Should You Outsource Your Drone Needs

Should you outsource your drone needs?

You’re not sure whether you should buy a drone and do it in-house or whether you should outsource the work to a drone services company?

You know that you can work more safely and cost-effectively by using drones but don’t know how to go about it?

Drones aren’t just for Christmas, they are a seriously sophisticated tool for getting work done quickly and safely but you know that already.

Have a look at some of the other posts on this site if you aren’t already sure how drones can help make your business safer and more profitable.

This article will lay out the pros and cons of each approach to help you decide which is best for your situation.

This article is going to give you the information you need to be able to make an informed decision about how you go about introducing drones into your business.

We’re not going to talk here about which drones are best for you, we’ll do that in another post or you can get in touch to have a chat about what would suit your needs best. If after reading this you think buying your own drone is the right thing for your business we will give as much advice as you need. If you want to skip the reading you can go straight to the bottom of the post and have a look. at the table of costs. Remember though that your decision needs to take into account more than just financial costs. The best way forward may be to outsource until you get a feel for what would be required to run your own drone programme. 


The first thing most business owners think about is cost. Cost is, of course, an important driver in making business decisions. We’ll discuss costs first and then address some other things you need to consider.  

For illustration purposes, we will suppose that you want to use a drone to carry out building inspection work on a construction site. You want to be able to document the progress on a monthly basis to show to stakeholders and to monitor health and safety on the site.

You may well want to do it more often than that but I am using it for illustration purposes because the latest job we quoted for was for a monthly flight over a road construction site. 

Is it going to be more cost effective to do the drone work in-house or to outsource it?

To do it in-house you’re going to need a drone. We will assume that you just need a standard professional drone with a high definition camera. A DJI Phantom 4 Pro is probably going to do you.

The typical costs of a drone suitable for the purpose will be around £2000.

That will get you a Phantom 4 pro with a couple of extra batteries and a case to keep it in. If you want to do anything more specialised then you will start spending lots more. A 30 times zoom camera, for example, will cost £8000 and you’ll need a £8000 drone to hang it on!

Additional Equipment

You are also going to need some other kit some of which you may already have, things like cones to keep people out of the take-off and landing area, two-way radios for the pilot to be able to communicate with the observers (more about the observers later) and perhaps PPE.

If you budget another £200-300 for the extra stuff you should be about right.

drone warning sign

The drone, batteries and all the rest of the stuff will need looking after and won’t last forever so you will need to budget for replacing it at some point. 

You’re also going to need someone to operate it.

You may have read about autonomous drones but in the UK it’s going to be very difficult to get permission from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to fly one of those!  

You’ll need a pilot.

If you’re going to do an inspection once a month perhaps one of your team can do it as another part of their job.

The size of the site will dictate how much time a job will take so you’ll have to find the time in that person’s schedule.

No matter what size your site it’s going to take at least an hour to get the kit, set it up, do a quick flight and put the kit away again. You will also have to complete a dynamic site survey and risk assessment as well as the pre and post flight checks so an hour really is the minimum amount of time.


Someone will have to charge the batteries, complete the paperwork (more on that later) and look after the equipment. That’s probably another hour per flight. So a half-hour flight has now taken two hours or longer. Multiply that by an hourly rate and that will give you an idea of your manpower costs.

You may also need to allocate an observer to assist the pilot during the setup and conduct of the flight.

The observer’s job is to keep an eye out for hazards while the pilot is concentrating on flying the drone. Things like people coming close etc. Now you will have to train the pilot. That’s going to cost around £1000 for him or her to be certified competent. You will need to add to that the cost of releasing him or her for a 4 or 5-day course, accommodation and travel costs perhaps and any specialist training that may be required.

Let’s add it up.

So, to put a figure on it for you we are looking at the costs of equipment and for simplicities sake, we will say it lasts for 2 years before you need to replace it.  So the cost of equipment per flight will be something like £95 if flying monthly or about £22 if you fly weekly, though replacement costs may be higher if you fly weekly.

The cost per flight of the pilot will be whatever he or she gets paid. Taking an average of £37,000 for a construction site supervisor that would be around £40-50 per flight plus 3 days training per year divided by 12 to give you a monthly figure of £35.

