If you’re looking to start a business, then working with drones might be a venture to consider. After all, drone sales are expected to surpass $12 million in 2021. These unmanned aerial vehicles are attracting more consumers with their striking features, including high-quality cameras that capture pictures and video, built-in GPS, auto-pilot functions, flight speeds exceeding 50 miles per hour, Bluetooth capability, and more.
Demand for drones is increasing, making them more accessible to consumers. You can belong to a small but growing group of people with the knowledge to operate an innovative piece of technology. If you’re willing to do some research and create a plan, you can monetize your drone expertise.
Here are some drone business ideas to inspire your next business opportunity.
Before drones, you’d need to rent a helicopter to capture a bird’s eye view of the landscape with your camera. With drones, you can skip the expensive helicopter ride and snap a detailed picture—all with your feet planted safely on the ground.
But you don’t need to limit your photo subjects to lush landscapes. With drone-enabled photography, you can also capture photos of:
Footage for film and video
Don’t limit your drone to capturing single moments. You can also create awe-inspiring videos from your eye in the sky. If you create videos for businesses, you can use your drone to capture stunning visuals that will leave their viewers breathless.
3. Wedding videography and photography
Weddings deserve their own section because couples will shell out the money for amazing shots. On wedding photography alone, couples spend $2,000 on average. After all, this is a moment in their lives they want to preserve forever.
If you’re a wedding photographer, consider adding a drone to your toolkit. Drones lend a unique selling point to your business that differentiates you from your competition. With drones, you can snap amazing photos and videos from exciting angles that will impress your clients.
4. Building inspections
Inspecting a building poses several safety hazards, especially if you’re working with a 2,000-foot-tall skyscraper. If you own a building inspection business, this naturally puts you and your employees at risk of injury.
Reduce that risk by using drones to help with your inspection. You can train your employees to operate drones and how to detect issues through their high-quality cameras This can be helpful when you need to access large or difficult-to-access structures, like:
5. Search and rescue
Imagine somebody getting lost in a forest during the evening. Sending a search party with only flashlights to scout the area can be time-consuming. This method also exposes the search parties to certain risks while traversing in the dark.
A drone can be a more efficient solution for searching and rescuing lost parties. Some drone models have infrared and night-vision cameras, making it easier to track the lost party using their heat emissions.
You can even program a drone to deliver emergency supplies and a message to sit tight because help is on the way.
6. Security surveillance
Home security solutions sales generated $4.69 billion in 2017. This figure indicates that there is a market that you can tap into: People who want to secure their homes and their businesses. With the rise of smart home technology, you might notice more homes equipped with cameras outside their homes or even built into their doorbells.
Drones add another layer of security to your home or business. Drones with night-vision cameras create a live feed you can view either during the day or evening. You can also set drones to hover closer to the ground, enabling it to capture a mugshot during an intrusion or burglary.
7. Agricultural surveys
Drones can be an exciting way to merge technology with agriculture. Save time that would be spent wading through the fields and use drones to survey crops from the sky. You can equip your drones with sensors that allow you to study soil hydration, its composition, and any invasions from pests and fungi. Moreover, drones make it possible to survey agriculture on a monthly or even daily basis.
8. Underwater inspections
Drones aren’t limited to just an eye in the sky. Drones also enable vision in the depths of the oceans. With submersible drones, you can dive 100 meters deep and see your aquatic surroundings with lighting and high-resolution images.
Companies like So Far Ocean, sell submersible drones for a spectrum of uses, both commercial and recreational.
This technology allows you to:
Monitor aquatic ecosystems
Collect data in remote ocean locations
Inspect underwater infrastructure, like tanks and pipes
Scout potential sites for recreational divers
Measure wave and wind conditions
Scout ahead for rich fishing sites
9. Marine photography
Many consumers link drones with gorgeous landscape photography. But the last business idea showed how drones can both fly in the sky and dive into the ocean. Imagine capturing the beauty of an aquatic landscape with your drone. Drone photography can take amazing photos and videos of vibrant coral reefs or mysterious seaweed forests.
