Inhouse vs Outsource – Drone Aerial Imaging

black-and-white-question-mark-clipart-9T4ep4xacWith the rapid growth of UAV technology, and drones now readily available from many of the big box camera stores such as Henry’s, a lot of companies are looking to to add to their toolbox.

As we noted in the Drone Aerial Video in Digital Marketing article, these devices offer a great way to create a new stream of visual content to enhance marketing campaigns, as well as their many other uses.

With the barriers of entry around cost and ease of use getting lower every day as the technology advances the thought of investing in a system becomes an ever enticing idea.

Before making the leap however there are a few points that should be considered to ensure the investment in time and money is worthwhile:

  • UAV and related technology changes at a rapid pace, investments can quickly depreciate and be displaced by new innovations.  Do you have enough immediate and ongoing use to justify the capital investment?
  • The initial training to become proficient at flying and camera operation can take a substantial amount of time to master, as well as ongoing practice to keep your skills tuned.  Do you have someone that can take on the time commitment for this position?
  • Properly maintaining the aircraft is critical to proper safe operation and performance. Do you have someone with the technical skills to support and maintain the gear?
  • The regulations for drone use can be fairly involved and complex. Most countries have regulations governing their commercial use.  In Canada they are regulated by Transport Canada, and require an SFOC (Special Flight Operating Certificate) to be used legally in most situations, otherwise you may face fines of up to $25,000. Learn more in – Canadian Commercial Drone Regulations “For Dummies”
  • In addition to the regulations there are also liability insurance requirements; be sure to factor those costs into the decision.  Some details on the Canadian insurance requirements can be found here – UAV SFOC How To – Part 3 Insurance

The other factor to consider is if this is within your core set of services or are you branching outside your main service area? It may be better to focus on your core strengths and outsource for specialized skills like this when needed.

It is easy to get caught up in the “cool factor” of these gadgets, and for many that might be enough to justify the purchase.  However if your on a tighter budget or need to truly justify the costs to the company then it is wise to step back and make an informed business decision.

For those looking to get their own aerial system, we suggest starting small and simple. You want to learn the basics before investing in expensive gear. As they say “what goes up must come down” and not always in one piece.  You don’t want to be faced with a an expensive lesson right out of the gate.  For information on a good starter drone we suggest reviewing this article – Multirotor UAVs – Where to Start?

If you do go with outsourcing here are a few items to keep in mind:

  • Ensure the operator you use has the proper permits and insurance, so as to prevent any liability issues coming back on you in the event of any issues.
  • Fully define and detail the expectations, deadlines, requirements, and deliverables.  This includes specifying items such as the file format, frame rates, codecs, etc.  It may also get into specifics of the camera and lens you want used.
  • If your specialty is not video and photo editing/production you may want to engage with a production firm to provide this portion of the work, or find an aerial provider that does end to end production.
  • Depending on your experience with aerial imagery you may want to provide a storyboard and/or shot list for the specific project needs.  If your new to this type of imaging you may want to lean on the aerial provider for assistance and input on what they feel would work best.  In cases like this the experience of the operator becomes even more critical as they are taking on a creative role in the overall project.
  • If on screen talent and access to property/locations is required, be sure to define who will be responsible for those items.  In many cases that may fall to you as the client driving the project.
  • Weather is one of biggest factors when dealing with aerial shoots. Be sure to work alternate dates into the schedule. As well define any weather parameters that you want the imagery done within; you don’t want to end up paying for aerial video of a beach resort on a cloudy cold day for instance. Be clear on how lost weather days may be billed as well.
  • If travel to a location is required there may be additional costs involved, again make sure these are defined upfront.

As with working with any outside consultant, you need to make sure the contract for service is fully defined and managed so no assumptions are being made on either side.

There are pros and cons to each approach, in the end it comes down to the best fit for your abilities, budget, and ongoing needs. A balance of the two may also be the solution, working with a proven provider to get a better feel for all the elements involved and developing your knowledge and skill-set to possibly take it internal down the road if the client demand increases.

If you are interested in additional information please contact us to discuss your specific needs or questions.  flitelab offers drone based aerial imaging services, as well as consulting, sales, support, and servicing. We can help find the best solution for your aerial imaging needs.

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