Throw in an observer for the 30-minute flight and we have a grand total of around £175 per flight if flying monthly and £105 per flight if flying weekly. This difference is because the equipment costs remain much the same no matter how many times you fly. I won’t bother adding in battery replacement and charging costs or replacing propellors etc.

We also need to consider legislation and risk.  

If you are only flying the drone for your own business purposes and are not selling the data/footage/images then you are not required to have a Permission for Commercial Operations (PfCO) from the CAA.

However, in order to comply with regulations, you will have to operate the drone safely and best practice would be to compile an operations manual in exactly the same way as a PfCO holder would.

To make sure the manual is fit for purpose and will stand up to scrutiny should an accident occur it would be wise to submit it to the CAA as an application for a PfCO. 

Production of the manual will take some effort and time but the cost of the PfCO is only £173 in the first year and £130 for annual renewal, though these prices will change in April 2018. Just when you thought that was it covered, you are going to need some insurance.

Picture by ASM Ireland


You won’t be able to get insurance if you don’t have a PfCO and if you are going to get a PfCO you will need insurance. I know it sounds like a catch 22 situation but it works out OK. 

We already have plenty of insurance‘ I hear you cry but the problem is that for flying drones it must comply with EC Regulation EC 785/2004 and I am pretty sure that the insurance you have doesn’t.

Depending on which drone you fly and what equipment you have for it, insurance can cost anywhere from £400 and up. If you are just flying one drone and associated equipment £400 should cover it. Insurance and PfCO then will add around £50 to your monthly flight making it at least £225.  

So that just about covers the cost of doing-it-yourself with a standard professional drone. If you need to use specialist equipment it will be much more than that.

What about getting someone in to do it for you?

Costs will obviously vary between operators but so we are comparing like with like Bird’s Eye Drones would be able to do the same monthly flight and provide you with video and photographs for £165. So if you are flying weekly it would be cheaper to do it yourself but more cost effective to hire someone in to do it monthly.  Cost isn’t the only consideration though. 

Probably most importantly we will take away work and the risk associated with flying drones.

What else does contracting out give you?

  • It gives you a qualified, insured, licenced and experienced operator who is flying drones for a living and not just once in a while.

  • That means you have a much lower risk of an accident happening on your site and it if it does happen, the drone service provider is responsible.

  • We can use more expensive specialist equipment without you needing to make any investment in it. 

  • You won’t have to produce operations manuals, keep your PfCO up to date, provide insurance, look after the equipment or any of the things previously mentioned.

  • We can add value by providing you with data such as photogrammetry and 3d models etc, though this would cost more of course.

  • You hire a turnkey solution and get your data/images/footage provided in a format you can use to get on with your main job.


By now you should have an idea of whether you should outsource or keep your drone services in-house.

If you still need some more information to help you decide please get in touch with us. We will give you honest advice to help you decide.

We don’t sell drones, only drone services so we will give you impartial information to help you decide the best drone for your needs.

If you have decided that offsetting the risk to someone else is the way forward just get in touch and we can discuss your needs.

You will find other articles to help you understand just how much drones can do for your business in our blogs.

Why Should Estate Agents Use Aerial Video and Photographs?

Estate Agents – Why Use Aerial Video & Photographs?

We found this article on a US website and thought it would be good to share here so that estate agents in the UK could benefit from the article too.  

I haven’t edited it at all so you may have to translate from American to English in places.

You can read the original by clicking on the underlined link at the top of the article. It’s full of good information from how drone footage helps sell properties to how you could do it yourself.  

If you would rather not go through all of the training, licensing, capital costs and insurance etc then there are tips on how to choose someone to do it for you.

For FAA read Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in the UK. The rules are a bit different in the UK so you should read my blog about this which you will be able to find here when I have written it!  If you can’t wait just drop me an email or give me a call.

If you would like to discuss using drone video and photographs in your property marketing just get in touch. 

