Best Drone Business Ideas

These Best Drone Business Ideas Are Great for Techie Entrepreneurs

Drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), have exploded in popularity in the past few years. For the 12 month period ending in April 2016, drone sales grew 224 percent from the previous year period to nearly $200 million, according to a ​report from retail research firm the NPD group. Drones are rapidly becoming an indispensable tool in a variety of industries. This article presents some of the best drone business ideas to take advantage of the trend.

As with most other tech devices, competition in the marketplace continues to drive down drone prices and rapidly advance the technology. Affordable drones now exist that include features such as:

  • 4K cameras that can take high-resolution images and video
  • Built in GPS and autopilot, enabling the drone to fly pre-programmed routes
  • Bluetooth capability
  • Collision avoidance
  • Terrain follow (the ability to maintain a consistent height while flying over uneven terrain)
  • Active tracking (automatically follow a selected subject)
  • The ability to fly at speeds of 50 mph (80 km/hr) or more

Safety features, reliability, control distance, and battery life also continue to improve.

If you are technically inclined and looking to start a new business or have an existing business that could benefit from new technology why not take advantage of one of the latest trends and become a drone expert? Offering drone services on a contract basis could also be an ideal part-time and/or home-based business.


Drone with high resolution digital camera flying over flower field with snow mountain in background in Switzerland. Beautiful landscape
Best Drone Business Ideas. Prasit photo / Getty Images

Prior to the development of drones, taking photographs or video from the air required the (very expensive) rental of fixed-wing or helicopter aircraft. 

With the advent of low-cost drones equipped with high-resolution cameras, taking aerial images is now easily affordable for photographers. Images and video taken from the air offer a perspective that cannot be matched from the ground, and drones can safely operate at much lower altitudes and in more confined spaces than aircraft.

Photographers and filmmakers now routinely use drones to take high-quality images and video from the air, such as:

  • landscapes
  • sporting events
  • real estate
  • weddings and other special events
  • wildlife
  • film and TV subjects

If you have photography skills and an interest in drones, why not consider a drone photography business?

Security Surveillance

Drone suveillance
Robert Loe / Getty Images

Drone technology is making its way into the home and commercial security arena. For example, one such system from Sunflower Labs integrates a drone with sensors so that when a possible trespass takes place the drone is notified and activated. The drone captures live video footage of the intrusion and transmits it to a smartphone. The user can steer the drone remotely or direct it to hover over the intruder, as well as notify the police if required.

Drones can also assist in detecting other threats to property such as fire and water leaks. Live video feeds from drones can be sent to the home/business owner's mobile device, to a central monitoring facility, or directly to emergency responders.

The use of drones is creating new business opportunities in the security surveillance field for entrepreneurs ready to cash in on the trend.

Search and Rescue

Ambulance Drone flying in the sky
Hiroshi Watanabe / Getty Images

Drones are becoming an indispensable tool in the arsenal of search and rescue organizations. Aside from the greatly reduced cost of using drones instead of helicopters for aerial searches, drones are able to fly at night and reach areas where helicopters are unable to travel. 

Equipping drones with infrared and/or night vision sensors allows search and rescue teams to detect missing individuals by heat emissions as well as visually, and drones can deliver emergency supplies as needed.

Becoming a search and rescue drone operator or selling, renting, or equipping search and rescue drones could be your next business opportunity.

Building Inspections — Roofs, Chimneys, Siding, etc.

Drone roof inspection
Juice Images / Getty Images

Roof inspection by hand can be an involved, costly, and hazardous process, particularly on multi-story structures. With drone technology, however, building inspections can be done safely and inexpensively, making this a great drone business idea.

A drone can perform a close-up survey of the exterior of a building and deliver high-resolution video of the roof, gutters, chimneys, and building envelope, enabling the building owner to detect trouble spots in advance.

If you have a background in construction and/or building inspections a drone inspection service could be an ideal business (or add on to your existing inspection business).

See also:  

6 Ways Drones Are Affecting the Construction Industry

UAV's or Drones Are Being Used in Construction Projects

Agricultural Surveys

Drone crop survey
Miguel Sotomayor / Getty Images

Drones are revolutionizing agriculture. The ability to survey crops from the air with an inexpensive unmanned aerial vehicle equipped with a variety of sensors enables a farmer to collect an unprecedented amount of useful data, including:

  • soil hydration
  • variations in soil composition
  • pest/fungal infestations

In addition, drone crop surveys can be taken weekly, daily, or even hourly as required. Accurate information allows for optimal crop irrigation, fertilization, and pest control. Reducing water and pesticide usage and maximizing crop yields benefits the bottom line and the environment.

Underwater Inspections

Remote Piloted Submersible
Ralph White / Getty Images

Drone technology is by no means limited to unmanned aerial vehicles. Submersible drones have been available for decades, but up until recently were only affordable by large businesses or research institutions. Now underwater drones are becoming available for less than $1000 that can be remotely controlled using a laptop or smartphone and submerge to depths of up to 100 meters opening up all kinds of drone business ideas.

