Here’s a possible scenario: having a real passion for the drone sector, you decide to make it your business. You figure out your business model, sort out your branding, and get everything ready for launch— you think.
But then all of a sudden your first day of operation is just a week away, and all your confidence has drained away. Now you’re not so sure you’re fully prepared. Have you done everything you need to do? Might you be making a huge mistake?
Ready? Let’s cover the big drone-based bases and ensure that you don’t leap into a doomed business endeavor!
We’ll sweep past the most important (and obvious things) first. You need to:
- Get a Remote Pilot Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
- To do this, you must be over 16 years of age, pass an aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center, and undergo Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) security screening.
- Register your Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) appropriately.
- Commit to following all associated rules to the letter.
Haven’t done this part? Cancel the launch!
Get Airspace Approval
You should know all about the classification(s) of the airspace in which your business will be operating, and have secured any necessary approval from the FAA. This can be extremely complicated, bringing up countless issues involving operation restrictions, so it’s vitally important that you have full permission to proceed and entirely understand what you can and can’t do.
Know the Laws
With the drone world involving matters of privacy, security, and land usage rights, to name just a few, it’s not surprising that there plenty of legal snags to learn. For instance, to begin with, you have to know that you are required to:
- Upon request, make any of your registered small UASs available to the FAA for inspection or testing.
- Keep detailed records of the aforementioned testing history.
- In the event of an accident resulting in injury or property damage over $500, report it to the FAA within 10 days.
- Pass a fresh aeronautical knowledge test every 24 months.
And that’s just the tip of a vast iceberg, because every state has slightly different drone laws, and things only get more complex when you contemplate doing business overseas. You need to know exactly what’s expected of you in every place in which you intend to conduct business.
Know the Risks
In general, you should be aware of how vulnerable your drone (or drones) are. If horrible weather (or even user error) damages your equipment, how will you recover from the setback? You have to plan for every eventuality, or else the worst-case scenario will threaten to sink your entire business.
Prepare a Pre-Flight Checklist
As part of your certification, you are required to conduct a preflight inspection every time you use your drone to make sure it’s fully safe for operation, including specific aircraft and control station system checks. Get a comprehensive routine sorted out straight away so you don’t have to waste time figuring it out while you’re working on a project!
Prepare to Log Everything
You’ll need to keep copious notes on all your business activities, not just for communicating with your clients but also to protect you in the event of legal action. Take down times, locations, client information, and all the technical data you can.
Prepare a Business Proposal
Say you happen to run into someone who seems interested in hiring your business; how do you get the ball rolling quickly? If you create a generic proposal document, you can keep copies with you, or simply have it online and give prospective clients the link.
A template-led online proposal system like that of Proposeful could be just what you need to scale up to meet demand over time. Put together a branded piece and have clients sign over email for a slick, professional impression.
Prepare a Non-Disclosure Agreement
Since drone businesses often end up working on large and/or somewhat-secretive projects in locations that aren’t always kept accessible to everyone, having to sign an NDA will likely be a common thing, so it’s sensible to be prepared and take blank copies with you when you head to meet a client.
This is really for saving time more than anything, because you don’t want to end up in a situation where you can’t carry on without a signed NDA but are forced to wait to secure one.
Build Your Basic Branding
You can get by using only word-of-mouth recommendations, but there’s absolutely no reason to limit how potential customers can find you. At a minimum, you need a website and social media profiles to showcase your photos and footage. Since you’re a week from launch, you should have these things set up, but in the unlikely event that you don’t, it isn’t time to panic just yet.
Provided you’ve got the legal matter sorted, it’s entirely possible to throw together a surprisingly-decent ecommerce website very quickly. Shopify is a great choice for building a store for drone footage because it now allows direct ecommerce links in Instagram, meaning you can show off your work on social media and let people go straight to booking you.
Prepare an Explanatory Handout
When you’re out and about running your business, you’re likely to come across people who don’t really understand how drone businesses work, and suspect you of doing something untoward like spying on individuals or organizations.
To mitigate the disruption of having to explain what you’re doing, it’s best to have some kind of document that you can offer to quickly summarize for them how your business works and confirm that everything is above board.
So there you have it: a checklist to follow when your business launch date looms and the fear of being unprepared starts to hit you! Good luck!