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How to Start a Profitable Drone Photography Business [11 Steps]

Learn how to start a drone photography business in 11+ steps. From obtaining licenses to marketing your services, this guide covers it all. #dronephotography #businessstartup #marketing

By Nick Cotter
Updated Feb 02, 2024

image of a drone photography business
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1. Perform market analysis.

Starting a drone photography business requires a comprehensive understanding of the current market environment to identify opportunities and challenges. A thorough market analysis will provide insights into your potential customer base, existing competition, and prevailing industry trends. Here's how to approach this critical step:

  • Research your target market: Identify the demographics and needs of potential clients, such as real estate agencies, wedding planners, or construction companies.
  • Analyze competitors: Look into other drone photography businesses to assess their services, pricing, and marketing strategies.
  • Understand regulations: Stay informed about drone operation laws and regulations that could affect where and how you can provide your services.
  • Examine technology trends: Keep up with the latest drone technology and software to ensure your business remains competitive and innovative.
  • Evaluate pricing models: Investigate what pricing strategies work in your target market to help determine your own pricing structure.
  • Assess demand: Gauge the level of interest and demand for drone photography services within your intended market to estimate potential business volume.
image of a drone photography business

Are drone photography businesses profitable?

Yes, drone photography businesses can be profitable. Depending on the type of services offered, the location of the business, the expertise of the photographer and the market demand for drone photography services, the profitability of a business can vary.

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2. Draft a drone photography business plan.

Creating a solid business plan is critical for the success of your drone photography venture. It will serve as your roadmap, detailing how you plan to start and grow your business over time. Below are key points to consider when drafting your business plan:

  • Executive Summary: Provide a brief overview of your business, including your mission statement, services offered, and unique selling propositions.
  • Market Analysis: Research your target market, understand the demand for drone photography, analyze competitors, and identify potential clients.
  • Marketing Strategy: Outline how you will attract and retain customers, including social media campaigns, partnerships, and advertising plans.
  • Operational Plan: Detail the logistics of your business, from drone equipment and maintenance to scheduling and project management tools.
  • Financial Plan: Project your startup costs, pricing strategy, sales forecast, and profitability timeline. Include plans for potential funding sources if necessary.
  • Legal Considerations: Address licensing requirements, insurance policies, and adherence to drone regulations and airspace restrictions.

How does a drone photography business make money?

A drone photography business can make money by selling photographs taken by a drone to customers, publishing them online, and offering freelance services. The primary target audience for a drone photography business is companies, such as construction firms, who need aerial footage of their sites or events. Businesses can also offer specialized services to clients who want aerial shots of weddings and special occasions. Additionally, they can target real estate agents and large corporations who are looking for creative ways to showcase properties and assets.

3. Develop a drone photography brand.

Developing a drone photography brand is crucial for distinguishing your business in a competitive market. Your brand is not just your logo, but the entire experience your clients have with your business. Here are some key points to consider when building your brand:

  • Define your niche: Focus on a specific area of drone photography, such as real estate, weddings, or landscape, to target your marketing efforts more effectively.
  • Create a memorable logo: Design a logo that reflects your brand's personality and makes a lasting impression on your audience.
  • Develop a brand voice: Establish a consistent tone and style for all your communications that resonate with your target audience.
  • Build a professional website: Your website should showcase your portfolio, services, and client testimonials, and reflect your brand's visual identity.
  • Invest in marketing materials: Ensure that all your marketing materials, like business cards and brochures, align with your brand's colors, fonts, and overall message.
  • Engage on social media: Use platforms like Instagram and Facebook to display your work, share stories, and connect with potential clients while maintaining your brand's voice and aesthetic.

How to come up with a name for your drone photography business?

Coming up with a name for your drone photography business can be a fun process, but also intimidating. Start with brainstorming ideas. Think of words that convey a feeling, emotion, or idea that is related to what you want to do with your photography business. Narrow down your list to one or two options and do some research on the internet to make sure it's not already taken. Remember to consider the potential customers you may be serving, as well as the services you will be offering when coming up with a name. Once you have narrowed down your list and checked that the name is not taken, you have your perfect business name!

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4. Formalize your business registration.

Once you've laid the groundwork for your drone photography business, it's time to formalize your venture by registering your business. This step is crucial as it legitimizes your company, allows you to operate legally, and sets the foundation for your business's financial and legal structure. Here are the key actions you need to take:

  • Choose your business structure (e.g., sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation) based on your needs for liability protection and tax preferences.
  • Register your business name with the appropriate state agency, ensuring it is unique and adheres to any state-specific requirements.
  • Obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS for tax purposes, especially if you plan to hire employees.
  • Register for state and local taxes to ensure you can legally operate and are set up to collect sales tax if applicable.
  • Acquire necessary permits and licenses, which may include a business license, a remote pilot certificate from the FAA, and any local permits specific to drone operations.
  • Consider registering your drone with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), as required for commercial operations.