Submersible drones can be equipped with lighting and take high resolution underwater images or video at a fraction of the cost of contracting a professional diver. 

Aside from photography, underwater drones have numerous other commercial applications, including:

  • environmental assessments
  • search/recovery
  • aquaculture
  • underwater inspections (including tanks, piping, boat hulls, propellers, etc.)
  • marine research
  • law enforcement

Providing submersible drone inspection services could be an ideal business opportunity.

Mapping and Surveying

Surveyor with drone equipment on hillside
Hero Images / Getty Images

Land surveyors are increasing turning to drones to acquire highly accurate digital survey data from the air in a fraction of the time (and expense) required by survey teams on the ground.

Using base station reference data and GPS, specially equipped drones can gather three-dimensional cartographic information with an accuracy of within one to two cm after processing. Cartographic surveys are used in many industries, including:

  • construction
  • urban planning by municipalities
  • mining and oil and gas
  • flood and pollution monitoring
  • forestry management
  • archaeology

If you are looking to start a business in land surveying and/or cartography, drone services could be an ideal way to get a jump on the competition.

Drone Sales, Repair, Training, and Customization

Drone repair
Kyrylo Glivin / EyeEm / Getty Images

By their nature, drones are fragile devices that are prone to failure and damage, particularly if misused. And even though prices have declined precipitously, drones are still too expensive to "throw away" in many cases. 

If you are technically expert with drones and are mechanically inclined with a knowledge of electronics drone sales/repair/customization could be a great business idea for you.

In addition, drones require knowledge and skills to safely operate which has created a demand for experienced drone instructors. If you have the appropriate UAV skills, experience, and certifications why not offer your services as a trainer?

Commercial, Industrial, and Insurance Inspections

Drone inspection
Paul Souders / Getty Images

As with roof and building inspections, drones are increasingly being used in other industries to perform inspections that are costly and/or hazardous for humans to perform.

This includes large and difficult to access structures such as:

  • bridges
  • cell and TV towers
  • wind turbines
  • power lines
  • pipelines
  • solar panels

Drones can also be used to survey damaged areas for insurance claims. See Can Drones Help Settle Your Insurance Claim?   

Drone Regulations

'No Drones' sign
David Madison / Getty Images

As with any new technology that may affect public safety or privacy, governments are scrambling to establish regulations for the use of drones. Checking the current regulations will be the first thing you want to do when you're thinking of starting a drone business.

Drone Regulations in the United States

In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration finally established a set of guidelines and regulations in August 2016 to allow the use of Drones for commercial purposes without the need for the operator to hold a pilot's license.

Here are some of the key regulations for the use of drones for commercial purposes:

  • Drones weighing between 0.55 and 55 pounds must be registered (Drone Registration). Registration must be renewed every 3 years.
  • Pilots must be at least 16 years of age and have a remote pilot airman certificate.
  • Before every flight, the drone must undergo a preflight inspection to ensure it is airworthy.
  • Drone operators must keep the drone in sight flying.
  • Drones can only fly in the daytime, but twilight flying is allowed if the drone has anti-collision lights.
  • Drones cannot fly over other people or from a moving vehicle.
  • Drones cannot fly higher than 400 feet or faster than 100 MPH.

Drone Regulations in Canada

Transport Canada is currently in the process of developing new guidelines for regulating UAVs, including:

  • Flight rules for drones
  • Minimum age limits for drone operation
  • Drone registration
  • Pilot testing

For information on current regulations for drone operation, see Flying your drone safely and legally (Transport Canada).

Drone Insurance

Drone Warning Sign
Richard Newstead / Getty Images

Whether operating a drone for hobby or commercial purposes, you would be wise to consider damage and liability insurance.

While greatly decreasing in cost in recent years, drones are still an expensive piece of equipment and can be lost or damaged through equipment failure, accident, or misuse. Damage insurance can cover the cost of repair or replacement.

There are also potential liability issues with drone usage. For example, if your drone runs out of battery power and crashes onto a vehicle or into a group of bystanders you could be liable for property damage or injury. Make sure you investigate liability insurance if you intend to operate your drone in situations that could put people or property at risk.

For more information on drone insurance see: Is Your Drone Insured? Here's Everything You Need to Know 

How to Get a Drone Business Started

Launch your drone business
Buena Vista Images / Getty Images

As Thomas Edison reportedly said, "Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration". The more time spent on due diligence and advance preparation, the greater your odds of starting a successful business of any kind. 

Do some preliminary market research — survey businesses and potential clients in your locale that might benefit from drone services. Find out if there are any competitors — is the target market already saturated?

If it looks like there is a demand for drone services, write a business plan, even if you don't need debt financing for startup capital to get your business going. 

For more information on getting your new business off the ground see: Important Steps to Starting a Business

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