and look for any existing demand or potential clients in your area that might benefit from your drone services. Check if the target market is already saturated.

If it seems like there is a need for these types of services, create a plan. Know what drones to pick, if you’re thinking of buying a new one. Make sure that you read a lot of drone reviews and search for the best drone deals to lessen initial costs.


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The real estate industry has embraced consumer technology with a zeal, with many agents and brokers bringing the latest tools and gadgets to the process of buying and selling a home. High on the cool factor: drones, virtual tours, and virtual staging.

The Buzz Around Drones

Drones aren't all that new, but they have increasingly become an important way for real estate professionals to up their virtual tour game. Sellers are excited about the use of drones to showcase their properties in ways that traditional photography and videography cannot, but is this type of technology really adding value to the marketing of a home?

The answer is a qualified yes. Drones are ideal for high-end listings where footage of the expanse of a large property can truly capture its standout features: pools and tennis courts, spectacular views, guest houses, and stables. But for a traditional tract home on a standard lot, drone footage likely won't bring any added value to the table.

The Virtual Tour

Virtual tours take virtual reality one step further for home buyers by providing a way to "walk through" the home from the comfort of their couch or desktop. Using a VR headset, you can manipulate yourself through every room of a home, touring the spaces however you like and for as long as you like. The real advantage of virtual tours is time savings: you can easily eliminate homes that don't fit your needs and only physically visit the ones that do.

The Virtual Decor

Another technology that works for any home is virtual staging. This process places photorealistic digital home furnishings into photos of a home, which allows a buyer to take a virtual tour of a property and see it in the most appealing light. Virtual furniture can even be moved to see how a room looks when configured differently, allowing buyers to better visualize themselves living in the home.

Traditional open houses will likely never go away because homebuyers want to "touch and feel" a home. But technology is changing the way properties are shown and viewed, today and in the future. To ensure your home shines at its best in actuality and virtual reality, talk to a real estate professional.


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Drones are becoming an increasingly common sight in our skies. Today, they're piloted by a range of users, from amateur enthusiasts and the military to pizza delivery companies.

Drones are being utilized in the energy sector too. Sky Futures, for example, uses drones to carry out inspections on energy infrastructure.

"We work with large engineering firms that may work in renewables or oil and gas," James Harrison, its co-founder and CEO, told CNBC in an interview. "We enable them to fly drones to collect visual static and thermal data of those assets."

These businesses can then use software to extrapolate information from that data so that anomalies, cracks and defects can be identified. This, Harrison said, allowed customers to predict maintenance schedules so "they can be more efficient and run them better in the future."

Looking ahead, Harrison painted a picture of an increasingly interconnected world. "It's not just drones, it's your smartphone, it's your helmet cam — everyone is a data collection device," he said.

"Anyone who wears a hard hat for work in the future will, no doubt, have a small camera on which is continually inspecting their work site," he added. 

Harrison said that such a camera may suddenly see a problem its wearer is about to walk into and alert them, telling them it's unsafe to proceed any further. "That's where… we're going now."


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North East employer Banks Mining is helping its surface mines in the region run more safely and efficiently by deploying drone technology.

Mining engineer Peter Faraday has obtained the qualifications required to fly drones in commercial environments, such as Banks Mining's Shotton and Brenkley Lane surface mines near Cramlington, after undertaking training with the Civil Aviation Authority-accredited Drone Pilot Academy.

A DJI Phantom 4 Pro drone is now being used to gather data from right across the two sites, including locations that are difficult for people to reach on foot.

A digital camera mounted on the drone captures information in far more detail than was previously possible, and also enables engineers to stay away from areas in which mining machinery could be operating.

Specialist software is then used to turn the information gathered into detailed visualisations of the site that can be used to inform the way in which operations are planned and carried out.

The Shotton and Brenkley Lane sites are just a couple of miles from Newcastle International Airport, and Banks Mining liaises with the Airport control tower in advance of any drone flights taking off and after they land.

The drone can reach a height of up to 400 feet, which is well below the floor to which civilian aircraft can fly in the area, and it follows a pre-programmed automated flight path, although the operator can take manual control of the machine at any time as required.

