How to work in the Drone Industry without Flying a Drone

I recently received an email from a friend of a friend, asking about the drone industry. More specifically this person was interested in transitioning from his career in engineering to the drone industry in some capacity.

He had a few questions about drones but his primary objective was seeking advice upon working with drones or in the drone industry. I wrote a detailed letter back (which I’ll likely publish on a later post) and then started to think, there are lots of ways to work in the drone industry.

The one theme of my letter to this individual was that he is probably better off finding a niche within the drone industry outside of actually using the drones for photography & video. Not because this would create further competition, but simply because this side of the industry has become incredibly saturated.

So, here are my recommendations to joining the drone work force, without ever actually flying a drone.

Develop software applications for Drones

Smartphones and drones have been joined at the hip since the beginning. Early on, smart phones were used as a companion to drone operations to check on weather conditions, leverage maps, and other basic components. Then, smartphones became capable of being used as FPV monitors for drones with some basic application software. Now, smartphones are actually being used to control and fly drones. All of this has happened in about 2-3 years and the synergy between applications and drones continues to soar. I highly recommend looking in to developing software applications for drones if this is a skill-set you possess.

Engineering for Drones

The gentleman I conversed with in the aforementioned letter had a background in engineering. My first bit of advice was for him to leverage his education and experience in to possibly working on the hardware within drones. I recommended that he call DJI and 3DR (two of the top drone companies in the world) and ask to speak with someone in their careers or human resources department to inquire about the necessary skill-sets and experience to work on the engineering side of drones. Software development, and hardware engineering seem to be the most common job postings for drone companies.

Sales

One of the biggest obstacles for drone operators is sourcing and capturing business from potential clients. There are lots of competing drone operators, each with different services or perks to offer. Consumers can often find it difficult to even know how to select the appropriate drone service or operator. If you have a background in sales, or currently work in a PR or marketing position where your services are constantly being showcased or “sold” to potential clients, you might think about working with a drone operator for mutual benefits. For example, I work with a company that provides PR and marketing services to the wine industry. When applicable, they present my services to their clients. In return their clients get a unique opportunity to incorporate drone services to their marketing campaigns, and they’re able to advertise their own PR agency as being able to provide drone related services; lastly, my business continues to grow. It’s a win-win.

In a nutshell, if you work in any sort of sales or marketing position where adding a drone operator to services you can provide is applicable, then by all means do it. You’ll be able to bring in more revenue, possibly receive a referral fee from the drone operator, and strengthen your client retention by offering them new and exciting services.

Social Media Guru

Are you a social media guru? Does your Twitter follower count have as many digits as your social security number? If so, you’re probably well aware of affiliate marketing and the referral business. Drone services and operators are probably the easiest and most eager to work with in affiliate marketing. I often network with photographers or video companies that do not provide aerial services in effort to collaborate and bring in business for both. How does this collaboration usually begin or come to fruition? Social media.

If you’ve worked with a drone operator in the past, offer to do a series of social media advertisements in your network in exchange for a reasonable referral percentage, you’ll be quite pleased with the results and surprised by the interest.

Legal Services

While I’m definitely NOT an attorney, I’ve had to become very astute at the laws of drone operations. As a result, I frequently provide clients, colleagues, or enthusiasts with the latest updates and current news/laws of drone operations and the connected legalities. I repeat, I’m not an attorney and my advice is not sanctioned in any form, it simply comes from experience and staying on top of the news in my industry.

I’ve also worked with a handful of attorneys that have quickly adapted to the new industry and provide their clients with incredibly valuable legal advice on the topic.

If you’re an attorney and you’re looking to expand your network and bring more clients in to your firm, then I highly recommend applying the necessary research to comfortably provide legal services for those in the drone industry.

Video & Photo Editing

Most videographers and photographers prefer to edit their own work, it’s part of the artistic process and often times the video or photo you shot was with a specific purpose or end result in mind, which is achieved and finalized in the editing process. However, if you’re fortunate to be busy enough editing can become very time consuming and at times daunting. A few years back, a friend of mine who is well decorated in the film industry asked if he could edit some of my footage pro bono, just for fun. I was AMAZED with his work and now we frequently collaborate on projects (shout out to Billy: http://mediabybilly.com/).

If you have video or photo editing skills, considering looking up drone operators in your area and reaching out to them for collaboration purposes. Offer to take some of the work load and edit footage for them. You’ll likely have to assist with a few projects pro bono to earn the trust and approval, but as a result it could net some nice freelance work and extra income.

Insurance

Insurance is rapidly becoming a sought after service from drone operators of all types (professionals or hobbyists). The fact of the matter, drones are expensive and so are the things that they may or may not crash in to (houses, cars, etc). Insurance has it’s shadow cast on just about everything in life, and drones should be no different. Surprisingly, there are very few companies that currently provide drone insurance, surely not enough to meet the rising demand.

If you work in the insurance industry, it’s without a doubt a strong move to establish an insurance program for drones and their operators.

As you can see from the few examples above, there are many ways to work in or with the drone industry, without every flying one of these wild gadgets. In the early 1990’s when the internet really hit the mainstream, I was just a tad too young to fully embrace and understand the gravity of this new technology, as a result I always felt slightly “left out” of this exciting new frontier. Twenty years later I’ve been fortunate enough to get ahead of the wave that is the drone industry and I’m currently riding the surf and enjoying every moment of this exciting new industry. So can you.

If you’re interested in purchasing a drone, even if it’s just to practice, I recommend the following equipment located on my site here. These are the products that I use and highly recommend.

Also, if you want to learn more about the “do’s and don’ts” of the drone industry, check out my 2 part post here.

If you have any questions or wish to hire my team for drone services, reach out here: Darren@aerialphotomedia.com 

Thanks for reading,

Darren