Thinking about offering drones in your equipment rental business?

You might want to think again, according to professional drone pilots and serious enthusiasts.

After hundreds of phone calls over the last year with community members, as well as his personal experience diving into this industry back in 2014, Alan Perlman and others at the websitre, offers some insight,

Steve Bennett, weblog moderator  shares his thoughts about adding drones into your rental fleet: “It might make sense, however, due to the constant change of drone lineup in the sector, it might be tough to make rental of drones a viable part of the business. Things to consider is that you might need multiple types of drones, multiple sensor attachments (cameras), tablet displays, remote controls, multiple batteries and more," Bennett says. 

Another consideration is making sure renters have the correct licensing and experience, Bennett adds. "When I go to rent a car, they require a valid driver license. You might consider requiring a valid Part 107 pilot license in addition to a deposit, similar to renting camera gear or simply offer insurance on the spot to cover the sum of equipment being checked out.”

Five important points
Alan Perlman, founder of UAV Coach and Drone Pilot Ground School pulled together five important considerations before jumping into drones.

1. Flying drones is a more expensive profession than you think.
“I talk to a lot of drone-preneurs. People who want to start a drone business. Most people I speak to underestimate all the costs that go into doing this the right way. It's not just the aircraft. It is the cost of extra batteries. A travel case. Liability insurance. SD cards. Post-processing software like Lightroom or Final Cut Pro X. These costs add up.  I like to tell folks that, all-in, you should budget around $10,000 to successfully launch an aerial services company, assuming you already know how to fly,” he says.

2. Flying drones takes more time to train than you think.
“The battery life of multirotors in the sub-$150 range is only about 5 to 10 minutes and if you're flying a more advanced drone, it's not just the flight orientation you need to master, it's learning about your various flight settings, calibrations, fail-safes, and more.

“Too many people skip the user manual. Too many people fly in riskier environments without properly taking the time to train. If you're devoting yourself to this industry, safety needs to be a top concern. It takes a while to train to the level you need to reach to be considered a smart, safe, drone pilot.”

3. Flying drones is addictive.
“These things are SO MUCH FUN to fly. ’Nuff said.”

4. Flying drones attracts attention from the public.
“This is one of the first things that caught me off-guard when I started practicing multirotor flight outdoors,” says Perlman. Complete strangers would swarm in with their questions.

  • How much does that drone cost?
  • What's the battery life and range like?
  • Is it legal to fly here?
  • Is your drone registered with the FAA? How does that work?
  • Do you do this for money? How much do you charge?

“While I was a little nervous at first and tried not to do too much talking mid-flight, particularly if I was in the process of taking off or landing, I was happy to chat with folks and to spread the drone love where I could. Not too many negative encounters. Mostly curious and inspired folks wanting to learn more. Just know that when you're flying, people are going to come up to you. Be prepared to educate, because the questions will come!”

5. Start small, build confidence, then upgrade.
“First-time automobile drivers likely aren't going to get behind the wheel of a Lamborghini when they're learning how to practice highway driving or parallel parking. So why do you think that you should learn to fly on a drone that costs more than $1000? Too many folks jump the gun and head straight for prosumer or professional models from companies like DJI, Yuneec, and 3DR.

“My advice? Start small, with one of these training drones. Buy a few extra batteries, propeller guards and spend a dozen or so hours on the sticks, learning how to master multirotor orientation, how to calibrate, how to trim and other important drone functions.

Perlman recommends gaining a foundational knowledge of manual multirotor flight, then upgrade to a more advanced system once you feel comfortable navigating the skies.

Final thought
Ed O’Grady, an advanced member of the blog offers this insight: “A simpler solution for all might be to simply have the rental company act as a referral service. They could have a list of local, licensed pilots who are familiar with the airspace and the local regulations along with proper insurance.  An ‘Angie's List’ for drone pilots.”