Resources to help get you started:

Explore vital resources specially curated for drone photography entrepreneurs aiming to grasp market trends, hone operational strategies, and foster business expansion:

  • Drone Industry Insights: Offers comprehensive reports and analysis on the drone market, including trends, forecasts, and competitive landscapes. Visit:
  • UAV Coach: Provides newsletters, training, and industry news to help drone photographers stay ahead in terms of technology and regulations. Visit:
  • The Drone Girl: Features articles, reviews, and guides on the latest in drone technology, emphasizing photography and videography applications. Visit:
  • Commercial UAV News: Offers insights on operational practices, business growth strategies, and the latest news affecting the commercial drone space. Visit:
  • DroneDeploy's Blog: Provides resources and case studies on using drones for photography and mapping, with a focus on industry-specific applications and software tips. Visit:
  • PhotoWorkout: Shares tips, equipment reviews, and guides for drone photographers looking to enhance their skills and learn about the newest photography trends. Visit:

5. Acquire necessary licenses and permits for drone photography.

Starting a drone photography business involves more than just purchasing a drone and capturing images. It's crucial to ensure you're operating within the legal framework of your region. This means acquiring the necessary licenses and permits. Below are the steps you should follow to ensure compliance:

  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Regulations: In the United States, you'll need to obtain a Part 107 certificate from the FAA to operate a drone commercially. This requires passing an aeronautical knowledge test.
  • Local and State Regulations: Check with your state and local government for any additional requirements. Some areas may have specific drone laws that go beyond federal regulations.
  • Business License: Depending on your location, you may need to register your business and get a general business license to operate legally.
  • Insurance: While not a permit or license, having liability insurance is vital for protecting your business and is often required for commercial drone operations.
  • Special Permits: If you plan to fly in controlled airspace or over private property, you may need to seek special permits or waivers from the FAA or property owners.

What licenses and permits are needed to run a drone photography business?

The exact licenses and permits needed to run a drone photography business will depend on the location of the business and its intended use. Generally, drone operators are required to obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in order to legally operate a commercial drone. Depending on the type of photos or videos the business intends to capture, additional licenses or permits may be required from local, state or federal agencies. For example, if the business intends to capture images of people or private property, a release form may be necessary. In some cases, businesses may also need a permit from the Department of Transport in order to fly over certain areas.

6. Open a business bank account and secure funding as needed.

Opening a business bank account and securing funding are critical steps in establishing the financial foundation for your drone photography business. A dedicated bank account keeps your business finances separate from personal ones, providing clarity for accounting and tax purposes. If your startup costs exceed your personal funds, exploring various funding options is key to getting your business off the ground.

  • Business Bank Account: Research banks to find one that offers favorable terms for small businesses. Gather required documents such as your business formation papers, EIN, and personal identification to open an account.
  • Funding Options: Assess your initial capital needs, considering equipment, licensing, insurance, and marketing costs.
  • Personal Savings: If feasible, use personal savings to fund your startup, which avoids debt and interest payments.
  • Small Business Loans: Explore loans from banks or credit unions, especially those with programs for small businesses or startups.
  • Grants and Competitions: Look for grants, contests, or business competitions that offer funding for entrepreneurs or specific industries like drone technology.
  • Investors: Consider finding an angel investor or venture capitalist interested in drone technology, but be prepared to give up some equity in your company.
  • Crowdfunding: Use platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo to raise funds while also validating your business idea and gaining early supporters.

7. Set pricing for drone photography services.

Setting the right prices for your drone photography services is crucial in attracting clients while ensuring your business remains profitable. Consider the value you provide, your costs, and market rates to determine competitive pricing. Below are some key points to help guide you through the process:

  • Analyze the Competition: Research what other drone photographers are charging and the services they offer. Use this information to position your pricing competitively.
  • Cost-Based Pricing: Calculate your costs for each service, including equipment, travel, editing time, and overheads. Ensure your pricing covers these costs and allows for a reasonable profit margin.
  • Value-Based Pricing: Consider the value your unique skills, experience, and the quality of your work add. Price higher for specialized services that offer more value to the client.
  • Pricing Models: Decide whether you'll charge by the hour, by the project, or offer package deals. Packages can make pricing clearer for clients and encourage larger bookings.
  • Adjust with Experience: As you gain more experience and build your portfolio, revisit your pricing structure and adjust it accordingly to reflect your growing expertise.

What does it cost to start a drone photography business?

Initiating a drone photography business can involve substantial financial commitment, the scale of which is significantly influenced by factors such as geographical location, market dynamics, and operational expenses, among others. Nonetheless, our extensive research and hands-on experience have revealed an estimated starting cost of approximately $5700 for launching such an business. Please note, not all of these costs may be necessary to start up your drone photography business.

8. Acquire drone photography equipment and supplies.

Starting a drone photography business requires not only skill and creativity but also the right equipment. To ensure high-quality results, it's essential to invest in reliable drone photography gear and supplies. Here's a guide to help you acquire the essentials needed to get your business off the ground.

