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UK Have you gone self employed and make a full time income?

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#1
I'm wondering how many Uk certified pilots have managed to quit their job and generate a full time income from uav work?

Are the jobs you're getting what you expected?
Are there more pilots than jobs causing a race to the bottom on charges or are you finding people who are willing to pay for quality work?
Anything you'd do differently if you could go back to the start?

Dave
 
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#2
I'm wondering how many Uk certified pilots have managed to quit their job and generate a full time income from uav work?

Are the jobs you're getting what you expected?
Are there more pilots than jobs causing a race to the bottom on charges or are you finding people who are willing to pay for quality work?
Anything you'd do differently if you could go back to the start?

Dave
Top tip...

... don’t give up your day job until you have established for yourself that the work is really there.
 
Likes: Ping^Spike
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#4
Goes without saying.
Always handy to get other people's experiences of how things panned out for them after they took the plunge.
I took early retirement after running a very successful software company for over 30 years.

I then turned my hobby into a ‘jobby’ and have been operating my drone company for almost four years.

Over that time I have met lots of nice people, had fun and occasional frustration, fuelled my passion for flying, purchased tons of cool kit and kept myself gainfully occupied.

However, from a financial view point :

£16k startup investment - still not all paid back.
Over three years of working with less than £10k per annum net profit
with longer hours than when I was working.

Don’t underestimate the running costs in terms of equipment upgrades (it’s still a fast evolving market) insurances and other overheads.

In the last 4 years the number of licensed operators in the uk has more than quadrupled. At the same time, the number of ‘guys with a drone who will work illegally for peanuts’ has rocketed. Unfortunately, demand has not kept up with the growing supply.

No doubt if I had purchased less cool kit then I could have taken more cash out of the business. However, if I had, then I would now be flying with out dated and uncompetitive kit .....

Like I said, start your drone business but keep your day job going until you know the numbers are going to work for you.

Or, alternatively, work hard, make a small fortune with your day job and then retire into your drone business when the money is no longer an important factor :)
 
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#6
I have had my drone business for nearly 2 years now and I'm seriously thinking of selling my current business to pursue it full time. However, i don't really see it as a "drone business" anymore as my recent work as just been videography with added drone stuff and i haven't done any pure drone work like surveys etc. My main plan of attack if i do go full time is wedding videos. Did this one recently and happy to share that i got paid £1500 for it. 2 days work in total and they are so happy with it!

 
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#7
Are there more pilots than jobs causing a race to the bottom on charges
This is happening already mate.

In 2015 there were only 862 PfCO operators in the UK.

Then in 2016 that number went up to 1,461

In 2017 it went up to 2,825

In June 2018 it stood at 4,219

And on 31st August we were at 4,600+

It’s almost doubling each year.

Never mind getting your PfCO, there is clearly money to be made in running the training courses instead ;)
 

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#8
This is happening already mate.

In 2015 there were only 862 PfCO operators in the UK.

Then in 2016 that number went up to 1,461

In 2017 it went up to 2,825

In June 2018 it stood at 4,219

And on 31st August we were at 4,600+

It’s almost doubling each year.

Never mind getting your PfCO, there is clearly money to be made in running the training courses instead ;)
However, there is a massive 36% not renewing after two years of holding PfCO so the number increase is new (mostly) qualified holders.
I think that large proportion dropping out are realising that the Commercial UAV streets are not paved with gold.
 
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#9
However, there is a massive 36% not renewing after two years of holding PfCO so the number increase is new (mostly) qualified holders.
I think that large proportion dropping out are realising that the Commercial UAV streets are not paved with gold.
Interesting. Wonder how that compares with other countries?
 
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#10
I don't see the drone business being any different to the business I'm in at the moment. Photographing weddings. The amount of people coming in at the bottom and working for peanuts with a camera from Currys grows each year. The difference is the drone business is regulated. I've just got my PfCO after running a successful wedding photography business for nearly 10 years and aim to branch at into doing more drone work outside the weddings. I think the key is having a business plan, sticking to it, marketing and advertising yourself correctly. I'm sure it can work. Interestingly after ten years photographing brides I still hear the same arguements in the forums that all these newbie's and upstarts are taking away the business. Lord Litchfield said exactly the same when the 35mm camera became mainstream 40 years ago. Times move on and it is harder, but it is possible!.
 
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#11
I might be wrong but I think that you would need to become a niche specialist to make a living out of operating a drone. That might be working in the film or TV industry or becoming involved in accurate surveying work within industry, for example transportation or construction.

As Martinh32 alludes to, the cost of high quality equipment has dropped dramatically over the last couple of years. As an example, the new and very affordable DJI Mavic 2 pro will, in the right hands, produce acceptable professional high quality 4k footage and photographs. This quality at this price point simply wasn't available 4 years ago.

I work for an established video production company and operate a drone within that context. Quite often drone filming is packaged as an add-on to our standard filming package and carried out as part of an assignment not as an end in itself. 4 years ago drone footage really stood out but now it is commonplace in many areas, news, journalism, tv production, corporate video, wedding video and within the property market.

I would wish anybody coming into this sector good luck. It is such an enjoyable activity and I think that most new operators will be able to recoup their investment and operating costs and make some money but would struggle to make a living out of flying a drone.
 
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#12
I work for an established video production company and operate a drone within that context....

I would wish anybody coming into this sector good luck. It is such an enjoyable activity and I think that most new operators will be able to recoup their investment and operating costs and make some money but would struggle to make a living out of flying a drone.
It’s interesting to compare the optimism of those just entering the drone industry with the reality portrayed by exiting veterans ....
 
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#13
It’s interesting to compare the optimism of those just entering the drone industry with the reality portrayed by exiting veterans ....
But isn't that the same for anyone entering any industry? People still enter the photography industry every day and if you have a USP or market correctly it can work for you. I'm at a point now in photography that I don't advertise at all other than updates on social media. I charge reasonable money for what I produce and I'm turning work away. The reason for moving my business is having a young family and the need to spend more weekends with them and less shooting weddings. There are veterans in my current industry that do nothing that moan and others who just get on with it and make a living. There are wedding photographers who can't make it pay as a full time job and there others who don't have time for a full time job with the amount work they are getting in.
 
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#14
But isn't that the same for anyone entering any industry? People still enter the photography industry every day and if you have a USP or market correctly it can work for you. I'm at a point now in photography that I don't advertise at all other than updates on social media. I charge reasonable money for what I produce and I'm turning work away. The reason for moving my business is having a young family and the need to spend more weekends with them and less shooting weddings. There are veterans in my current industry that do nothing that moan and others who just get on with it and make a living. There are wedding photographers who can't make it pay as a full time job and there others who don't have time for a full time job with the amount work they are getting in.
I fully agree. Some people will make a go of running a drone business and some won’t.

My concern is the common miss conception (from those outside the industry) that there are huge profits to be made. Unfortunately, this has lead some people to give up their day job and start a drone business only to fail after a year or two. The list of active PfCO holders shows the rather high rate of attrition.

Your situation is different. You are already making a successful business out of photography and it is likely that adding aerial capture to your capabilities will work well and yield additional business opportunities, turnover & profits.
 
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#15
Also worth pointing out the optimism of Peter Jones on dragons den about the drone industry as a whole. It's still very early on and is only going to get bigger which is going to increase the amount of work for us all. There are lots of PfCO holders that just haven't got a clue about getting work, i know this as people call me up all the time asking if i have got any for them! It's how you market yourself which is the key to getting the business
 
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