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Commercial Use of Drones: The Future of Business

Drones packages
Jack Brown
Written by Jack Brown

The idea of having a small unmanned aerial vehicle and using it for business has been around for a while, especially after Amazon announced their drone delivery service plans. But it seems that most people think that this is way too “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” and that it is too futuristic to happen in the near future. But, we think that they are wrong since the commercial use of drones already exists.

It is not like in the movies, where drones can beam you up to your “Mothership”, or help you pilot your “Starfighter”, nothing like that.

The chances are great that you have already seen a drone used commercially, for example, for wedding videos and photos.

What is a commercial drone?

Any drone being used commercially in connection with a business.

This includes:

  • Selling videos or photos shot with a drone
  • Using drones for contract services like factory or industrial equipment inspection
  • Using drones for professional services like telecommunications or security

Examples:

  • Professional real estate photography services
  • Professional wedding photography and video recording
  • Professional video recording for a movie or TV production
  • Providing contract services for land surveys or mapping
  • Delivering goods with a drone

There is a wide range of commercial uses for drones and everyday companies and small businesses come up with new genius ways to use drones for their services. However, the reason why this idea hasn’t seen the light of the day yet is… Yes, you have probably guessed it, the notorious FAA rules… But, recently, the FAA has announced some changes, and it seems that drones will be allowed to “work” for all kinds of companies. You can find out more about the commercial drone process at their official website.

Commercial drone in action

If you own a business of your own, and if the idea of using drones to help your business evolve and expand sounds interesting you should first get to know more about drones, and what they can do. You need to know that basically, any drone that can carry a camera or deliver cargo can be used for commercial purposes. Here are a few things you need to know.

How to buy a drone and apply for a permit

You can buy a drone any time you want, but only for fun and not for business. Unfortunately, for commercial uses, you will have to wait until summer, for the final FAA rules, or maybe even next year. However, there is a way (painful though) to be allowed to use a drone for commercial purposes before the new rules take action. You will have to go through the approval process, which will maybe get you approved. You need to apply for the so-called “Section 333 Exemption or a Special Airworthiness Certificate”.

However, if the new rules take action, and the drones get allowed to be used for commercial purposes, you will have to register it and pay somewhere around $200 in fees. Also, both you as well as your employees that would be in charge of working with the drone would have to pass a written proficiency test. Look at it from the bright side, you will not have to pass flying tests or to become a licensed pilot.

Drone classroom session about regulations

You need to know that there are still numerous concerns and questions that need to be resolved before business owners could fully harvest the potential of using drones for commercial purposes.

For example, the rules will allow drones to fly only during daylight, which is an unnecessary restriction because drones are visible even in low light conditions, and can be equipped with lights. Furthermore, the rules will not allow drones to be flown over people, and much, much more… We just hope that in time, the regulations will be tailored in the best interest of both the government and business owners.

But, all in all, the news of the FAA is getting ready to allow the commercial use of drones, and even cutting down a bit on restrictions is great news, and the entire business community was pleasantly surprised.

The price and the best models?

There are numerous different shapes and sizes of drones. You have all sizes of fixed wing and multirotor to choose from, so giving an average price is impossible. For a medium-sized, ready to fly drone that can be used for both consumer and commercial purposes, the prices go from  $500 to $5,000.

On the other hand, you have drones that come with more professional equipment, which can be used for specific use cases and their prices go from $15,000 to $40,000 or even more. That is why we have prepared a few models that are considered to be the best for commercial use, and you will not have to spend hours in doing research.

DJI Spreading Wings S1000+

Octocopters are the most stable drones, thus for aerial filming purposes, you will not find a better model. Plus, thanks to the 8 rotors, this drone is capable of taking up some not-so-light gimbal and filming equipment. However, it doesn’t have to be used solely for the purpose of filming. You can also use it to deliver small cargo like medication, food, supplies and more.

DJI Spreading Wings S1000+

The DJI S1000+ comes with arms and landing gear that are made of sturdy carbon fiber. This allows you to fly your drone in all kinds of weather conditions, and feel safe while knowing that your equipment or cargo, are on a drone that is unbelievably strong and has great stability.

Furthermore, the ability to fold the S1000+’s arms allows you to save space and make it ready to fly in no more than 5 minutes. It comes with a power distribution system that is very reliable, and the design doesn’t allow cables to become loose during flight.

Here are some if its main characteristics:

  • Strong and stable
  • Large carrying capacity – Up to 7kg of cargo or equipment
  • Portable
  • Flight time: 15 minutes
  • Reduced vibrations
  • Zenmuse gimbals compatible

You can get much more familiar with this model by reading our DJI S1000 in-depth review, and you can see it in action here:

 

DJI S900 Spreading Wings Hexacopter

As the name suggests, this drone is equipped with six rotors. Like octocopters, it provides great stability and the capability of taking heavier cargo or equipment up in the air. Also, it provides longer flying time, meaning that you will be able to cover larger distances.

DJI S900 is also a great one for relatively small cargo delivery, but due to fewer rotors, it has less power, thus the maximum weight it can carry is lower.

DJI S900 Spreading Wings Hexacopter

As far as the construction goes, it is pretty much the same as its 8-rotor sibling, but with two rotors less. This drone is more suitable for aerial filming purposes and it will provide you breathtaking footage. Of course, fewer rotors and less power mean that the price is lower.

