Costs Associated with Introducing Drones to your Business

7 June 2023

What you need to know COST-wise in order to introduce drones to your surveying toolkit!

Let’s assess the question on lots of survey businesses’ minds when asked about adding a drone to their toolkit… “What are the actual costs associated with it?”

Let’s be as transparent as possible so you don’t face any hidden costs!

Training

First up you have to put a member of staff through a training course in order to be a qualified drone pilot. On this course we can assist with the appropriate drone to purchase, based on your business’ needs. We have a team of highly experienced pilots with relevant industry knowledge. Meet them here.

The best ‘future proof’ course we recommend is the General Visual Line of Sight course (GVC), because it allows you to fly any drone up to 25kg in weight within a congested area. There are other courses (A2 Certificate of Competence)but you are limited by the weight of the drones, and how close to uninvolved person you can fly, which can be rather restrictive for anyone using drones in a typical surveyors working environment.  So as you advance in the industry and get something that’s maybe more technologically advanced and heavier, you can still fly under this qualification. You can work in congested areas etc as you have been trained on the appropriate safety precautions. 

The CAA General Visual Line of Sight (GVC) Course is a 3 day course; a residential course that includes practical flying training, theory and a workshop on compiling your operations manual. So once you’ve done that course and passed your on site flight assessment that is you qualified to fly a drone. This costs approx £1195 plus VAT for the residential options which most people take.

If using something under 250 grams, you only need a flyer ID for the remote pilot of the drone (Free) and an Operator ID for the Company (£10.33 per annum). Take a look at our regulations blog which explains all of the types of qualifications in more detail.

Less Obvious Costs to Implement a drone:

Data Processing -A high end computer gaming type laptop (for processing your data into 3D point clouds etc) with the following:

  • Windows 10, 64 bits (Windows 11 is not supported yet).
  • Decent Processor such as intel i9
  • Hard disk: SSD.
  • Medium projects (between 100 and 500 images at 14 MP):
  • 16GB RAM, 30 GB SSD Free
  • Approx £2.500 for a laptop or £3500 for a desktop.

-Software for drone mapping: PIX4D which comes in at £260 per month or £3990 perpetual licence or DJI Terra Pro at £2600 plus VAT

-Commercial drone insurance, with public liability cover is a must! Approx £300 for a DJI Mavic 3 Enterprise with £1m Public Liability cover

-CAA Application: £290.00 with a renewal fee of £217 each year for your operations manual.

-A GPS Rover, from £812 plus VAT

-VRS License from £20 per hour or purchase an annual licence.

Purchasing the Correct Drone

At the Drone Pilot Store we have many drones available for you to purchase. We pride ourselves on providing continued support for customers, having recently started our online student and customer forum.

Let’s look at our most popular 3 drones at the moment:

DJI Mini 3 Flymore (approx £850 plus VAT includes battery spares pack and in-built screen on Remote Controller). Great for simple tasks without many regulatory restrictions.

DJI Mavic 3 RTK (£3485 plus VAT including RTK Module and Battery Spares Pack )

Go-to starting drone for surveyors.

DJI Matrice 350 (£9132 plus VAT with 2 batteries and Battery Charging Station)

Has changeable payloads so you can fix different sensors to it instead of having to have multiple drones. 

A popular attachment for photogrammetry is the DJI Zenmuse P1 which comes in at £4663 +VAT.

If you want to penetrate vegetation better then you are looking at investing in a LiDAR sensor. So the DJI entry level is the DJI Zenmuse L1 (£7633.33 +VAT) which has about 10 cm accuracy that might be good enough, depending on the work you’re doing. 

However, if you want more precision, then the price goes up, and you’re looking at investing in something like a YellowScan LiDAR sensor where the accuracy can come down below 5 cm. 

If you’re looking at a thermal sensor then the DJI H20T is approximately £8,500 plus VAT. You may not use something like this very often, so the benefit with the Drone Pilot Academy is that you can hire this (and the DJI L1 LiDAR Sensor) from us as and when you need it (fill out the contact us form on our website and we can chat about this).

For more information on introducing drones to your surveying business, you can access our free webinar recording below.

Or, to speak to one of our experts, book a consultation today. 

Watch our Webinar ‘Introducing Drones to you Survey Business’

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