Getting Started

Quadcopter Drone with camera FAR 107

Congratulations!  You’ve decided that you want to be a commercial drone pilot. It’s an exciting time to get into industry. We are still just at the beginning and if past aviation advancements are any guide, we will be able to say that for a while. These include your first steps and considerations to get going.  There’s a lot from here, but we want to give you at least enough information to start looking.  Let us know if you have any questions or comments.

Becoming a Drone Pilot

We cover this in detail here, but you will need to meet some fairly easy requirements to become a drone pilot.  You’ll also have to take a written test, which we talk about below.  These rules all apply if you are not flying as a hobbyist.  Here is an article on the rules that you will need to follow as a commercial drone pilot.  It only covers the basics but you may want to take a look and make sure that what you want can be done.  We also did a whole article on becoming a drone pilot.

Take the Knowledge Test

The test is 60 questions on a variety of topics determined by the FAA. Below are the topics you’ll need to know:

  1. Applicable regulations relating to small unmanned aircraft system rating privileges, limitations, and flight operation
  2. Airspace classification and operating requirements, and flight restrictions affecting small unmanned aircraft operation
  3. Aviation weather sources and effects of weather on small unmanned aircraft performance
  4. Small unmanned aircraft loading and performance
  5. Emergency procedures
  6. Crew resource management
  7. Radio communication procedures
  8. Determining the performance of small unmanned aircraft
  9. Physiological effects of drugs and alcohol
  10. Aeronautical decision-making and judgment
  11. Airport operations
  12. Maintenance and pre-flight inspection procedures

You might want to try taking a look at some of the resources that we have to help out here:

Regulatory Information – These are posts that we have written that involve regulations.

Operational Information – These are posts that we have written that work with considerations in operating your drone and business.

We dove a bit deeper into some of these topics.  You may want to check out some of these articles:

 

Need an Aircraft

Obviously, you’ll also need a drone. There are so many out there, it’s hard to tell you which one is best. You may want to stay with something fairly simple but useful. You can expect to spend about $1000-2000 for a decent stated drone that you can both learn to fly and be able to use in any business ventures.
There are a lot of options out there.   Have found the Phantom 3 and Phantom 4 drones from DJI be great options. They are affordable, well equipped and very easy to fly. When starting out, it’s a good idea to find one that’s pretty easy to fly. There’s enough to concentrate on already and crashing $1,000 into the ground isn’t a great way to start an endeavor.  You will want a table for the Phantom but if you already have one that should be just fine.
There are number of different packages out there. I’d recommend considering extra batteries (each is good for 20-30 minutes of operation on the Phantoms, others may vary).  Also, it’s a good idea to get a way to easily carry it around. There are a number of different backpacks or kits with backpacks or cases out there. The kits can be a way to save a few dollars. I bought mine on Amazon and I got this one  which I have really enjoyed.

Another one that’s getting a lot of good reviews (we haven’t actually flown it yet) is the DJI Mavic.  It’s a bit smaller than the Phantom but has similar equipment.  It’s also VERY portable.  Might be worth a look if you’re just getting started.

Build a Team

With any business, you need a team. At a minimum, here’s what you will want

  • A lawyer to review any contracts, create templates for contracts with clients, help you setup a business entity, write or review privacy policies.
  • You will also want an accountant. Once you have a business, the taxes you owe, how you keep records and what obligations you have all change. A good accountant can help you navigate all that, keep you out of trouble and often save you money in the process.
  • Bookkeeper – Your accountant can also help you with book keeping. If you have an interest and the right knowledge, you can keep your own books. Your accountant can help you set them up and software like QuickBooks and Freshbooks can help make this easier (I’d recommend investing in software. It can be done on a spreadsheet but not well).  If it’s not your thing, invest in a bookkeeper to help you out. There is a lot of reporting and tracking that comes with running a business and you want to get it right.

Check out our posts on business concepts and ideas.

Create Your Business

Every location is different. Your local Chamber of Commerce can help you out, as can your lawyer and accountant. This may involve permits or filing paperwork (and usually fees) with your town, county or state.  You may also want to legally form a legal entity such as an LLC (Limited Liability Corporation). This will help protect you in the event of any lawsuit. If you have partners, a legal entity is a really good idea along with documentation and agreements on how the business will function, who has what stake and what you’ll do in the event that the company dissolves or someone wants to leave or be added.

To get ready, you might want to take a look at our discussion on different kinds of companies that you can start.  This will help prepare you for discussions with your accountant and lawyer.

Insurance

You will want to ensure yourself and your company in the event of any issues and to ensure that if someone sues you, you are protected.

Bank Accounts

It’s a good idea to separate your company finances from your personal finances. This not only makes tracking much easier, it also helps to keep your company legally separate if you form a separate entity.  In the event of a lawsuit or other problem, you can run into real problems if someone is able to “pierce the corporate veil” meaning that they can legally show that you don’t treat your company and personal finances and business separately. If they can do this, then they can go after both your company and you personally. That’s a bad spot to be in.

Marketing, Web Site, etc

This is just to get you started but you want to start thinking about who your customers are, what you can offer them and how you can reach them. No business is any good without customers (ideally the paying kind). If you don’t know how to do this sort of work, you can often hire it out places like www.upwork.com and www.fiverr.com

if you want to try doing it yourself,  it is not all that difficult to get started.   You can start by buying yourself a self hosting package at a place like BlueHost, Wix or any number of other hosting companies. Using a system like WordPress or even systems and some of these companies, you can build your own website through instructions at the hosting company or through instructions you find online. Have fun with it.

There is obviously a lot more to starting a business. Hopefully, this gets you started in the questions you need to start asking and the help you need to look for.
Note: Some of the links above may be affiliate links.  This provides us with a small commission if you choose to do business there.  We only use affiliations with companies with whom we have done business or know trusted sources that have done business there.