Here are some of its main characteristics:

  • Strong and stable
  • Great carrying capacity – up to 5kg of cargo or filming equipment
  • Portable
  • Reduced vibrations
  • Zenmuse gimbals compatible

You can find out much more about this model by reading our DJI S900 review, and you can also see it in action here:

 

DJI Phantom 4

Now, this one doesn’t have the great weight lifting capability, but if you plan on filming or photographing weddings, commercial ads, mapping, or any other kind of commercial filming, there is not a better drone for your business!

The great thing about Phantom 4 is that it basically flies itself, which allows you to concentrate on your footage. It is capable of staying in the air for up to 28 minutes, while the longest distance you can control it from is 6 kilometers. The highest altitude, it can reach is 6000m!

When it comes to features it offers, the list is amazing! It is equipped with sensors that allow it to avoid any obstacles, the GPS system allows it to know exactly where it is at any given moment, and you can also program the drone to follow a pre-determined path so that you can only concentrate on filming. It also offers features like “follow me” mode, “go in front of me” mode, “Point of interest” mode and lots more.

DJI Phantom 4

As far as the quality of the footage it offers goes, we will only tell you that it is equipped with a 3-axis gimbal and a 4K camera! The camera is capable of delivering 4096 x 2160 videos (4K) at 24/25 fps, and 3480 x 2160 at 30 fps. Also, you can record 1080p at 120 fps, which allows you to make some amazing slow motion videos.

When it comes to pictures, 12MP still photos in both RAW and JPEG, and it has modes like single shot, burst, timelapse and HDR.

Here are some of its main characteristics:

  • Tap to fly – Allows you to just make a tap on the monitor and leave the flying to the drone
  • Visual Tracking
  • Sport Mode – Allows the drone to fly at speeds up to 25% higher than in other modes, while still maintaining its stability and maneuverability
  • Extended Flight Time – Up to 28 minutes in the air

You can get a better insight into what this model offers by reading our DJI Phantom 4 in-depth review, and you can also see it in action in this video:

Like this amazing product? Then you can buy it on Amazon.

Examples of commercial use of drones

Amazon couriers

Since their first announcement of their drone delivery plans 3 years ago, Amazon presented a few drone models that might be seen as couriers in the future. The latest model is a drone that comes as a combination of a plane and a helicopter, including a back-positioned rotor.

Amazon couriers

By the words of people who are in charge of this project, their delivery drone will be capable of delivering goods up to 15 miles away, and it can reach altitudes of almost 400 feet. This newest drone delivery model Amazon presented, shows how committed they are in the delivery technology, even with the FAA laws not being on their side, for now.

Workhorse’s “HorseFly” drone

The Workhorse, is actually a truck manufacturer, which is testing out a small, retractable drone that takes off from a delivery truck’s roof, and delivers packages to customers that are around a mile away. The people from this company believe that this drone will help the delivery companies to cut down on gas costs and make the efficiency much higher.

The drone is being developed with the help of the University of Cincinnati, and with a battery, it weighs 18 pounds, which allows it to carry cargo up to 10 pounds in weight. A great feature that this drone offers is that, every time it goes back from the delivery, as soon as it touches down on the roof of the truck, it automatically starts the process of recharging its battery.

Workhorse’s “HorseFly” drone

This company is one of the few that was allowed by the FAA to perform the tests with the drone. The truck drivers won’t actually fly the drones to the drop off point, they will just confirm the address and push the deploy button. The drone will do the flying to a certain point, when the drone pilot from the central command, will finish the final delivery. The drone will go back to the take off the truck on its own.

The verdict

So, there you have it… Now you know the main commercial uses for drones and, hopefully, have an idea of which drone will be best for your business. The only thing left for all of us is to wait for the FAA approval, and hope that the new rules they come up with will allow companies and small businesses to evolve and use the great potential the commercial use of drone offers.

We hope that you found all the needed information here, and, if you have some questions or suggestions, please leave a comment in the section below.

About the author
Jack Brown
Jack Brown

Jack is the Chief Pilot at MyDroneLab.com bringing experience, expertise and knowledge in this quite new industry. He is a graduate of the Drone/UAV Pilot Training Certificate program and member of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. Besides having all the necessary technical knowledge when it comes to drones, Jack and his team love to spend the time outside by the ocean, working on new features and teaching others how to pilot these amazing and exciting new robots.

  • Emily B.

    Guys from “Amazon” are very brave and prudent. Wishing them lots of luck with all their innovations!

  • George Patterson

    Drones meant for commercial usage are definitely the future for the companies. My personal best is the DJI S900 which gives you great stability in cargo delivery.

  • Parrot Bepop is doing some good work too. 🙂

  • Mike Walker

    Amazon just amazed me with their idea. I think that this will be the future. I am sure that this is the future.

    • Jack Brown

      So am I 🙂 It definitely is the future that awaits us!

  • Leo Horfilla

    The DJI Phantom 4 is such a smooth videography tool. Stability is awesome. It doesn’t drift. Shots are good even when the drone is hovering. This is the best drone I’ve ever had so far.

  • Jack Brown

    I have to agree with you on this one Leo. The Phantom 4 is probably the best ever photography drone! You actually don’t need any prior flying experience to get it up and flying in just an hour after you get it for the first time. Just follow the instructions and you are good to go. Simple as that!

  • Princess Anderson

    I think one of the most prerequisites for commercial drones, especially photography and delivery drones, is the flight time and stability. because hexacopters are more stable than the quadcopters, I would prefer having the DJI S900 or the DJI S1000+ for such purposes. They have great features and longer flight time. The only drawback could be their prices.

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