While drone programs serve a wide range of purposes and differ greatly across industries, what they all have in common are the moving parts that must work in unison to ensure a job is done accurately and efficiently.
The coordination of these moving parts — such as flight planning, data and reporting, and more — can mean the difference between a successful job and a failed mission or costly mistake. For this reason, companies often make the case for hiring a drone service provider (DSP).
What is a drone service provider?
According to TechTarget, Drone Services — also known as unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) services — are the emerging market for solutions that help various industries employ drones for respective services, and subsequently coordinate the execution of specific tasks like imaging or mapping.
Not every drone service provider is the same. To determine which DSP is best for your company, industry, and desired task, ask the following questions as you evaluate your options.
Questions your company should ask before hiring a drone service provider:
- What prior experience does the DSP have? While DSPs with experience related to your industry will make for strong candidates, it’s also important to assess the DSP’s level of experience with the specific task you’d like to carry out through your drone program. Ask the DSP to describe how their previous experience translates to your needs, and make sure they provide you with a list of references who you and your team can speak with.
- Is the DSP licensed? The FAA requires any sUAV operator to have a Part 107 certification before flying for any commercial purpose. Ask the DSP to provide proof of their licensure, as well as any related qualifications.
- Can the DSP perform the specific task or project you’re asking for? A reputable DSP will provide detail about their capabilities and qualifications related to the task your company is looking to complete. If your company has already determined what they’d like to accomplish and set KPIs, it will be easier to weed out options based on the drone service provider’s answer to this question.
- What programs and/or processes will the DSP use to carry out desired tasks? Make sure the type of software, documentation processes, etc. the DSP would bring in are compatible with what you currently have in place. An overhaul in even one area can lead to wasted time and resources.
- How will the DSP process the data they collect? What will the “final product” look like when your team receives it? Having a clear expectation for the format in which you’d like to receive the product or data will make it easier to determine whether the DSP can help you meet your needs. Are you looking for a high resolution GeoTiff with a specified accuracy? Or a PDF or JPEG? Do you want a digital surface model (DSM)? Or are you just looking for annotated images? Be as specific as possible to avoid quality issues and disputes.
- Is the DSP insured? If so, what does their coverage look like? Drone insurance is becoming increasingly common as companies acknowledge the importance of identifying and mitigating risk. It’s important to determine the type and level of insurance, since coverage needs vary depending on your geographic location, industry, and the type of job at hand.
- What do the DSP’s safety procedures look like? How does the DSP factor the surrounding area weather, etc. into flights? What type of risk assessments are they used to conducting, and what types of procedures would they recommend for the type of work they’d be doing for your company?
- What equipment will you be using? From the type of drone to the camera lens quality, any and every type of equipment should be considered when choosing a DSP. If the DSP does not have a certain piece of equipment they’ll need to complete your job, can they acquire and familiarize themselves with this equipment?
- What do your maintenance procedures look like? Regular maintenance and inspections of machinery and equipment are important for flight safety and can prevent costly repairs down the line.
- What is the price for the drone services? Since the FAA changed licensing qualifications in 2016, a growing number of pilots with minimal experience have entered the market. Newer DSPs will likely charge low prices as they are eager to gain experience, however the quality might not be up to par with that of a more experienced DSP. Therefore, the decision makers at your company should have an agreed-upon idea as to the experience and budgetary requirements they have in mind.
- What features set the DSP apart from the competition? The answer to this question will give you a sense of what the DSP will be like to work with, and will help you weed out candidates whose values may not align with that of your company. For example, Measure prides itself on customer service and fast-paced technology, and has been chosen as a DSP based on these differentiators.
Where can I find a DSP near me?
We’ve compiled a list of forums, pilot networks, search sites for employers, and other online resources for those who are looking for drone pilots that meet a particular set of qualifications:
- Go direct! If you’re interested in connecting with local drone pilots and establishing a direct relationship, try joining a well established Facebook group like Commercial sUAS pilots: https://www.facebook.com/groups/commercialsuaspilots/. You’ll find a variety of levels of experience and candid responses to your requirements.
- Professional drone service providers: Aerodyne-Measure; ConnexiCore; Firmatek; DroneView Technologies
- Drone pilot marketplaces and staffing agencies: www.dronehiveinc.com; https://www.droneup.com; https://dronebase.com/; https://dronepilotscentral.com/; https://www.dronepilotgroundschool.com/certified-drone-pilot-directory-list/
How can I stay on top of my DSP’s flight plans, activity, and pilots?
Once you’ve found and hired a DSP who meets your qualifications, you’ll need to tie it all together by managing the fast-moving parts of your drone program. This can be done by choosing a flight planning software that centralizes your operations and eliminates the need for multiple applications.
Our team created Measure Ground Control after realizing the challenges of coordinating across four programs plus manual processes to schedule flights, assign pilots, enforce safety regulations, and more. As an end-to-end solution, Measure Ground Control provides teams with a platform for automating drone operation workflows.
Want to learn more about Measure Ground Control? Schedule a demo or try our app for free.