What to Look for When Hiring a Commercial Drone Company

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What to Look for When Hiring a Commercial Drone Company

Drones come in many shapes and sizes, with a multitude of interchangeable payloads, making them highly adaptive and useful across many industries. Whether for monitoring construction, surveying land, conducting overhead powerline maintenance, measuring the viability of solar panel cells, through to precise agriculture; the applications of drones are numerous. But they are only worthwhile when using a highly skilled and experienced team of drone operators.

The question then arises: how do we distinguish between the professional and amateur drone service providers? And this is what we will be addressing within this article. From the most important aspects of company research, to the questions you should be asking each company you are considering; this article will help you find the perfect commercial drone provider for your project.
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Why are Commercial Drone Companies Used?

Drones as a Service (DaaS) is an innovative concept that allows companies from any industry to use the technology behind drones, without the investment into technology and training. DaaS allows companies to hire Unmanned Aerial Vehicles with their pilots and up-and-running software to arrive on-site, deliver your results and leave when no longer needed. Instead of companies investing in buying their own drones, training their staff how to use them and struggling to understand how to display the correct maps and images on-screen, drone service providers are able to deliver the results you need, accurately and efficiently.

Now let’s address the most important question -- how can you find the best drone company in Dubai?

5 Factors to Consider when Hiring a Commercial Drone Company

There is a great deal of research you can do when looking to hire a commercial drone company, but the following are five of the most important aspects to look at when you are assessing which provider to go with. Not only do you want to hire a company who can deliver; you also want to make sure they have the safety record to go with it, to ensure you get what you pay for without creating any issues for yourself later on in the project.

1. Licensed and Skilled Pilots

Providing Drones as a Service should be done by professionals as opposed to hobbyists. There are multiple laws and legislations that must be adhered to, including holding a trade license, having both drones and pilots registered with the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA), holding in-date drone insurance and acquiring security clearance from GCAA and UAE Ministry of Defence. Due to the prerequisites for acquiring a commercial drone permit, the ability to do so serves as another level of assurance that you are engaging with a company that is operating legally within the UAE.

FEDS Elios Drone IndoorFully licensed drone pilots are legally required to have undergone training on operating drones within a variety of conditions while capturing accurate data and measurements, and without inhibiting other flying or moving vehicles. They should also be registered with the GCAA/DCAA, evidence of which can be requested as well as proof of their qualifications.

Licensed drone pilots will be adept at generating a vast range of imagery and maps from advanced software, however, this is subject to an additional check as you must ensure the company you employ is able to provide you with all the deliverables you require for your project.

2. Professional-Grade Drones

Hobbyist drones are far from the level of professional drones; the technology, accuracy and maneuverability are all far superior on professional grade drones. In addition to this, the highly specialised payloads are far more costly, complicated and more powerful than the amateur variety.

M300 DronesProfessional drones have built-in safety precautions such as an increased number of rotors to increase the chances of a safe landing during the event one or more rotors fail. While some failure in machinery is inevitable, professional firms with a large fleet will be able to replace faulty equipment far more easily than an amateur who may need to wait for the parts to be ordered in.

Each professional drone has distinct specialisations and will therefore excel in a particular application; for example, a drone used within a dusty, confined area will be vastly different from the drone sent out to collect inspection imagery along hundreds of kilometers of Overhead Power Lines. Not only are the drones specialised; the payloads are, too. A UV sensor payload mounted to the drone is vital for OHTL inspections as it has the ability to expose corona leakage which would otherwise remain invisible and undetected.

This advanced equipment is expensive, and not all companies will have invested in them. However, having the right inventory and equipment for the project is an important consideration when looking at which company’s services to enlist to ensure you collect as much relevant data as possible for your project, thereby making the most of the service you hire.

3. Level of Expertise

This sounds more complicated to figure out than it is; basically, you want to hire a company who is adept at collating the data you need. Drones are frequently used for basic tasks such as aerial photography, but if you are looking for something more specialised, such as heat sensing, leakage detection, or to operate within dusty conditions among many others, you will need to find a company who has the relevant expertise in the environments you require. With such powerful technology, knowing how to use it correctly and therefore accurately is a vital skill. The level of accuracy in mapping and data collection increases through the use of skilled and trained operators, and the difference between those who have been trained and those who are amateur is evident. Geomatics professionals would possess in-depth knowledge that helps unlock the true potential of drones and drone data, with their background they are well versed in best practices operationally and during processing. And through increased expertised, the success rate proportionally increases as well.

4. Specialised Data Acquisition

Data from inspections, progress monitoring, mapping and surveying generates hundreds or thousands of RAW images, and it is the role of the drone service provider to extract and deliver the information you need from these many files. From a 2D map to a high-resolution video map, survey or inspection; the company you hire must be able to extract the necessary deliverables for you, and provide them to you in a way in which you can understand.

eBee Drone PilotEssentially what is needed is the correct professional drone operator who understands your industry, in order to correctly interpret what information you as the client will require at the end of the mission. For example, when inspecting OHTL, the drone provider should send out an electrical engineer, with drone training and experience, to carry out that particular project. On the other hand, if you require a site inspection or progress monitoring during construction, a drone pilot with a construction background should perform that task.

As well as presenting the information in an easily identifiable way, thorough results should make it clear what and where the defects are for easier and quicker maintenance and troubleshooting. Ask the company to share with you the kind of reports they provide their customers, and discuss whether they are able to offer you what you need. They may be able to customise their delivery if they have the correct drones and payloads to provide the information you need.

5. Reputation and Experience

Testimonials are often available on modern company websites, however, you can also ask companies for references that you can contact yourself. Where case studies and articles are provided through the company website or white papers, these can illustrate the way they work and the type of projects they have successfully taken on. Most importantly, you should request the relevant licenses from the company to ensure they are working according to the rules and regulations that are in place to enhance safety.

Questions to Ask Commercial Drone Companies

Below we have gathered some questions that you should ask the service provider before hiring. These are designed to help you find the right commercial drone operator for your project, and to ensure their adherence to safety regulations.

1. What licenses does the drone pilot hold?

  • Ensure they hold a valid commercial drone permit. This requires several documents that ensure the legal operation of the company, including a trade license, GCAA/DCAA registered drones, drone insurance and security clearance.

2. How many years of experience do they have commercially piloting drones?

3. What is their procedure for inspections?

  • Understanding their operating procedures will ensure you know what to expect when the drone arrives on site, and when you can expect to receive the deliverables.

4. Are they able to perform the task you need them to? Can they provide the deliverables you need before your deadline?

5. How are the deliverables provided? Are you required to have specific software to view them?

  • Some may use software that you already make use of within your organisation, but others may require additional software to display properly.

6. What would the reports look like?

  • How do they process the data? What should you expect to see at the end of the surveying or inspection process?

7. Do they have drone insurance?

  • Machinery malfunctions cannot be predicted, so it is important to know what type of insurance they have in the event of an incident.

8. What safety procedures do they have in place?

  • What risk assessments will they be conducting prior to carrying out the work for your project?

9. What does their maintenance schedule look like?

  • How often do their UAVs undergo routine maintenance?

10. What drones and payloads will they be using for your project?

  • There is a wide range of available payloads; if you are going for quality, you will want to ensure they have -- or are willing to acquire -- the top of the range sensors for your project.

11. What makes them better than their competitors?

  • Every company has a USP - what is theirs? Can they back up their claims with a case study?

12. What is the price for carrying out your project?

  • A vital question to know the answer to; how much does it cost? Are you willing to pay that? Do you want to compromise on quality and go with a lower grade company, or can you afford the best?

Hiring the Right Commercial Drone Company for You

It is vital to do a thorough research and to vet commercial drone companies well before you commit to hiring them on important projects. The right company can take your projects to the next level, whereas an inferior service provider may end up causing more frustration through the delivery of poor and potentially useless imagery or data, making you lose more time and money.

The possibilities that can be achieved through the application of drone technology are numerous and are continuously expanding. Ensuring you have a competent company on your side, with a sophisticated air fleet and a professional crew, will enable you to find out just how effective and efficient drone technology can be.

FEDS has been offering Drones as a Service in the Middle East since 2014, and we are proud to be among the top drone companies in the world. Read more about us and our previous clients. And if you would like to ask how we can help you in your next project, contact us today.
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