Leaving the Career Alternative careers for pilots

Flying drones

Old 08-24-2020, 07:20 AM
Gets Weekends Off
Thread Starter
manfred33's Avatar
Joined APC: Nov 2006
Position: CRJ
Posts: 114
Default Flying drones

So I am currently out of work on disability due to heart surgery. Been over two years now and my disability payments have ended and I'm not even sure I will be getting my medical certificate back at all. SO, i am most likely faced with having to find another career. Have looked into flying drones, because I just can't see myself doing anything not aviation-related like office work or customer service or the like. Been there, done that. And with the Covid, there is no real need for sim instructors, especially at my company or even in my area. Anyways, I have read about a company called Flight to the Future, otherwise known as Aquiline Drones. Does anybody know much about this company? They provide training along with FAA certification and after you've completed their whole program, you fly the drones they provide, using their Cloud system and get jobs in your area through an app that they have and they basically set you up to more or less have your own drone business, but without the headache of starting your own business. It all sounds to good to be true and maybe a little fishy, but just wondering if anybody knows how legit this is. I don't have a problem doing the training on my own through one of these drone flight schools, and it certainly is cheaper, but it is somewhat appealing to go through their program and you can really start earning money right out of the gate. They provide insurance and you make a "lease payment" to use their drones.
Alright, that is all. Thanks.
manfred33 is offline  
Old 08-26-2020, 03:31 AM
Gets Weekends Off
Joined APC: Feb 2017
Posts: 567

Well, a few things.
1) you don’t need to pay money to take a course or do an FAA test to get your pet 107 cert for Remote Pilot. As long as you’re Sport Pilot or higher, you do a free class on the FAA website and have someone sign you off in IACRA.

2) drones aren’t hard to fly

3) the drone industry is brutal. They’re so cheap, and almost nobody cares about the rules (except for those of us who even know that rules exist and have something to lose). And since you can get a $150 drone that takes “good enough” pictures of a house for real estate can see the issue.

sure, there are other things drones are use for, but from what I can see, that specialized stuff is in-house and the drones are REALLY expensive.

do lots of research and be careful who you give your money to.
JTwift is offline  
Old 08-26-2020, 06:14 AM
Gets Weekends Off
Joined APC: Oct 2008
Position: JAFO- First Observer
Posts: 960

There is a related thread on this company.
PerfInit is offline  
Old 09-02-2020, 12:16 PM
On Reserve
Joined APC: Aug 2017
Posts: 21
Default Drone Work

I have been flying drones commercially for a few years. Let me tell you, its a young man's game. You really need to hustle to make money unless you meet the right people. There are a lot of kids out there living out of their car catching drone gigs on the fly.

First off, you don't need to pay any money if you already have a Faa certificate. Its pretty simple, take the drone classes on the FAA faast website and pass the online tests. Once you have your certificate of completion, fill out online iacra and have an instructor sign off your iacra. That is it. You must have an instructor sign off iacra because the FAA needs proof that you actually did the work (ID verification). Someone off the street must go to a testing location where they are verified by the testing center.

Once you have a license, you are probably going to spend at least 1500 on a descent drone and equipment. When you are on a job, you need several batteries, portable chargers, good tablets, high quality SD cards, spare props, landing pads, dslr camera, network storage or large computer storage device, etc... It isn't just the drone itself is what I am getting at. Once you have the gear, you need to make contacts and find work. This is where the hustle comes in.
Apps like Dronebase and other third party contract work really don't pay much depending on where you are at. I lived in a remote area for a year and could pretty much drive the prices up because if I didn't accept cheap bids, they would reissue the job with a higher price. Here in Houston now, the average job is about $70 and you have to be the first one to grab it. You might get two per week if you were on it. Keep in mind, you can't just take every job, weather, time of day for lighting, airspace requirements play into everything. To make matters worse, most easy work like real estate photos aren't available because most realtors either don't care or buy their own drone. You would think the money they could make, they would hire a professional but in reality, most realtors are vultures and don't care about the quality of their own work.

Big jobs like cell tower inspections can pay more but are time limited. This is where I had the best luck. I would get contracts for like 20-30 cell tower inspections for modeling. Pay should be between 100-500 per site depending on where you have to drive to. Most contracts like these have time deadlines and you can't really accept an unlimited number. When you do large contracts, you have to move and be mobile. Its tough getting all the data and uploading it from a hotel room or mobile location. You need fast internet and the amount of data transfer would basically be impossible without real high speed internet. Doing three sites per day, I had two computers running high speed internet uploading 24/7 to keep up with the amount of data I captured. With this situation, now you need two people, one to manage the data upload and one taking the photos. More hustle required here. I am flying more now and so I just don't have time to travel to remote locations for drone work. Hard on you and your vehicle.

The real kicker here I think would be areal survey companies for construction. If I was going to do it big, I would get a platform that could carry some serious weight with a real LIDAR camera and FLIR camera. A platform that could swap those two could really make some money. Surveying large plots of land for developers could make bigger cash. FLIR could possibly open up government contracts as well. This type of operation would need serious cash and lots of bodies. Not possible for someone cash strapped like me to get off the ground. Would be neat though. Again, even with this kind of company, you still need to travel to work, upload data, and make connections.

Flying drones is fun but its a hustle. The more technology involved attracts young people who will work for free. Unless you have something to offer that a kid in high school doesn't, you are going to be competing for work with kids with toys. I would honestly suggest instructing or any other work you can do without a medical. Perhaps try some Droning on the side to experience the hustle.

Good luck
N8013P is offline  
Old 09-02-2020, 08:42 PM
Gets Everyday Off
TransWorld's Avatar
Joined APC: Aug 2016
Position: Relaxed
Posts: 4,757

Thanks for the eye opening and honest perspective on drones. Sounds like a step up from a computer simulation game in your parents’ basement.
TransWorld is online now  
Old 09-03-2021, 08:57 AM
New Hire
Joined APC: Sep 2021
Posts: 5

I agree with much of the above. I founded a successful drone company in 2010 when the pilot market was tanked and have since made a lucrative career of it. My company was acquired in 2015 but I still operate it, although I'm trying to get back into the cockpit professionally.

There are a few established companies that do the big stuff in industries like energy (oil&gas, power, petrochemical), power distribution, wind, and film. Outside of that it's a lot of very small opportunities and it's a hustle. Opportunities that are widely available are low margin and competitive since the aircraft are dead simple to operate now. What is happening now is companies who do inspection, survey, real estate, are bringing in their own capability.

I am on the inspection side within the energy industry. We used to take drone pilots and make them inspectors. Now we take inspectors and make them drone pilots. The deliverable (the inspection) is what we're after, not the drone flight specifically. The drone tech has allowed us to make this pivot and it was a pretty big turning point it how the tech is adopted now by end users of the data, our clients.
wings1914 is offline  
Related Topics
Thread Starter
Last Post
07-14-2016 11:26 AM
04-11-2015 10:18 AM
07-07-2012 03:51 AM
Flight Schools and Training
08-23-2009 11:08 AM
Kilgore Trout
Part 135
06-19-2009 03:35 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread