Drones – How I made over $50,000 in 7 days (not taking real estate pics).

I’m a hustler. There’s no denying that. As such, everything that I write about is stuff that I’ve actually done. I do not sit back and theorize about whether or not something will work. Most wannabe entrepreneurs sit back and make up excuses why business ideas won’t work. The common thread among these wannabes is they never start shit. They leave a trail of excuses and are voted most likely to be career employees.

It’s true, I’m writing a book. But I also believe in giving back. And I don’t mean in a vague roundabout way. What follows is a step-by-step guide describing exactly how to make $50,000 in 7 days or less. For me, I did it in about 5 days.

Also, the guys doing this right now are trying to keep it secret because as of right now there is little to no competition. Sooner or later there will be a TON OF COMPETITION. If you act fast, however, you have a good shot at making some big money.

Step 1 – Buy a drone. A DJI Phantom 3 Pro (do not buy anything lower than a Phantom 3 Pro since you need the vision position system for indoor flight), or preferably a Phantom 4.

Step 2 – File for FAA 333 exemption. There are laws in place. To be clear, the distinction comes down to this: (1) you don’t need to have an government exemption if you’re simply flying for a hobby, (2) if you’re flying to make money, then you need the exemption.

I’ve created an E-Book detailing each and every step from conceptualizing your company through what companies will likely need drone inspection services to what you need to say in your sales speech. As a BONUS, I’m including the exact FAA 333 Exemption letter I wrote granting me the exemption. All you have to do is copy it and replace my information with yours and voila, you’re good to. To be clear, that document is something lawyers will charge upwards of $1,000 to create for you. The E-Book + the FAA 333 template costs only $9.99.

Step 3 – You have a choice here – create a company or not. On one hand you can simply form a DBA under your own name, name it whatever you want, and then head off to the races. However, these drones can cut a person’s head off. If you form a DBA under your name and your drone hurts somebody, your house and all your assets are fair game in court. Preferably, form an LLC. This will protect all your personal assets. In the event someone gets hurt, they can only sue for what your company owns.

Step 3 – Create a website or not. It doesn’t really matter. What you really need is footage of you flying the drone, showing what you can do. In other words, don’t spend any time trying to make a pretty website.

Step 4 – Logo + Biz cards. Obviously, if you’re serious about making big money, you need to be professional. Get a nice logo made and get some business cards made. You’ll need these for your sales calls.

Step 5 – Practice flying. In the beginning you need to fly your drone everyday. For hours. Do this for about a month until it becomes second nature. After that, you’ll be able to fly damn near anything.

Step 6 – Scout out the territory. You’re making lists of energy company, power plants, oilfield operations, and windfarm facilities. These are the places that can pay huge money for a quick days work.

Step 7 – Visit all of these facilities. You’re not going to get a bite on all of them, and you won’t know which places are interested until you go talk to them. When you approach these people, you want to get to a decision maker. You’re wasting your time if your giving a 10 minute sales pitch to a secretary or entry level nerd.

(a) Energy companies. I worked for a Fortune 500 energy company. These companies use boilers to produce electricity. Very frequently these boilers go offline and are unable to produce electricity due to malfunctions in the tubes inside the boiler. The “OLD SCHOOL” solution has up until recently (and really still is) to build scaffolding inside these boilers and then have human workers crawl around inside there to look for leaks/issues/what have you. Thus, there are some problems presented (1) insurance issues (obviously), (2) high danger element, considering it’s pitch black inside, (3) as well as the potential risk in case someone were to fall and get hurt. These you can easily charge $15,000 per day. All you do is fly the drone inside of the boiler, take pics, make vids, and that’s it.

(b) Oilfield companies. You can do inspections. The government recently passed a mandate that requires all oil companies to test the air for emissions. Note – if you end up landing a contract with an oil company for this, you’re going to need to buy the DJI Matrice and fit it with a flir camera. Email me if you want to know more details. Onward. The best option is flying & inspecting short pipe sections (think 10 miles or less) where you can compete with airplanes.Your pitch here is easy. Charge them half of what they’re paying to the airplane guys. Simply say “I’ll only charge you guys half of what you’re paying the airplane folks”. That’s it. There’s big money here. Think year long contracts, valuing over $100,000.

(c) Windfarms. This is another area where I’ve done inspections. There is some competing technology emerging in the form of high powered, ground-based cameras. If the windfarm is using this technology, you wont’ have any luck. If they aren’t then you can expect a cool $10,000 or more from inspecting the boxes up top as well as the blades.

44 thoughts on “Drones – How I made over $50,000 in 7 days (not taking real estate pics).

  1. Hi. This is vipul from India.

    I have read your post and I impress.

    I would like to know more on this for India market.

    India have many oilfield companies and windfarms.

    We can extent this kind services in India . I do not know the current clearance requirement in india because India have very limited use of drone.

    So kindly revert how do we can expand India market.

    Regards
    Vipul

    1. Hi Vipul, thank you! Since India is a new market and drones are definitely not being used there (yet) commercially, the opportunities are obviously huge. Especially for the first movers.

      If you’d like to expand into the India market, all you need is a drone and an IPAD and a computer that can handle 4k graphics. Let me know if you have any more questions!

  2. Hi Vipul, I have some contacts in India and they are telling me the same. They are crazy to get a drone and begin making $$$$! Since India is a fast growing country, a drone business would be perfect!

    I imagine the laws in India are more relaxed than they are here.

    Are you able to purchase a drone in India? If not, have you checked http://www.dji.com? Let me know!

  3. Hi James,

    I’m 24 and ready to give this bash. I must know though, are you affiliated with the dji company? No bad thing if you are, I just wanna be fully informed when making a drone purchase.

    Cheers,

    L

  4. After doing some research, I was reading that you have to be a certified pilot in addition to the faa 333 exemption to fly commercially.
    Do you have a pilots license? Or is there another way around this?
    Thanks,
    Austin

  5. Hi James,

    Any thoughts or experience on the commercial viability of ag mapping/consulting w/ the DJI Phantom 4? I don’t have a regular pilot’s license so I’m anxiously waiting for Part 107 to be released on the 29th.

    Thanks!

  6. Is there a market for this business in Las Vegas, NV ? I’m interested but just wanted your opinion on what you think if there is a market for this and market niches that you see in Las Vegas, NV.

    Thanks

  7. Hey, James… I’m from Africa Nairobi, In Kenya events business is a boom! Having this drone business will be a blessing to me and my new business. I was thinking about buying this drone and give it a shot. I dont know about the restrictions here for flying a drone but there are some who fly the drones. How much does a drone cost? ie. the phantom 3 with a camera

  8. Hi James, I am interested in starting this in Canada. We have many wind and oil companies here, you think there is a market here? Our laws a very different. I would love to have a quick chat, if your time permits. I have sent you an email. Thank you!

      1. Hey James, I’m in Canada as well and would love some insight on the law required to start a business like this. Especially in a Major city where I’m located.

  9. Hey there!
    I saw your post and was quite impressed so did a bit of research on the availability of drones in India. To my surprise, there is a startup named WeDoSky. Would be great if we could discuss further. Here’s my email- sofiyashakeel94@gmail.com

  10. Hi James
    Hello
    I read the business ideas , which are very impressive . Please sent me more detail to start these projects in India . Best suitable place , investment each.
    I will be highly thankful to you .
    Thanking you
    Yours
    Er Rajiv Kumar Gupta
    M–09837084456

  11. Hi, my name is Trenton. I live in alaska, and there are many oilfield companies, many different logistics contractors and such. I am curious as to where to start when trying to pursue large companies. I live in a town where lots of new construction is to be started here in the next few years, to accommodate workers living here while they work on the new pipeline going in. My dad purchased the dji phantom pro 3 last year to take vids of roofs we do, which got me interested in them. All these opportunities make me want to pursue it. I just want to know , is it really that easy to start out? And I want to know more info about how you pursue large companies that have a chain of command, how you get straight to the big guy who can give you the job?

  12. James, your answer to Austin was not entirely clear to me. So, you do need a pilot’s license just to fly a drone commercially? That is very strange.

  13. It seems strange to me that you would need to learn to fly an actual plane just to be able to fly a drone commercially. I also had another question. It seems to me that asking $15,000 to do a boiler inspection is a very high price. How does that compare with what it would actually cost you to do the inspection, plus the general cost of doing business in this field? I understand that you might go over this stuff in your e-book but in your Quora answer you stated that “so if you or anyone who reads this wants help in getting the FAA 333 Exemptions etc I can help and give advice. I’m not going to charge you for it.”

    1. Exactly, but that’s how stupid the government law is/was concerning drones. Trust me, the further you look into the details of the laws the stupider it gets. Suffice it to say Part 107 does away with the pilot requirement instead requiring folks to pass a written test. Once the person passes, they are considered a “drone pilot”. That’s the small and short of the legal part. I’m going to be frank with you in regards to pricing points – the market for drone inspections is virtually non-existent. Thus, there is little to no competition driving prices down. Name your price and make some money. In a couple of years you won’t be able to to this.

  14. hi iames, this is himanth from banglore (india). could you please guide me more on the drone application other than you have mentioned in your previous comment as we have more potential opportunity to start this business in india. also mention the price of the drone (phanton-4)

  15. Hi James thank you so much for the article we just bought the DJI Phantom 3 with the 4K video and I’m working on getting the 107, a cpu that will run premier, insurance etc. I already have a full-time job but this is something my wife talked me into trying because she thinks it’s a great opportunity. I think we would lean toward the real estate market or commercial real estate Maybe land that is for sale. The customer acquisition is the part that seems the most challenging to me but my question is since my wife is from Mexico she has mentioned that she thinks doing aerial photography for businesses in Mexico would be a great opportunity I have my reservations about going to that country for any purpose whatsoever but wanted to get your opinion about Mexico or if it is even necessary or worth the risk and may be plenty of business here in our own country. I live in Oklahoma City but of course I think the fear of over saturation is legitimate as well since many people start to get into this type business. I’m sure a lot of it depends on how good you are as far as competition goes but do you see a situation where oversaturation is going to kill the prices you can get for doing things with drones like real estate and what do you think about her idea of maybe doing something in Mexico? Thanks , Tag

    1. I say try Mexico out and see what happens! I’m not a fan of over-thinking stuff. I leave that for “professors” and other corporate types. Making money, being an entrepreneur, and obtaining freedom is all about DOING. Read, not theorizing. With that being said, for all we know performing drone work in Mexico may be the best thing since sliced bread!

      I used to live in Brasil, I’ve been thrown in jail in Mexico, and with all that being said, I still advise to try it out. You will never know until you do 🙂

  16. Why are you giving this information instead of making you own drone inspecting company and make it grow and get the biggest piece of the drone inspection market you can, for years to come?

    1. I’m currently involved with a few different multi-national drone companies ranging from companies that provide 3-D mapping software to building drones. My passion is writing, that’s what I want to do. It just so happens that I’m a businessman as well (owning and operating 3 companies). I don’t know where the road I’m on is leading, but I do what I love each and everyday.

      The reason I’m giving this info away is because I’m sick and tired of all the stupid advice given on the internet by the likes of Altucher or Ferris. These guys talk in vague randomness and you can listen to their shit for an entire week and walk away not having learned one concrete thing you can do to make money. I’m flipping that on it’s head and showing concrete examples of how to make money and quit your job. Why? Because true leaders are severely lacking in our world. What we have is a bunch of weaklings trying to make money solely by creating tons and tons of worthless content.

  17. I love how actionable your articles are, man! This is exactly what I’ve been looking for, none of that vague bs. I want to buy your e-book but would like to get in touch with you first

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