Drones - All the reasons not to
This is going to be a short post to talk about a longer post that is coming soon. There are reasons not to enter into this market. But those reasons do not hold up for our market. We've had a lot of questions about drones, or UAVs, or those little helicopters.
We wanted to start with the following very clear information:
1. Flying a drone is probably illegal
It is probably illegal to fly a drone. Even if the drone is underweight, you are a long way from an airport and there isn't a single person within a 50 mile radius, it is probably still illegal. The rules for drones are not clear, they are in the process of changing and are not coherent from one jurisdiction to another.
For example, the City of Calgary says that it is illegal to operate a drone within 7 nautical miles of the Calgary International Airport. Which isn't a scale or unit of measure ever mentioned in any federal documentation (because we live in metric land). The City of Calgary also prohibits the operation of UAVs (which is the more general term for drones) from operating over top of streets or parks. It also requires a Special Flight Operations Certificate for all operation of a drone within city limits, which means that you would need one that doesn't exist in a vast majority of cases.
This is one jurisdiction in Canada. We can see that there is a haphazard approach to enforcement of the Federal regulations surrounding autonomous flight, and that is more than slightly scary.
2. The market is garbage
While the market for drones could be great it is unfortunately being held by two market factions on the supplier side. On the one hand you have responsible manufacturers like DJI, Parrot and Yuneec who are trying to make sure that their aerial vehicles are compliant with regulation, are being sold by responsible people, have aftermarket care, and aren't likely to cause a disproportionate amount of strife. On the other hand I can hop on Ali-Express right now drop ship an unending variety of copy-cat products for a fraction of the cost that may or may not function.
Both of these markets are crashing into one another. It makes for too many purveyors and not enough real market. This is after all a specialist hobby, or narrow line of work.
Given the steep input costs for carrying a real manufacturer in Yuneec, Parrot or DJI; or the inherent fraud that is buying things from Ali-express to circumnavigate protective market features, this market is in a bad place.
3. Flying drones is objectively bad
My brother and I have a long history of smashing things that briefly flew into the ground. From kites, to a variety of remote controlled aircraft, to chemical rockets, to raspberry pi controlled autonomous zeppelins, we have attempted to fly many things. We have successfully flown home-built quadrocopters, and more advanced kit builds. In our decades long history of flying things into the ground the only person who have ever been hurt in our endeavors was me. As the younger brother it was my job to stabilize the launch, and that doesn't always go well. We've had a variety of spectators throughout the 20 years of crashing. Then there started to be a variety of news sources that prattled on about perverts using UAVs so spy on people, or the government using them to kill insurgents. That's when we stopped having parents bring their kids to watch our shenanigans to having people call the police on us. From the friends I left in the hobby, the reports are the calls haven't gotten friendlier. It seems that flying drones is now objectively bad. Which really is too bad.
WHY YOU SHOULD DO IT ANYWAY
Yes, all the reasons above are specific critiques about why you probably shouldn't sell drones. But, there are a number of much better reasons why you should. This is specialized retail and you are at the hotbed for the use case for two very large markets. The first is selling for research application. DJI and Parrot both have models specifically designed for Geomatics research. There is also a huge market for commercial photography and photogrammetry as DJI releases 8k drones to capture ludicrously detail photos and video to provide spacial context for the natural world. This says nothing of the application for film and television as increasingly the gimbals on drones replace a number of other film techniques once only available to Hollywood directors. Post-secondary is where people are receiving their first experiences with this market, and it should be where they are experiencing the equipment that drives their market.