Drone Video: What You Need to Know in 2017

January 31st, 2017

This guest blog post was written by Shaun Daggett, an FAA licensed UAS pilot based in Colorado Springs, CO.Everywhere you turn these days, drone video is a hot topic. You see drone video footage in just about everything you watch online and on TV, and marketers are now enthusiastically adopting drone video as a big part of their digital marketing campaigns. This is because we can’t stop watching when we see things from an aerial perspective.But marketing videos are just one high profile use of this emerging technology. Most people scoffed when Amazon said it would one day use drones to deliver orders, and many thought this would never happen, but ABC News recently reported that Amazon has completed its very first “Prime Air” delivery via drone.The business of drones is expected to be a multi-billion dollar industry in the next few years, and it is starting to have a major impact in some key business sectors.drone video, aerial video, drone footage, real estate video

Drone Video in Real Estate

The real estate industry is near the top of that list when it comes to businesses poised to take advantage of this emerging technology.John Tidwell, founder of DronesX, said in an interview with CMO Online “drones offer a different perspective that captures people’s attention. They allow marketers to be more creative and innovative by using angles and shots that weren’t previously practical–often at a much lower cost.”drone video, real estate video, real estate marketing, video marketing, aerial video

Drone video captivates us immediately, making it highly effective for marketers. Our minds are not accustomed to seeing images from these perspectives, so when we see drone video footage, it stops us dead in our tracks – and we watch.This undeniable fact is why marketers are so drawn to drone footage. And Realtors may be in the best position in 2017 to take advantage of the new FAA rules to sell more listing and sell them faster by using drone videos.real estate video, drone video, aerial video, drone footage, real estate listings, marketing

Example: Drone Video Helps Sell a Listing in 1 Hour

Case in point: I recently had Rick, one of my clients, use a drone video to sell a listing within just 1 hour of the first showing.Here’s what he did: As you can see from the image below, there was nothing special about this listing. As a matter of fact, it is exceedingly ordinary.drone video, aerial footage, creative video, real estate video

But this house had a hidden secret, and Rick knew if he could get buyers past this image, he could overcome the less than stellar curb appeal. The hidden secret was that the house has an amazing back yard, and across the street were an elementary school and a big, beautiful city park.He put the listing in the MLS system with only one image, and a link to the drone video below (you can’t upload video to the MLS system just yet, but you can put a link).You can see that the drone video highlighted these hidden features. And by not putting additional images in the MLS system, he got potential buyers to see the drone video first.He made the listing visible in the MLS system on a Friday evening, letting other agents know it would not be officially listed until Sunday at 2PM. More than 180 agents sent this listing to their buyers by noon the next day. And by Sunday, 18 people expressed interest in the property. Rick scheduled the first showing for 2pm Sunday and by 3pm, he had an acceptable offer and the house was sold.Here is the drone video he posted:As you can see, drone footage of an ordinary home can make it look extraordinary, and this is why so many real estate agents are moving in this direction.Ricks results are not very typical; in all fairness, I have never had any other clients sell a house in 1 hour with a video I shot for them. But my clients often share with me that the drone videos have a significant impact on how much interest they receive in a listing.Even though this example isn’t typical, it clearly illustrates the potential drone video has to show off a listing in a way still images just can’t.

Drone Video: You Can Now Do It For Yourself

One of the amazing things that happened when the FAA revised the drone laws in the fall of 2016 was they allowed anyone over the age of 16 to legally operate a drone for commercial purposes.To legally take drone footage for business use, you have to posses an FAA UAS Pilots License under Part 107 of the new rules, but there are no restrictions as to who can get this new License. Prior to this new Part 107 rule, you would have needed a “Section 333 Waiver” – and that was only available to existing licensed pilots (and took 6 to 12 months to get).drone video, real estate marketing, real estate video, aerial footage, aerial videoWithout getting too deep into the (super boring) regulations, this new Part 107 rule from the FAA replaces the Section 333 Waiver and makes it possible for anyone over the age of 16 to legally fly a drone for commercial purposes. The only caveat is that you must take an Airman Knowledge Test at an approved testing facility, and submit your test results to the FAA and apply for your Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Pilots License.

Once you have completed that important step, you are legal to fly!If you’re thinking about getting your UAS Pilots License and shooting your own videos, here 5 helpful tips for creating compelling listing videos:

1. Practice, Practice, Practice
As a UAS Pilot myself I have flown many missions, and real estate flights are one of the most challenging. This is because it’s what I consider “tight flying” with several obstacles and hazards. I highly recommend you spend many hours practicing before you fly over a property that you don’t own.

