While photography and video remain the bread and butter for much of the drone industry, a growing number of companies are shifting focus to specialized missions that require specific training.
PrecisionHawk is among these. CEO Michael Chasen announced the acquisition of two firms that specialize in utility and infrastructure inspection using drones on Sept. 5 during the InterDrone conference in Las Vegas. The North Carolina firm previously acquired Droners.io, one of the world’s largest networks of drone pilots who fly on demand.
“We’ll be able to provide them with the software that they need not only to help capture all of the information that the energy companies and utility companies require, but then take that and turn it into actionable business intelligence that they can use,” Chasen said. “So what that means is, I think we’re going to see a big uptick in pilots both at PrecisionHawk and through Droners.io getting more jobs in energy, and more jobs for utility companies.”
Drone industry analyst Colin Snow of Skylogic Research said that based on his firm’s annual surveys, photography and video remain the most common uses of unmanned aircraft by a wide margin, though precision mapping and infrastructure inspection are growing. The latter accounts for perhaps 20 percent of the overall commercial drone services market. And while the dominant use case for drones may be basic image capture, “our surveys tell us that you’re not going to make too much money doing that,” Snow said.
The increasingly specialized nature of drone work requires mission-specific knowledge and training, and Chasen said PrecisionHawk will continue offering that training to pilots in the Droners.io network. Snow said the American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing offers certification opportunities for remote pilots that will become increasingly important as the industry matures.
For new pilots seeking to earn dollars with their drones, “I think the sweet spot’s in engineering,” Snow said, referring broadly to architecture, engineering, and construction applications. “I think it’s very specific work and requires some very specific certifications.”
PrecisionHawk forged an exclusive drone pilot network agreement with AOPA in August that will soon offer many benefits to members. Droners.io and AOPA membership roster links will be finalized in October, allowing members to receive preferential access to the kind of enterprise inspection jobs that PrecisionHawk is now in better position to serve.