If you’re just starting out as a professional drone pilot, it can be overwhelming to undertake the task of starting up a drone business from scratch. For newly licensed drone pilots, the obvious question is, what’s the next step in earning some money with your drone. So what about a platform like DroneBase? Is it worth it to start your career as a drone pilot by signing up for DroneBase?
Dronebase can be a good place to start out as a professional drone pilot to gain skills and confidence, or to fill in some downtime. But in the long run it may limit your career both in terms of the level of skill you develop and the amount of money you can make.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained, my grandpa used to say, and it applies to starting your own drone business. If you stay in the relative security of a marketplace platform such as DroneBase, you’re not going to get too far. But if you take the risk and do the harder work of building your own customer base, the potential for success is much greater.
What Is DroneBase and How Does it Work?
DroneBase is a marketplace platform to connect clients wanting aerial services of some sort in a variety of industries with drone pilots who are able to complete the project. When a project request is submitted by a client, any pilots within a relatively close geographic location and with the required skill set are notified of the job. The first pilot to respond gets the job, for a pre-specified price.
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Your mission, if you choose to accept it, will give you all the details of location, due date, type of imagery required, and expected payment amount and timeline. Once you’ve flown the mission, you upload the images and/or videos to DroneBase, and they take care of the editing, etc. Once your upload is reviewed and approved, you will be paid for your mission.
The DroneBase app theoretically gives you all the information you need to accomplish each mission successfully, as well as sending you notifications of potential jobs, and making it easy to upload your completed mission deliverables. Notice the “theoretically” in there? In real life there are always glitches, like wrong addresses, conflicting mission tasks, etc. that need to be clarified. These types of issues can usually be straightened out by reaching out to the DroneBase pilot support team, which usually does a good job of helping you sort things out.
With a team of 60,000+ drone pilots in 70+ countries, this system is obviously working out well for a lot of people, both pilots and clients. So why am I so hesitant to wholeheartedly endorse DroneBase? Turns out you can generally do a whole lot better on your own. It just takes a little more time.
Use DroneBase as a Training Ground
As a DroneBase pilot you are a layer away from the client. While that means your pay is lower, it also means that DroneBase is assuming the risk of problems instead of you. You don’t need to carry your own insurance (though it’s not a bad idea anyway), and any complaints about the final product will go to DroneBase and not to you. But don’t be tempted to use this as an excuse for sloppy work – a poor product will run you the risk of not getting paid for a mission, and too many unapproved submissions will mean you get fewer projects offered to you.
One of the advantages of DroneBase is that it’s a great way to get on the job training. It’s probably helpful to think of DroneBase as a kind of paid internship. As you fly more missions you will be exposed to different types of work and scenarios, and get experience in flying professional jobs to meet a brief. You may get to interact with clients, depending on the type of mission, which is also helpful in building your business skills. The added bonus to this experience building aspect is that you get paid a little something for it.
Another nice thing about being signed up on DroneBase is that you have access to some decent training courses. You are encouraged to take these training courses available for industries such as Insurance, Telecom, Real Estate, and Construction Missions. Specific training for different enterprise clients is offered in some cases as well. Instead of having to find and pay for your own courses to develop skills in the field you want to advance in, you can do it right through DroneBase.
Having these training courses under your belt on the DroneBase platform will also open up more options in terms of the types of projects that will be offered to you. For example, if you’re hoping to make a career in construction surveying, you can get the construction training through DroneBase, and then get some missions flying for construction projects. It’s a great way to get your feet wet, and gain the confidence to branch out in starting your own business down the road.
Limitations to Be Aware of
If you are thinking of signing up for DroneBase, make sure you’re going into it knowing what to expect. In other words, have the right expectations. There are several very real limitations to be aware of, and if you have those in mind, you are less likely to be disappointed by the experience.
Low pay – Let’s get real here. You’re probably not going to be able to make a living at flying a drone through DroneBase, let alone get rich by it. The prices that DroneBase charges clients for projects are typically at the low end of the market, and then you get only a smaller slice of that.
Relatively simple job skills – This is both good and bad. If you’re just getting started, it’s good to start with projects that are within reach of your skill set. But as you fly more missions, it may start to feel like you’re not being challenged at all, and that’s not good for your career development. Doing the DroneBase training courses can help you land more challenging missions, but even there, you’re not going to be able to advance to really expert skill levels with the types of missions that are commonly coming through DroneBase.
You don’t own the footage that you upload – Once you upload the pictures and videos to DroneBase for a mission that you’ve flown, they are no longer your property, but belong to DroneBase. That means that if you happened to get the best footage of your career while flying a DroneBase mission, you can’t use that footage for your own demo reel or to advance your own business.
You’re not building your own clientele while flying for DroneBase jobs – When you are on site flying a DroneBase mission, you are contractually prohibited from exchanging information with clients. In other words, you can’t give them your business card or phone number, and ask them to call you directly next time they have a drone project. While you’re flying for DroneBase, you’re limiting your ability to build your own business.
