Lured by new industry’s promise, entrepreneurs fly to drones

Lured by new industry’s promise, entrepreneurs fly to drones


Dan Gunderson

Joey Schmit launches an eight-rotor helicopter, about 3 feet wide, into the gray sky. He’s testing his drones, gathering video and photos of a golf course under construction south of Fargo, N.D.

They aren’t playthings. These drones are more durable than the toys that will be tucked beneath Christmas trees this week, and they carry expensive cameras. One drone costs $25,000, the other $10,000.

They are the tools of what the 31-year-old Fargo man hopes will soon be his full-time trade. Schmit plans to quit his job and build a business focused on drone services for the construction industry. He expects to invest about $75,000 getting his firm off the ground.

He and thousands of entrepreneurs across the country want to jump into the potentially lucrative, rapidly growing business. But if they’re ready, the Federal Aviation Administration is not.

While nearly 2,800 drone businesses across the country now have FAA permission to fly, thousands more are still waiting for new federal rules. Drone users worry those delays could hamstring the industry in its infancy.

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