Peter Faraday says: "Air safety is the key issue for any commercial drone operations, especially in locations like Shotton and Brenkley Lane that are close to airports and flight paths, and all the drone flights we carry out are carefully planned with this as our primary consideration.

"The terrain in which we work is naturally very varied and challenging, and there are areas which are very difficult or impossible to reach by foot, which means we can't get wholly accurate information about them.

"The drone allows us to capture much more information much more quickly than would otherwise be possible, with the visualisations we can then produce providing a huge amount of data from which future site operations can be planned and adapted."  

Gavin Styles, executive director at Banks Mining, adds: "We're continually looking for new ways in which we can operate our sites more safely, efficiently and responsibly, and we've quickly seen the benefits of being able to use this technology at Shotton and Brenkley Lane."


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According to the report, the global agricultural drone market will expand at an exponential 21.35 CAGR from 2018 to 2026, rising to a valuation of US$1,932.6 mn by 2026.

The vendor landscape of the global agriculture drone market is expected to witness entrance of new players who are expected to bring advance technologies to the market, helping the market move ahead in the direction of maturity, observes Transparency Market Research in a recent report. Venture funding has already started picking pace in the field of agriculture technologies and big investors are becoming more willing to invest in start-ups with new solutions for precision farming. The trend of investment points at the promising growth potential that the market shall possess in the near future.

Manufacturers of agriculture drones are continuously innovating agri-drones in terms of the functionality to stay ahead of the intensifying competition. Companies are actively developing advanced product varieties such as quadcopter drones that can efficiently cater to farmer’s need. Moreover, leading players in agriculture drones market are collaborating with software providers and small vendors to bring easy-to-use and advanced drone packages. Some of the leading vendors in the market are Agribotix LLC, Delair Technologies Inc., Honeycomb Corporation, Precision Hawk, Drone AG, Ag Eagle Aerial Systems, Parrot SA, Aerovironment Inc., DJI Innovate, Yamaha Corporation, Sentera LLC., and Ideaforge India Private Ltd.

North America to Remain Highly Promising in Near Future

In 2016, a vast majority of the global revenue was held by the fixed-wing drone segment, followed by the multi-rotor drone variety. Deployment of hybrid drones is still limited to very large farms and is not expected to gain notable momentum in coming two to three years. This is largely owing to the fact that the overall agriculture drone market is still at nascent stage and farmers are still in the preliminary stages of receiving education about drone operations and their usability. Thus, unless farmers start completely acknowledging the vast capabilities and benefits of drones, hybrid drone are likely to find limited use in precision agriculture.

Geographically, North America dominated the agriculture drone market in 2016, and is expected to remain the dominant regional market over the report’s forecast period as well. In North America, the U.S is anticipated to drive the growth of agriculture drone market. The deployment of different type of drones is rising at a rapid pace in U.S. farms. Moreover, the country has also witnessed huge surge in drone manufacturers who are integrating analytics software with drones for better result.

Rising Demand to Increase Agricultural Production in Emerging Economies to Compel Adoption of Agriculture Drones

The excellent growth prospects of the global agriculture drone market can be attributed to the growing demand for aerial spraying and the need to increase farm productivity across a number of regional markets. Demand for surplus farm productivity is especially pressing in emerging economies that depend on imports to support the food requirements of their population. Demand for drone technology is expected to increase in the coming years as countries across the globe become increasingly aware about the technology and are ready to adopt UAVs in farms for a number of applications.

The rising number of technologically advanced, innovative, and low-cost products in the market are also contributing to the promising growth prospects of the global agriculture drone market. In Asia Pacific, fast-paced research and development activities in the field of robotics will lead to the promising development of the agriculture drone market.


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For his new short film “Chromaticity,” director Paul Trillo turned the sky into his giant canvas by strapping smoke grenades to DJI camera drones.

“Using 3 DJI Phantoms, a DJI Inspire and hundreds of smoke grenades, we painted the sky in technicolor,” Trillo says. The film is an “ethereal flight over the ocean as mysterious colored smoke leaves its mark across the sky. A beautiful choreography between four drones simultaneously in flight and hundreds of smoke grenades.”

The illusion you see in the resulting video and photos is a combination of practical effects (i.e. flying around the drone for smoke trails) and digital effects (the drones themselves were erased from the frame in post, leaving just the colorful smoke zooming around).