Dissatisfied Users – How to Avoid Being One of Them
If you read through reviews of drone pilots using DroneBase, there are quite a few rather disgruntled users. Often the complaint is about not getting the expected payout, or getting incorrect information for the mission location or assignment, or just simply not getting enough missions offered to them. Here are a few tips for getting the best experience possible out of flying for DroneBase.
- Respond to mission offers immediately. They’re often snapped up by someone else in a matter of minutes, so don’t delay, or think about it and come back later. If you think there’s any possible way to fit it into your schedule, accept the mission as soon as you see it. Set up the app to send you notifications right on your phone so you don’t end up seeing the email a few hours later only to have the job already gone.
- Follow mission instructions exactly. If you haven’t paid close attention to the project details and don’t get exactly what the client is looking for, you run the risk of not having your submission approved, and that means either having to go back on site, or not getting your payout. If it’s unclear, check in with the DroneBase support team for clarification.
- Double check the address. This has happened more than once, that someone went to the wrong address (or maybe even had the wrong address given in the mission details). Double checking the address in the app, and in your email can help you catch mistakes. If you arrive on site and things don’t seem to be adding up, check in with DroneBase support to confirm.
- Do training courses to get more missions. If you feel that not enough missions are coming your way, do another training course to get yourself eligible for more types of missions. Who knows, you may find you really enjoy a type of work that you didn’t think you were interested in, and start your career down a new trajectory.
- Learn from your mistakes. If by some unfortunate turn of events you are denied your payout due to the quality of your upload, don’t storm off in a huff. Mistakes are the best way to learn, so don’t miss the opportunity to turn something frustrating into improved skills. Find out exactly what went wrong, and figure out how to make it right the next time. If after an honest examination you think that you were wrongfully denied, take it up politely with DroneBase to try to sort it out.
- Have realistic expectations. Know the limitations discussed above, and don’t expect too much out of DroneBase. It’s a good place to learn, it’s not a full time career. With the right expectations, you’re much less likely to be frustrated when you’re not earning as much as you thought.
- Have an ending date in mind. If you’re planning to use DroneBase as a tool to help you learn on your path to owning your own drone business, it may be helpful to have an ending date in mind when you start out. You may for example plan to accept DroneBase missions for a year, while simultaneously building your own business. After that point, accepting more missions may interfere with your ability to focus on your business.
Is DroneBase Undercutting Industry Standard Prices?
There is some concern that the low prices offered by DroneBase are going to devalue the market for the rest of the drone pilots out there trying to make a living. While it may be true that a client can get a specific, fairly basic level project done for a low price through DroneBase, when it comes to more advanced project requirements, many will find that what DroneBase offers doesn’t really cut it.
The reason for this is simple. Because their prices are low, they don’t pay pilots all that much, so most pilots with a reasonably high level of skill aren’t going to stick with DroneBase for very long. Most will branch out on their own, and charge higher rates. So clients with more technical or advanced requirements won’t go to DroneBase, but will be willing to pay the higher prices set by more skilled pilots.
It can be a challenge for drone pilots starting out as professionals to compete with DroneBase prices, when they don’t have a lot to distinguish themselves and what they can offer. It’s actually not a bad idea for professional drone pilots starting a business to offer lower than standard prices, so maybe around what DroneBase might charge for a package, and then raise your rates once you’ve gained a good client base and business reputation. For more advance on how to set your rates, read our article on What to Charge for Drone Services.
This undercutting strategy may make it hard to compete at the base level of drone services. But for the more skilled, and more technically advanced drone pilots, you can confidently charge higher rates for what you have to offer. The key is gaining experience, and having the right kind of training. Check out our recommended drone training courses here.
DroneBase Clients – Is It Worth It to Buy Projects from DroneBase?
So far we’ve been looking at this from the perspective of the drone pilot. But let’s consider the question for a minute from the perspective of the client. Is DroneBase worth it to order projects?
For clients who need a relatively basic level of drone footage, DroneBase offers extremely competitive pricing, making it very worthwhile. For clients with more technical needs, or who need to have more customized projects, DroneBase may not measure up.
DroneBase makes it really easy to order a project, with a streamlined, simple ordering process. You enter your location, your mission details, and select the level of package that you want (how many still photos, how many videos, etc.) There are different options for different industries, allowing the client to customize their needs and specifications somewhat. And the prices are as low as you’ll probably find anywhere. If your needs are simple and basic, DroneBase is the way to go.
But if you’re looking for a little bit more quality, or a little bit more customization in terms of exactly what shots at what angles or heights, or more technical savvy, or more sophisticated equipment, chances are DroneBase can’t provide what you need.
One big limitation is that when you order a project through DroneBase, you have no control over who is hired to fly the mission. It may be someone on their first professional flight, and while everyone needs to start somewhere, as the client you don’t get to have a say in that through DroneBase. Another limitation is that you can’t offer a great deal of specificity in terms of exactly what shots are needed. It’s a one-size-fits all process, and if your needs aren’t run of the mill, you might end up disappointed in the results.
For more technical work, or for more control over the final product, it may be more worth your while to hire a self-employed drone pilot. While the rates may be higher, you get the advantage of working directly with the pilot, in that give and take relationship, until you have exactly what you want. And then you know who to call for the next project.