If you’re a photographer looking for a new niche to tap into, then marine photography with drones might be your next calling.
10. Mapping and surveying
Instead of mapping an area on foot, land surveyors can use drones to collect data from the air. Drones equipped with GPS can produce three-dimensional cartographic visuals. This can cut the time and costs of creating maps and land surveys. If this is a business idea that sounds interesting, you can use this technology to branch out into:
11. Create an online drone course
You can find an online course for nearly anything. If you want to learn how to write a business plan or even how to grow succulents, you’ll definitely find an online course to teach you.
With the pool of drone owners growing, you’ll also find larger groups of drone beginners. You can create an online course that teaches those beginners how to operate their drones. Drone education is a great way to monetize your own drone expertise.
This is a great business idea where you can make money without a huge time investment. After you build the course, you set up automatic systems that convert leads, collect payment, and direct customers through your course.
12. Drone repairs
Despite their many capabilities, drones are still fragile tools prone to damage or failure. Despite the prices decreasing, drones are still expensive. Most consumers would rather repair an existing drone than shell out the money and buy a new one off the shelf.
Whether broken from a collision or malfunctioning from weather exposure, drone owners need some way to repair it. Opening a drone repair shop can fulfill this market need. This business idea can be attractive to people who love building things and understanding how they work.
13. Custom activations for events
Companies like Drone Cast are using their drones to create highlight moments for their clients’ events. Imagine attending a party and seeing a drone fly in with bags of party favors. Or maybe you’re hosting a party and you schedule for a drone to deliver bottles of wine.
If you’re an event planner or own a venue, you can use drone delivers as a unique selling point to attract new customers.
14. Drone banner advertising
If drones can carry bottles and party favors, why not use them to create ad space?
On the ground, your vision is flooded with highway billboards and store signs. But if you look up, you’ll see mostly sky and clouds. You can use a drone to carry a banner for advertising materials with the sky as a backdrop.
15. Emergency situations
During emergencies, like wildfires or earthquakes, drones can be operated by our first responders to mitigate the risk they’re exposed to. Sending a drone in advance to an emergency site can help our policemen and firemen assess the situation before rushing in to respond.
For reporters, it can often be too hazardous to report directly on-site. While the drone collects live footage to fill in the visuals, reporters can safely report the facts from a distance. Overall, drones fulfill several roles that would otherwise risk human lives.
16. Drone leasing business
If you have the capital or intend to apply for a business loan, you can purchase several drones to rent out. Many people don’t want to burden themselves with the financial investment of buying, maintaining, and repairing a drone. Some only want to use drones for a certain project or event and then return it. You might find that simply owning and leasing drones can be a lucrative business opportunity.
Drone tips for commercial use
Of course, using drones for business purposes—and not just for fun—means you need to take some extra steps to insure your investment. Here are some considerations to keep in mind.
Consider drone insurance
Drones are becoming more affordable as demand increases, but the average cost of a drone is roughly $280. This equipment can still be a financial investment for some. It might be worth purchasing insurance. Drones are fragile tools if not cared for responsibly and you want to ensure that you’re covered when your drone fails or breaks.
Moreover, drones expose you to some liability issues. If your drone runs into a piece of property or inflicts accidental injury on a person, you open yourself to potential lawsuits. Make sure that you’re protected during these unfortunate situations.
If you’re operating a drone commercially, you must register for the certain permits before opening your business. Make sure that you do your research and that you’re complying with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
For example, if you’re operating a drone less than 55 pounds, you must become an FAA-certified drone pilot and register your drone with the FAA.
The bottom line
The growing demand for drones marks an exciting milestone in this age of technology. Drones are innovating familiar industries, like photography, inspections, and security. As technology evolves and industries shift, so too must businesses. Learning how to operate drones and how to monetize that skill is a new yet exciting territory to explore.
But it may be beneficial to start your drone business sooner rather than later. With lower prices, drones are more accessible but the number of drone owners hasn’t exploded yet. Take advantage of this emerging market by establishing yourself early.
This article originally appeared on JustBusiness, a subsidiary of NerdWallet.