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Saildrones are solar and wind powered state-of-the-art unmanned ocean monitoring vehicles, durable enough to spend a year at sea. Based in San Francisco, the start-up making the drones just teamed up with the CSIRO in a move the organisation says will "radically improve" measurement and monitoring in Australian waters and the Southern ocean.

Saildrones can help in a wholle range of science missions - including conducting stock assessments, upload data from subsurface sensors or respond to marine emergencies. They are equipped with both automatic identification systems (AIS) and ship avoidance systems to alert and avoid other ocean users.

Because they can be controlled remotely from anywhere in the world, the Saildrones can be quickly moved from one task to another. This means the CSIRO has a new way to measure ocean conditions associated with special events - like marine heat waves, or toxic algal blooms - that in the past would have required extensive planning, and money for a ship and crew.

The research partnership between Saildrone and CSIRO's Oceans and Atmosphere group will also mean we can collect more information about sea-surface temperature and salinity. The CSIRO will equip the Saildrones with specialised sensors designed to measure ocean carbon.

CSIRO Research Group Leader Andreas Marouchos said the partnership would see the organisation manage a fleet of three Saildrones deployed from the CSIRO in Hobart.

"This research partnership comes at a critical time for the marine environment, and at a time when technological innovation in the marine sector is booming," Marouchos said.

"Saildrones are long-range research platforms that can be sent to remote locations for an extended period of time, delivering real-time data back to scientists that was previously impossible to collect."

Marouchos said the drones gather fundamental information about our oceans and climate using a powerhouse of ocean chemistry, meteorological and marine acoustic sensors.

"CSIRO is at the forefront of advances in marine engineering and technology, with a demonstrated track record in providing new tools and methods for world-class oceans research."

Australian Saildrone founder and CEO Richard Jenkins said CSIRO provided a unique opportunity for marine research collaboration in the Southern Hemisphere.

"Saildrone and CSIRO share the same passion for innovation and engineering to help solve some of the most challenging problems facing the world," Jenkins said.

"Autonomy is a key technology for accessing the southern oceans, which are understudied due to the rough seas and the limited number of vessels that regularly pass through the region."


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Could drones offer competitive advantage that draws new business? Yes, say these small business owners

Four years ago, Vadym Guliuk had little interest in drones. Then, clients started asking whether the Washington D.C.-based event photographer offered drone video service. Realizing there was a new demand, he bought a quadcopter equipped with a commercial-quality video camera, flight stabilization and collision avoidance technology. The price (including insurance, a commercial license and registration): about $2,200.

"It paid for itself in a day," he recalls. Guliuk estimates that half of his clients now ask for drone video. The best part: only 15 percent of his competitors offer drone service, which gives him a competitive edge in the market.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), sales for commercial drones are expected to grow from 600,000 in 2016 to 2.7 million by 2020 opens in new window, and more businesses are finding creative ways to use them. Farmers and ranchers are sending drones up to keep an eye on herds and crops. Builders are using drones to conduct roof and other dangerous construction-related inspections on high-rise buildings. Amazon made its first drone delivery in the U.K. in December 2016. Small business owners like Guliuk are finding that these flying machines can offer competitive advantages if you know how to use them.

The Rules & Regulations

Drones — formally called Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)—may look like toys, but search the phrase "drone accidents" online for the stories making serious headlines. There was the crash-landing of a drone in a no-fly zone near the White House in January 2015. Enrique Iglesias' hand was sliced by a drone during a concert in Tijuana, Mexico. In 2014, a photographer had the tip of her nose cut by a drone flying inside a chain restaurant. Accidents like these prompted the FAA to release regulations for commercial drone use in August 2016. Here are some of the FAA's Rules for operating a UAS.

FAA's Rules For Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) 2016

  • Must have Remote Pilot Airman Certificate
  • Must be 16+ years of age
  • Must pass TSA vetting
  • UAS must weigh less than 55 lbs.
  • UAS weighing more than .55 lbs (250 grams) must be registered opens in new window
  • Daylight-only operations, or civil twilight (30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset, local time)
  • Maximum ground speed of 100 mph (87 knots)
  • Maximum altitude of 400 feet above ground level, or within 400 feet of a structure
  • No operations from a moving vehicle unless the operation is over a sparsely populated area

"Learn the rules and play by them," says Jake Butters, a Miami-based filmmaker who has logged hundreds of hours flying drones. Butters says he was one of the first operators to get a commercial license under the new rules, and notes that any business or individual hiring a drone operator for business should review the rules and regulations, too.