  • Drone: Choose a drone with a high-resolution camera, good battery life, and stable flight capabilities. Popular options include models from DJI, Autel Robotics, and Parrot.
  • Extra Batteries: Purchase additional batteries to extend your flight sessions and reduce downtime during shoots.
  • Memory Cards: Stock up on fast and high-capacity memory cards to ensure you have enough storage for your footage.
  • Carrying Case: Protect your investment with a durable carrying case that can hold your drone, accessories, and equipment.
  • Propeller Guards: Invest in propeller guards to minimize the risk of damage during flights, especially in tight spaces.
  • Landing Pad: Use a landing pad to protect the drone's camera and sensors from debris during takeoff and landing.
  • Filters: Obtain a set of lens filters to enhance image quality and control light exposure in various shooting conditions.
  • Insurance: Consider getting insurance to cover your equipment and liability while operating your drone.
  • Software: Invest in photo and video editing software to process your aerial footage professionally.

List of software, tools and supplies needed to start a drone photography business:

  • Drone: Up to $1000+ depending on the model and features
  • Camera: Up to $3000+ depending on the model and features
  • Gimbal: Around $200
  • Video Editing Software: Around $100
  • Photo Editing Software: Around $100
  • Storage Devices: Up to $500+ depending on the capacity
  • Power Bank: Around $50
  • Charger Adapter for Drone Battery: Around $30
  • Carrying Case for Drone and Camera Equipment: Around $30
  • Drone Insurance Plan: Varies, could cost up to hundreds of dollars per year

9. Obtain business insurance for drone photography, if required.

Securing the right business insurance is a critical step in establishing your drone photography business. It not only protects your investment in equipment but also covers liability in case of accidents or damage. Here are some key points to consider when obtaining business insurance:

  • Research Local Regulations: Understand the insurance requirements for drone operations in your area. Some regions may have specific coverage mandates for commercial drone activities.
  • Choose an Appropriate Policy: Look for policies designed for drone operators, which typically include hull insurance for your drone, equipment insurance, and liability insurance.
  • Consider Liability Coverage: Liability insurance is crucial as it protects you if your drone causes bodily harm or property damage. Make sure the coverage limits are sufficient for your business size and risk exposure.
  • Assess Additional Coverage: Depending on your business model, you might need additional coverage such as data loss insurance, invasion of privacy coverage, or insurance for flights over water.
  • Compare Quotes: Obtain quotes from several insurance providers to compare coverage options and premiums. Ensure that the policy is cost-effective while offering comprehensive protection.
  • Review Policy Regularly: As your business grows and regulations change, review and adjust your insurance policy to ensure it remains suitable for your needs.

10. Begin marketing your drone photography services.

Launching a successful drone photography business involves not only mastering the art of aerial imaging but also effectively promoting your services to attract clients. As you prepare to take this critical step, consider these strategies to market your business and build a robust client base.

  • Build a Portfolio: Create an online portfolio showcasing your best drone photography. Highlight various styles and subjects to demonstrate your range and skills.
  • Utilize Social Media: Use platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn to share your images, engage with the community, and connect with potential clients.
  • Network: Attend industry events, join drone photography forums, and collaborate with related businesses to expand your reach.
  • Offer Promotions: Provide introductory discounts or bundle packages to entice first-time clients and encourage word-of-mouth referrals.
  • Invest in Advertising: Consider paid advertising options on social media, search engines, or local industry publications to target potential customers.
  • SEO: Optimize your website for search engines to improve visibility for those looking for drone photography services.
  • Collaborations: Work with local real estate agents, event planners, or construction firms to offer your services as an add-on to theirs.
>> MORE:

What licenses and permits are needed to run a drone photography business?

  • Drone: Up to $1000+ depending on the model and features
  • Camera: Up to $3000+ depending on the model and features
  • Gimbal: Around $200
  • Video Editing Software: Around $100
  • Photo Editing Software: Around $100
  • Storage Devices: Up to $500+ depending on the capacity
  • Power Bank: Around $50
  • Charger Adapter for Drone Battery: Around $30
  • Carrying Case for Drone and Camera Equipment: Around $30
  • Drone Insurance Plan: Varies, could cost up to hundreds of dollars per year

11. Expand your drone photography business.

Once your drone photography business has taken off, it's time to consider expansion to capitalize on its success. Growth can take many forms, from scaling up your operations to diversifying your services. Here are some strategies to help you expand your business effectively:

  • Offer new services: Broaden your portfolio by including new types of aerial photography, such as thermal imaging, 3D mapping, or agricultural surveillance.
  • Invest in marketing: Amp up your online presence through social media, SEO, and targeted advertising to reach a wider audience.
  • Collaborate with industries: Partner with real estate, construction, or event planning businesses to secure contracts and steady work streams.
  • Hire additional pilots: As demand grows, consider hiring certified drone pilots to help manage the increased workload.
  • Upgrade your equipment: Invest in the latest drone technology to offer higher quality images and services to your clients.
  • Geographic expansion: Extend your services to new areas by researching underserved markets and establishing a presence there.
  • Create a referral program: Encourage existing clients to refer new customers by offering discounts or other incentives.