Heading up the Client Strategy and Business Development group at Skyward, I regularly have initial conversations with professionals who are just starting to think about what drones can do for their business. We get plenty of questions around where to start, what to avoid, and how to get flying and realize value quickly. Let’s dive in and take a look at some of the questions my team and I hear most often. 

What are the first three things I should focus on when building a program?

Use cases: Drones are making a positive impact across organizations by being brought in to do jobs that are generally considered dangerous, time consuming, costly, and ineffective. Consider the areas of your operation where you’d like to see more risk mitigation, efficiency, accuracy, and cost savings. Those might be great places to launch your drone program! Here are high-impact use cases that our customers in several industries have shared with us:

Your team: While your organization could certainly hire a dedicated drone pilot to get your program off the ground, you can also invest in your current team by encouraging them to pursue a Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate. Becoming a commercial drone pilot is a relatively low investment and is a great avenue for professional development. Obtaining a license and training to fly could help folks on your team complete their current jobs with more efficiency and more accuracy, while allowing them to learn a new skill and continue growing in their role. We can help you understand more about the Part 107 certification and even provide a few tips and tricks for getting certified. 

Resources needed to implement: From standard operating procedures, to operations management software, to certifying and training your team, it’s important to consider all the resources needed to safely begin drone operations. While buying a drone takes very little effort and can seem like the first step in the process of launching your program, there’s a lot to consider before actually procuring hardware. Our Guide to Starting a Drone Program maps out what to prioritize as you get started. 

How do I handle resistance to building a drone program from within my organization?

It’s important to create clear communication around what new solutions you can develop using drones or show how much more effectively they’ll solve current needs. As I mentioned before, drones are bringing safety, efficiency, and cost savings to operations across a variety of industries. But, not only that, they’re allowing organizations to innovate their operations and offer services they may not have been able to in the past or gain new insights they’ve previously been operating without.

Spend some time looking at your operations and determining how a drone program can make money, save money, or both for your organization. Some executives will prioritize understanding return on investment above all else when considering new solutions. Our Budgeting for an Enterprise Drone Program webinar can help prepare you for those conversations and includes a downloaded ROI calculator. Work through the calculator and come to the table knowing how drones can impact your operations. 

What mistakes should I avoid when building a drone program?

Going solo: While there is incredible value to be seen in launching a drone program, getting the right folks on board can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. Find partners to work with you on developing the program internally. Understand what value drones could bring to your colleagues in other departments and share the knowledge. Working to develop consensus across departments or business groups builds necessary buy-in throughout the organization. Drones can foster collaboration cross-departmentally — use that to your advantage!

Just going for it: As I mentioned before, buying a drone is relatively easy. One of the most common pitfalls we see organizations make is investing in a fleet of drones and sensors without really outlining their use cases and determining what capabilities they’ll need in advance. With drones being a newer technology, it’s still not widely known what certifications or licenses are needed for commercial operations. And, oftentimes, companies will start with one to three drone pilots so they won’t see a need to thoroughly track the drone operations. These topics should be researched and explored before you ever take off. Remember the Guide to Starting a Drone Program I mentioned earlier? Definitely check that out. When it does come time to start exploring drone options for your use cases, Skyward can help determine what will work best and even order your drone kits for you. 

Building as you go: This line of thinking is decently common and generally what ends up stalling a program out shortly after takeoff. While it can be tempting to launch with one or two pilots, some spreadsheets, and a dream, there are necessary steps to take to ensure you see success from the get go and don’t find yourself grounded.

Patching together solutions: The drone industry is quickly evolving with a variety of solutions out there for drone programs. From LAANC providers, to operations management tools, to data processing software, it can be easy to get lost and find yourself with one solution for one particular need. When you have multiple applications like that you create friction, reduce efficiency and ultimately create excessive workload and business constraint on your process. Find a solution that will track your flights, submit for approvals, keep track of maintenance, assess your risk, and process your data all in one — we’re partial to the Skyward platform.

Skyward Guide to Starting a Drone Program