It’s easy to get excited about drones. Unless you have an Aston Martin equipped with missile launchers in your garage, drones are the closest thing to a Bond gadget that you can actually buy. There are ample predictions estimating the global drone industry to be worth over a hundred billion dollars within the next two years and the applications for drones already seem infinite. But don’t get lost in the possibilities – build a plan. Like any technology drones are an investment and planning for how to implement drones in your business is the best way to ensure your investment is profitable.

Start with proof of concept. Find a case study that matches your industry or contract a professional to do a job for you. Once you have proof of concept you can better understand how drones are going to benefit your business. The proof will help determine how to measure the success of the program and focus on tangible outcomes. Quantifiable results that directly affect your business’s bottom line are typically the goal here.

Recognize and rank opportunities. Learn where will you obtain the highest ROI. Starting small and establishing success in areas with the highest ROI supports establishing a successful drone program and keeps costs in check. Implementing drones in one or two key areas will make measuring results and managing the program easier. Not to mention, there is a learning curve with anything new and learning can be costly if you’re not careful.

Understand all the costs. There are more than meet the eye. Drones can deliver data at a fraction of the cost of many traditional methods, but it takes more than heading to your local electronic store and tossing a drone into the sky. Knowing all the costs allows you to make an informed decision on what part of your drone program should be contracted out and what parts should be done internally.

Here are a few things no drone program should be without:

  • A Drone
    • This may seem obvious but do your research and talk to a professional. It’s worth it to get the right drone the first time.
  • Software
    • There is a lot of great software out there to collect and analyze data. Software can be pricey so find out what works best for your applications
  • A Well-Trained Pilot
    • There are an increasing number of people that can fly drones, but not everyone is qualified for your jobs. Make sure your pilot is up to speed on their certifications and understands the regulations. Liability is not limited by negligence.
  • Visual Observer
    • It’s easier to lose sight of a drone than most people think. Every pilot needs a VO. Not only is it a legal obligation, but distractions happen and having a second set of eyes that knows what they’re doing helps a lot.
  • Insurance
    • There are two types, liability and hull. Liability is a must, and hull insurance is recommended especially if you need a more expensive drone for your applications. Most pilots have experienced a crash at some point.
  • Data analyst
    • With the influx of data companies are able to gather using drones many legacy systems are unable to process it all. Someone needs to understand what all that golden data your drone is mining means.
  • Company-specific written documents
    • Think standard operating procedures, safety protocols, pre-flight and post-flight checklists. These help to keep your company out of the headlines for the wrong reasons and reduce growing pains as you look to implement drones. Working with a professional here is recommended, the general public has limited understanding of aviation and airspace.
  • Management
    • All parts of a business are managed, drone operations shouldn’t be the exception. There are records that should be kept, and knowledge that can be gained from a well-managed program.

Know when to ask for help. You are a master of your business and there is no shame in admitting you might not be a master of drones. If you want to hire a pro for a job to see drones in action before diving head first into the industry it’s probably a good idea. If you don’t have hours of time for research or the means to manage the program, there are resources available. Don’t let obstacles like these scare you away. The hype about drones is supported with success stories. Make your business one of them.