2. Keep Your Videos Under 1 Minute
When you consider the millions of dollars that large, multinational corporations spend to keep your attention for 30 seconds during a TV commercial, it’s evident that it’s hard to hold peoples attention for any length of time. So be sure you don’t create videos that exceed our ever-shortening attention spans.

3. Shoot In Lower Resolution
Drones of today can shoot in 4K “Ultra High Def” and those files are huge. If you aren’t going to use your videos in a TV commercial or an IMAX movie, there’s no need to shoot higher than 2.7K. You will be restricted on the file size of the video you upload to most sites as well, so here is no need to create ultra high def videos.

4. License Music To Go With Your Video
If you watch the video above with the volume turned down, you will immediately understand this tip. But you can’t just use your favorite Garth Brooks music, you need to use royalty free music (search YouTube, there is a lot out there) or license it from a reputable source.

5. Follow the Rules
Be sure that you’re aware of, understand, and follow every federal, state, and city drone regulation. Failure to do so can put the general public at considerable risk and/or you could face some stiff fines from the FAA or local authorities.Yes, drones are very affordable these days – and the advances in their technology make flying them a breeze. But before you rush out and buy one, consider the challenges they come with, as well. Sometimes it can be easier and more efficient to hire a pro to shoot and edit drone video for you.drone video, video footage, real estate video, real estate listing, real estate marketing

Drone Video: Considering Hiring a Pilot

High-quality drones are more accessible than ever before, and it seems as though it would be easy to get one and shoot your own videos, but getting a UAS Pilots License, learning to fly, editing videos, getting insurance and so on, may not be for you. Hiring a professional drone service may be the best option.

If you prefer to hire a drone pilot to create videos for you, here are a few tips to help you find the right drone pilot for the job.My first bit of advice is to stay away from Craigslist when looking for a pro. There are so many people who got a drone for Christmas and think they can simply go out and shoot videos for realtors and make an extra buck, but 99% are not experienced, not properly licensed or insured in any way.

This can get you, your client and your broker in hot water with the FAA or even worse if an accident happens. (And accidents do happen.)Hiring a drone service is pretty straightforward, but here are a few quick tips to help you make sure you hire the right person for the job.

8 Tips for Hiring a Drone Service

1. Google search your area for reputable drone companies – stay off Craigslist.
2. Only hire an FAA UAS Licensed Pilot, and ask to see their Pilot’s License (they issue an actual card that looks similar to a drivers license).
3. Ask for proof of specific drone insurance coverage, not just general liability coverage.
4. Ask for a reference from other agents in your area.
5. Ask to see several samples of their work.
6. Be sure they specialize in real estate videos (not just still images).
7. Speak to more than one company and ask for firm quotes.
8. Ask them to check the property address to verify it isn’t in restricted air space before you have them come out to a listing.

There are a lot of very complicated regulations when it comes to the FAA and drones, and by hiring a licensed drone pilot you can expect he/she will know every single one – and fly in accordance.Licensing and insurance are the two most important factors to check when hiring anyone to shoot drone videos for you, but flying skills are also very important.You want your video to look great, so be sure the pilot you hire has some creative skills as well.

In Conclusion

Drone videos for real estate listings will become increasingly common in 2017 and in the years to come. Now is the perfect time to investigate using them for your business and getting ahead of the curve.The new FAA Part 107 rules finally allow real estate agents and brokers the ability to legally use drones to market their listings, and I highly recommend you take advantage of this new opportunity!The captivating imagery that one is able to create with drones can become a powerful tool to get your listings noticed in a crowded market, and sell it faster than you ever imagined.

A Big BombBomb Thank You to Shaun!

Thanks to Shaun Daggett for sharing these tips and insights! He’s an FAA UAS Licensed Pilot as well as a Certified Digital Marketing Professional at The Pikes Peak Guy Drone Services based in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Example Drone Video Footage

Here are 3 drone video examples by Shaun.Blackforest from Shaun Daggett on Vimeo555 Pembrook High Res from Shaun Daggett on VimeoExample of Work from Shaun Daggett on Vimeo