Should You Use Drone as a Service or Start an In-House UAV Program?
Choosing between a Drones-as-a-Service (DaaS) provider and starting your own program
Many organizations benefit from utilizing UAV technology.
In fact, drones have established themselves as essential tools in numerous industries. Construction, real estate, agriculture, oil & gas, education, and many other sectors are seeing decreased safety incidents, lowered costs, and enhanced efficiencies.
One of the first questions you might have while investigating how drones can improve your operation is: Should we hire a drone service provider or create an in-house program.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both options. But, before exploring these points, there are a few considerations to discuss.
You’ll need to start with identifying your specific needs to determine which option works best for you.
What to Consider
First, how do you plan to use drones?
This is most crucial consideration. Will the UAV primarily be used for aerial photography, or for more complex tasks such as three-dimensional modeling as an extension of Geographic Information Systems (GIS)?
While some organizations have relatively simple drone needs, you may require sophisticated data collection and processing. In general, more complex needs require commercial drone pilots with specialized training and equipment. Some of the more technical payloads, such as LiDAR, can cost well over $100,000.
Next, how often do you plan to use UAV services?
Depending on the task, continuous use will point you toward the right option in terms of cost and availability.
Alright, so what’s your budget?
Investing in UAV technology should not be viewed solely as a one-time purchase. Drones require regular maintenance, and they include consumable parts such as batteries and propellers.
Equipment breaks, and upgrades will be needed from time to time. Furthermore, remote pilots require time to practice to maintain their skills.
Then, you’ll have administrative costs, such as insurance. UAV insurance can be purchased at an hourly rate or on an annual basis. The type of coverage needed will significantly change the cost per policy.
Also, more complex drone operations will require specific software, along with data processing capabilities. Data processing services for applications such as GIS can run as high as several hundred dollars, per user, each month.
Finally, you’ll need to consider the personnel commitment and training required for in-house UAV operations.
In the United States, any commercial drone usage requires a Part 107 remote pilot certification from the FAA. That license must be renewed every two years.
In the UK, the new General VLOS Certificate (GVC) must be renewed every five years, and an annual operational authorization from the CAA is required.
Specialized equipment, such as thermal cameras, reaches full potential only when trained personnel interpret the collected data.
And, a healthy drone program includes extensive, continuous training, along with the adoption of standard operating procedures. In fact, those are essential to producing professional results while remaining safe & compliant.
Drones as a Service: Pros & Cons
Pros for choosing DaaS over building your own UAV program include: Ease of scalability, lower upfront cost, and incurring less liability.
The cons often associated with DaaS are: The potential for less flexibility, lower response time, and rigid pricing structures.
If your UAV needs are more complex, and you don’t have the in-house compentency necessary to achieve your goals, then DaaS is the ideal choice. Established service providers have both the expertise and equipment needed to provide whatever deliverables are desired.
Also, in most cases, data processing for significant projects is also best handled by DaaS.
And, if you’re working for a larger organization, you’ll also appreciate the reduction of potential risks from possible litigation and in dealing with human resource issues.
Creating Your Own UAS Program: Pros & Cons
When you create your own in-house UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) program, you have full control. You’ll have a team of trained remote pilots available at all times. Along with that, though, you’ll take on all of the associated responsibility & risk.
Benefits include: Maintaining full control of the operation, immediate response time, and designing the program to fit your organization’s needs perfectly.
Disadvantages to this option are: Increased exposure to risk, upfront and on-going costs of maintenance & equipment replacement, potential lack of resilience, and you’ll need to stay up-to-date on all legal requirements and regulations.
If your need for UAV technology is small in scale and complexity, but requires regular drone use, starting an in-house program is ideal. You’ll have the ability to maintain the drone program’s full control, from both an operational and fiscal perspective.
Having a drone and pilot ready to move at moment’s notice certainly has its perks.
Bringing It All Together
The decision to work with a DaaS provider or start an in-house drone program is an important one.
Whichever choice you make, it’s important to consult with UAS experts prior to getting started. Experienced consultants will help you to identify your specific needs and explore the best fit to meet those needs. You’ll also get support on creating operations manuals, safety guidelines, and regulation requirements.
No matter what you choose, Consortiq has a solution for you. From unmanned data services that include aerial surveys and mapping, to extensive global remote pilot training and drone consultancy, we’ll help you put the right plan in place.
Need expert-level support? Just compete the form below or call us at 1-855-203-8825 (Americas) or +44 (0)208 0450 322 (Europe) to get started!