Flying over people, operating in controlled airspace without permission, and flying at night are potential violations that can lead to fines, or possibly even worse consequences, for commercial operators. Drone operators flying under the small UAS rule (drones under 55 lbs.) can apply for a certificate of waiver opens in new window, which allows operators to deviate from certain rules if the FAA deems it safe.

Get the Right Drone for the Job

"Safety is crucial," says Douglas Trudeau, a realtor in Tuscon, Arizona, who says he has been using camera drones for real estate since 2015. "Some cheap mall or truck stop drone isn't worth the money." Many commercial-quality drones come with flyer-friendly features like safe home return, steady hovering and collision avoidance. Along with the drone, controller and monitor, Trudeau recommends extra batteries, a carry case, density filters and several high-quality micro SD cards to get started.

With dozens of commercial drones on the market, how do you choose the right one for your business? Unless you're long-distance flying (say, for inspection work in remote areas), professional drone operators like Butters and Trudeau fly multicopters, which come in several forms. These experts shared some potential pros and cons for would-be multicopter owners to consider.

Blog Drones Infographic

There's More to Drone Service Than Flying

Trudeau says drone video service helped double his income last year, but he warns that bad drone footage is worse than no footage at all. If you're a pilot without much photography experience, Trudeau recommends hiring a skilled videographer who can also edit. "View their style, ask for references, and make an informed decision." Trudeau's real estate shooting tips:

  • Focus on the home: "A lot of the video I see is excessive aerial video of the roof, the neighbors, neighborhoods, and the surrounding area, with little emphasis on the home itself," he says
  • Keep it short: "A five- to 15-second aerial glimpse into the surroundings or to get a better angle of the home is all that's needed."
  • Don't go too high: Shooting video more than 50 feet above ground level risks minimizing the home. Trudeau's "sweet spot": 20 to 30 feet up.

Drone, Drone on the Range

While snazzy aerial footage is in high demand, drone technology is finding a niche in other industries. Landon Smith, who grew up on a corn and soybean farm in Indiana, bought his first drone in high school after hearing a drone operator speak at a Young Farmers conference. "I flew a field for my grandpa, took 10 or 15 minutes of video, and we watched it together. We probably talked for over an hour about the history of that field," says Smith, recalling his first drone video flight.

Soon, he was offering mapping services to neighboring farms, where drones can capture everything from vegetation density to monitoring picking operations in remote fields. Smith sees drone use in agriculture getting even more sophisticated. "In the future, I think you'll have all of your different [drone] maps—population, feeding, time lapse—integrated in the tractor, and you can just pull up the images."

This aerial drone imagery of a field (top) demonstrates the flight path grid (middle) drone operators use to capture highly-detailed maps and models for businesses, including heat mapping, topography/elevation (bottom) and population density. Photo courtesy of CAVU Media.

How to Get Your Commercial Drone License

To get a commercial UAS license for work or business, operators must pass an aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center. Unlike automobiles or manned aircraft, there is no flying test requirement. (In other countries, such as Australia, drone pilots are required to pass a UAS flying test.)

Know Before You Fly opens in new window, an educational campaign from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), offers links in-person and online training courses.

To take the FAA's UAS drone exam, applicants must be at least 14 years old with a valid picture ID; to operate a commercial drone, pilots must be 16 years or older. Applicants must make an appointment at one of the FAA's testing centers opens in new window, pay $150, and pass the exam.

The two-hour pass/fail test test covers approximately 60 multiple choice questions; example questions are outlined in this sample UAS test from the FAA opens in new window. The minimum passing score is 70 percent.

The test questions cover:

  • Regulations
  • Airspace & Requirements
  • Weather
  • Loading and Performance
  • Operations

After passing the test, licensed pilots can apply for a Remote Pilot Certificate, which requires a TSA background check. Upon passing the background check, a temporary certificate is issued before the FAA mails a final certificate.


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