10 Things Commercial Drone Operators Can Do During the Coronavirus Lockdown

The drone industry has never been an easy ride, but who could’ve imagined we’d not only be grounded but completely housebound in 2020!

At Drone Safe Register we were looking forward to a bumper year and there were signs of increasing enquiries, major accounts coming onboard and an upturn an interest across industries. And then Boom! The Coronavirus crisis hits and the world stops turning.

On the positive, drone pilots are a resilient bunch. We have to be to get through the process of approval, keep up with ever-changing legislation, deal with negative press and actually turn what we love to do into a money making enterprise. The coming months will be a challenge in ways we may not even realise yet, but we have to adopt the mindset that this will pass and that we can come out the other end. Who knows, the post-Covid world may even have more opportunities for drone operators? In the meantime here are ten things you can do in the lockdown.

1,Take the opportunity to review your business and think about strategy. If you run a small business you may be too busy with day to day operations to actually step back and think about what’s working and what isn’t. What other opportunities are there for local drone work? Could you partner with other local businesses for regular work – for example roofing companies or surveyors? If all your work is in one industry sector could you move into others?

2, Audit your equipment. Being stuck at base is a great time to check over your drones and other kit and review what you have. If you’ve upgraded over the years there may be older drones or kit you could sell to raise some money and clear storage space. Do you have everything you need to carry out the type of work you want to? It may not be the time to invest a lot of money but would an extra battery or upgrading your editing software improve the services you can offer?

3, Check your website. Like it or not, a website is key in the digital age. As well as being a potential source of enquiries and business it’s a way of showcasing your work and proving your credibility. Even if an enquiry comes from another source, such as a personal recommendation, most people will expect to find a website when they search for you.

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Is the content on your website up to date and does it show the best examples of your work? Try to view it as someone visiting for the first time and ask yourself if it truly reflects your business and what you offer. Include brief case studies if you have them to explain the real benefits of things like drone roof surveys. Are the contact details up to date?

4, Sharpen your skills. Getting outside to fly your drone may not be possible during the lockdown, but there are other related skills you can sharpen or learn at this time. Photo and video editing may be something you can brush up. There are hundreds of tutorials on YouTube for Photoshop, Final Cut Pro and other software packages. Is there something you’ve always wanted to master but haven’t had the time? For example, now could be the time to learn new drone timelapse techniques.

5, Develop social media marketing. A website is the core of your online presence, but you should also have social media accounts. Instagram is a great place to show the world your best aerial images and generate a following. It may not lead directly to work, but it will raise your profile and it’s another platform to showcase your portfolio. Links to your website from social media accounts like Instagram are great for site ranking and SEO. If you’re not on LinkedIn, now it the time to sign up and develop your profile. It’s the perfect platform for building B2B relationships and you can connect to other professional drone operators and business that may benefit from your services.

6, Check your supplier contracts. A great way to reduce your outgoings is to review what you’re paying for things like mobile phone and broadband contracts. There are comparison sites that make this very easy. You can do the same for electricity suppliers and other regular costs, and the savings can be substantial.

7, Write a business plan. Drafting a business plan will help to give you some direction once the lockdown is over. There are some great templates available free of charge on the internet including on gov.uk. Think in terms of short, medium and long term objectives. Putting this down on paper helps to develop focus and identify the priorities for your business. A simple financial plan should be included, and this can help you to manage cashflow.

8, Adapt to video meetings and communication. One of the positives to come out of the Coronavirus crisis is that companies will increasingly use video conferencing rather than having face to face meetings. The technology has been around for years of course, but we’re now being forced to use it as the best option and that’s likely to continue. Zoom is one the most effective platforms for video meetings, but Teams and other solutions are also popular. Get used to the technology now and you’ll put yourself ahead of the game.

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9, Learn how to live stream from your drone. Being able to offer live streaming to clients is a powerful way to use drone technology. An insurance Los Adjuster wanting to see storm damage to a roof is a great example. The Adjuster can see in real time and direct you to fly the drone and point the camera at exactly what he wants to see. Many potential clients won’t even know this is possible, so mention it as an offer once you’ve learnt live stream.

10,Upload stock to the DSR website. If you’ve been flying drones for some time you probably have hundreds of great images and clips in storage. This could literally be money in the bank of you sort it and upload to the DST stock footage page. As well as being a potential way to make money during the lockdown, stock sales could provide a flow of income for years to come. There could be a sharp increase in demand for stock footage as cameramen and photographers are confined to base.

At DSR we are looking at a range of initiatives to help members over the coming months. Current ideas include business resilience, sharpening skills and managing mental wellbeing during these challenging times.

We’re also inviting ideas from members on other ways we can help, so please get in touch if there’s something you’d like to see.

Keep Safe!

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About the Author: DSR Journalist

Harrison Green

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