To fly a drone commercially in the USA you need to pass a straightforward test from the FAA. This has caused a drone gold rush. On paper buy a Phantom, Inspire or eBee and no need to head West. You can make a pot of gold in your very own neighbourhood.
I am beginning to see people standing themselves up as experts in making money with a Part 107 and UAV. Offering for a small consideration, of course, the secret sauce. How does that work when they cannot have had a full years trading as a Part 107 operator?
All is not well in the state of 107
There is a feeling of slight panic surrounding some of the new drone companies.
Asking on Facebook, what and how others charge. Shouting disbelief that they just can’t go and fly in the centre of town. In most cases having taken the Part 107 test already. This might suggest that the study material is lacking.
These Facebook folks are the first to rush to answer surveys often being placed to help them by those people with all the answers. In reality, their contact emails are being harvested and they must expect false hope for a fee in an inbox soon.
Drone work brokers
Several websites, no names no pax drill aim to connect drone pilots and clients. The websites then take a cut of the job.
That’s fine and dandy, a handy service for all three sides of the coin.
Which gets the thin side, though?
I am concerned that these drone pilots offer a wide range of services and cannot in most cases be qualified to provide the service.
Jack of all trades, master of none.
I looked at one of those websites and this is a sample of companies that operate in New York State and what they offer. Names removed to spare blushes.
Agriculture, Boating And Water Sports, Cinematography, Construction, Drone Training, Event, Infrastructure, Real Estate, Roof Inspection, Surveying & Mapping $200 an hour
Agriculture, Construction, Drone Training, Editing, Event, Infrastructure, Real Estate, Roof Inspection, Surveying & Mapping, Wedding $350 an hour
Cinematography, Construction, Drone Training, Editing, Event, Real Estate, Roof Inspection, Surveying & Mapping $450 an hour
Some inconvenient drone truths
To complete a Roof Inspection legally, in New York State you need to be a home inspector licensed by the NYS Department of State.
Roof inspections are a great fit for drones. Nobody needs to be climbing ladders and putting themselves at risk. Nor is expensive scaffolding or rope access work required.
But to be more than flying over a roof and saying it, “looks alright to me!” you should cover the following.
(a) Home inspectors shall observe and report on readily accessible:
- Roofing materials and condition;
- Roof drainage systems;
- Skylights, chimneys and roof penetrations.
(b) The home inspector shall report on the methods used to observe the roof and other components set forth in this section.
(c) All home inspection reports shall describe the observed condition and type of roofing materials and shall describe the methods used to observe the roofing.
(d) Home inspectors are not required to observe and report on:
- Antennas, lightning arresters or similar attachments;
- Any flue or chimney interior that is not readily accessible;
- Other installed accessories.
(e) Home inspectors are not required to operate powered roof ventilators.
(f) Home inspectors are not required to determine the remaining life expectancy of roof coverings, manufacturers’ defects, installation methods or recalls or to determine the number of roof layers present.
(g) Home inspectors are not required to walk on or access a roof where to do so could result in damage to the roof or roofing material or endanger the health and safety of the home inspector.
Is handing client images and letting them decide a roof inspection?
Becoming a qualified home inspector takes a chunk of work, more may I venture than a Part 107.
An applicant for a license as a home inspector shall:
(a) have successfully completed high school or its equivalent; and
(b) (i) have successfully completed a course of study of not less than one hundred forty hours approved by the secretary, of which at least forty hours shall have been in the form of unpaid field-based inspections in the presence of and under the direct supervision of a home inspector licensed by the state of New York or a professional engineer or architect regulated by the state of New York who oversees and takes full responsibility for the inspection and any report provided to a client; or (ii) have performed not less than one hundred home inspections in the presence of and under the direct supervision of a home inspector licensed by the state of New York or a professional engineer or architect regulated by the state of New York who oversees and takes full responsibility for the inspection and any report provided to a client; and
(ii) have performed not less than one hundred home inspections in the presence of and under the direct supervision of a home inspector licensed by the state of New York or a professional engineer or architect regulated by the state of New York who oversees and takes full responsibility for the inspection and any report provided to a client; and
(c) have passed a written or electronic examination approved by the Secretary and designed to test competence in home inspection practice as determined by a recognised role definition methodology and developed and administered to the extent practicable in a manner consistent with the American Educational Research Association’s “Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing.” An applicant who has passed an existing nationally recognised examination, as approved by the Secretary, prior to the effective date of this article shall be in compliance with this paragraph; and
(d) pay the applicable fees
So that’s roof inspection, what of surveying.
A New York licensed land surveyor (LS) is a professional who uses applied mathematics and other technical and research skills to measure and plot:
- the dimensions of any portion of the earth’s surface (including natural and other structures);
- the lengths and directions of boundary lines; and
- the contour of the earth’s surface.
The practice of land surveying or use of the title “land surveyor” within New York State requires licensure.
To be licensed as a land surveyor in New York State you must:
- be of good moral character;
- be at least 21 years of age;
- meet education requirements;
- meet examination requirements; and
- meet experience requirements.
Education and Experience Requirements
To become licensed as a professional engineer in New York State you must complete a combination of education and experience for which years of credit are awarded. The credit awarded for your education determines the required number of years of experience you need:
- A total of 6 years of credit is required for admission to the Fundamentals of Engineering examination
- A total of 12 years of credit is required for admission to the Principles and Practice examination for licensure.
To be licensed as a professional engineer in New York State, you must pass:
- The Part A, the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, and
- The Part B, the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) exam.
Examinations are developed by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) and administered by CASTLE Worldwide, Inc. or Pearson VUE Testing Centers.
All exam applicants are required to read the “NCEES Examinee Guide” prior to being allowed to register for the exam. Please use this link to access the “NCEES Examinee Guide” at: http://ncees.org/exams/examinee-guide/
As we saw above all three companies listed these services as well as others.
This means that they must have or have on staff a qualified building inspector and surveyor. As well as of course that Part 107 pilot.
It might seem a uniquely American problem; it’s not, the same sort of rules and regulations are in place around the world.
They are in place to protect the customer.
My free advice for those wanting to start in the drone business is to exploit a niche you are expert in and make your drone a force multiplier within it.
You should be the best at what you do, not the cheapest.
There is no rapid route to riches in the RPAS business.
Beware false prophets.