Drone mapping is just one of many ways to make money with a drone. So, who uses drone mapping and how do drone maps make money?
What is Drone Mapping?
‘Drone mapping’, also known as ‘UAV surveying’ or ‘aerial surveying’, refers to the use of a drone to collect hundreds of photographs and put them together using mapping software to build a composite picture of a site.
Drones use photogrammetry, the science of making measurements from photographs, to build an accurate picture of a site or property. Businesses use drones to create 2D orthomosaic or topographic maps, or 3D models.
What is Drone Mapping Used For?
Drone mapping is used primarily for site surveying. This means that it’s useful for a wide range of businesses, included (but not limited to) engineering firms, developers, architecture practices, legal professionals, construction companies and the police.
Drone surveys are a vital tool for the planning stage of any development project. Assessing the site prior to work can help to inform important construction and architectural decisions.
When embarking on any development project, accurate data is the key to staying on budget and on time. This means that the speed and accuracy of drone surveys provide a big advantage to firms needing accurate data regularly.
How Does Drone Mapping Work?
Drone flights are typically planned in advance by the operator. This means that when a flight is carried out, the operator follows the pre-planned flight path to collect the data.
Drones capture hundreds of images in one flight. These are used to sew together an orthomosaic map of the site. The closer the drone flies to the ground, the more accurate the images will be, but the longer the flight will take. For most drone operators this is about a compromise between the desired accuracy of the output and the client’s budget.
Once the images have been captured, compatible software is used to construct the map or model. This will depend on the requirements of the client.
How Do Drone Maps Make Money?
The main way drone mapping can make money for businesses and individuals is through surveying and inspection services. Engineers and architects, builders and legal professionals all require surveying of their sites.
Becoming a Drone Pilot
The first step to making money with drone mapping is to become a qualified drone pilot. In the UK, drone operators are required to register with the Civil Aviation Authority and obtain a Flyer ID. If you intend on operating a drone commercially (i.e., as a service) you will also need to obtain an Operator ID, which often requires you to sit a theory exam.
Knowing the regulations surrounding drone operation is absolutely vital, especially if you intend on using drone mapping to make money. Penalties for breaking the rules with regards to where you fly your drone include unlimited fines or a prison sentence.
Operating drones near airfields and military bases is strictly prohibited. Depending on the site you are surveying, you may need special permission from the CAA or NATS. This is often the case if you intend on flying the drone over densely populated areas, shopping centres or other places where there may be people underneath the flight path.
Once you have the required registrations and qualifications to pilot a drone in the UK, you can begin to decide how you’ll use mapping in your business. Drone mapping is useful for site surveyors, engineers, architects and many more professions. Decide who to market your services to and start to develop a plan for how to run your service.
Estate agents also value mapping services, especially with regards to land division disputes and conveyancing processes.
Invest in Great Drone Mapping Software
If you’ll be offering a drone mapping service to your clients, you’re going to need reliable drone mapping software. This software will need to be compatible with your drone, and will need to be able to process the type of data that you collect.
Most drone mapping software can produce 2D orthomosaic maps and topographic maps. Some may even be compatible with thermal imaging software. The type of software you invest in will depend on who your clients are and what their outputs need to look like.
Do your clients value topographic information to help inform construction and architectural decisions? Perhaps they just need a 2D orthomosaic map to delineate property boundaries in a legal dispute? Perhaps it is the local council wanting thermal imaging of a building to improve its energy efficiency?
Once you have the licensing, expertise and software to carry out drone flights and produce great-quality reports for your clients, you’ll have everything you need to get started with finding clients.
The most important part of getting clients for your drone mapping business is being confident in the value it provides to them. Most of the time these interactions will be business-to-business, but occasionally individuals might also require your services.
Take the time to understand the needs of the customer, and become fluent in explaining how your services will benefit them. It might be improving the efficiency of their business operations, or employing preventative measures to protect them in the future.
Become an expert at solving problems. For example, in the construction industry one of the main advantages of drone surveys is the reducing the risk of workplace accidents. If you’re marketing your mapping services to construction businesses this should be one of the key points.
Another example would be the time-saving aspect of drone mapping. Architects and property developers are often juggling multiple projects and so they need a quick and cost-effective way to keep on top of the progress of a development. If you’re pitching your services to these businesses, you’ll need to focus on the improved efficiency of these.
If you require drone surveying in the UK, contact HeliDrone Surveys for more information about their services.