The Drone Problem We’re Here to Solve

The following post was written by DroneBase CEO and co-founder, Dan Burton.

Team DroneBase gets to interact with hundreds of drone pilots every single day. Our conversations with our pilots tend to be very tactical: training for a new vertical, clarifying mission plans and flight best practices, and spirited debates over price and cost.

While these tactical conversations are important, I think it is important that drone pilots also understand what DroneBase is trying to build, and why it matters for you.

In a series of posts this fall, I will try to be as open and transparent as possible with all of you about what problem DroneBase is solving, how we are solving it, and why we care so much about making this happen for you.

After working full-time for over three years on DroneBase, Eli and I have a very clear vision of the problem we are solving:

There is nothing to do with your drone.

If you are in any way engaged with drones or this industry, you intuitively know this to be true.

This is the common refrain from 80% of the hobbyist drone pilots we talk to: “I bought a drone. I took some selfies, I took some videos at the beach, I took some pictures on a hike. But I had nothing else to do. Now my drone is sitting on my shelf collecting dust, and I can’t remember the last time I used it”.

While hobbyist drone pilots are the least-engaged by nature, but the exact same under-utilization problem exists for semi-pro and professional drone pilots as well.

Semi-professional pilots

Semi-professional pilots may have been a slightly more engaged drone user who just got their Part 107. However, getting that first commercial flight: knowing how to market your services, pricing out various packages, having a solid flight plan, understanding the operational and compliance considerations, transferring data, presenting the outputs, collecting payment, etc. can seem incredibly intimidating and hard.  

Full-time Professional pilots

Full-time Professional pilots are the most engaged drone users, but the same problem exists: it is very hard to get a fully-booked schedule of professional drone flights. We have been very proud that DroneBase has been able to support drone pilots as full-time professionals just on our platform, or provide a percentage of work to entrepreneurial pilots who are working near-full time on their own. However, almost every full-time pro pilot we speak to is more idle in a given week than they want.

Enterprises & Worksites

Finally, even the enterprises and worksites trying to use drones themselves are woefully underusing their equipment. A construction site that flew a drone every single day would be considered a very heavy drone user. However, with one flight a day, that drone is being used 1.3% of the time, which would be considered wasteful for any other piece of equipment on the worksite.

From our own data and internal industry studies, we estimate that the average drone gets flown about 6 times a year. That statistic should alarm our entire industry.

If a product is used 3-10 times a year, it fits the profile of a GoPro: still a solid company ($1.3B valuation) with a nice-to-have product but with no real urgency to upgrade to the latest system. At the far other end of the spectrum, I check my iPhone about 100 times everyday: Apple is the most valuable company in the world ($813B), I am borderline addicted to their product and buying a new phone every other year is a non-decision.

DroneBase believes that drones generally, and DJI specifically, may never reach iPhone level usage, but are far more profound than a GoPro. We do believe that DroneBase pilots can be engaged daily with their drone systems as essential tools for their professional, creative, and fun pursuits.

Next week, I will lay out the Mission we’re on here at DroneBase to solve this problem that there is nothing to do with your drone.

Dan Burton Headshot (1)Dan Burton is the CEO and co-founder of DroneBase.  Dan served as a Marine Infantry Officer in Iraq and Afghanistan; he now builds and pilots a variety of drone platforms in California. Dan previously worked in Goldman Sachs’ Technology, Media & Telecom group; the US Marine Corps; and the US Senate. He has an MBA from HBS and a BA from NYU.


24 thoughts on “The Drone Problem We’re Here to Solve

  1. As a new pilot with DroneBase I have to say my local has so many missions that if I had more batts I could be flying 4 or 5 hours a day. I think DroneBase is a great service and is giving out a great product and looking forward to worki with them for years to come


    1. Hi Ahmed! DroneBase is actively flying in the UK, and our customer base is steadily growing. Make sure you’re signed up and have all your profile info filled out and we’ll notify you when more missions become available in your area.


  2. Thank you Dan for the email and we also look forward to the future blog post. In our DJI Aerial Photo Academy classes we refer you Drone Base as a source for drone jobs. I alway ask how many of the students have tried Drone Base, and typically 5-6 students in a class of about 45 will raise their hand. I ask for comments, and some people say that they have been able to earn an extra $50-$80 per day during lunch break or on a weekend shooting real estate listings that you supply. Other people are confused about how you work, what is your relationship with Getty and so on.
    Our team is on a 48-city tour across North America, teaching aerial photography methods and drone business skills. Depending on where you live, it would be great to have you or one of your team attend a workshop and speak to the class about Drone Base. Thanks!
    Randy Braun & Stacy Garlington
    DJI Aerial Photo Academy


    1. Hi Randy & Stacy! Thank you for keeping an eye on our blog, we’re glad you’re enjoying Dan’s posts so far! We appreciate you mentioning DroneBase at your classes too! We’re definitely interested in having someone from our team speak at one of your workshops, especially if you make it into the LA area (we’re based in Santa Monica). Please email us at so we can discuss details.


  3. I’m really looking forward to the announcements about new opportunities. I’ve been working for Dronebase since I retired from the Navy in October 2016. I always enjoy the sound my smartphone Gmail app makes when a new job comes in from DroneBase!


  4. I’ve been with Drone Base since June and really enjoy enjoy the work. I’m approaching retirement and I hope to be able to do this in my later years. Thank you for the opportunities!


    1. We’re proud to have you as a part of our Pilot Network, Joe – and we’re committed to creating more flight opportunities for pilots like yourself. Thanks for being a part of the team!


  5. I believe that now most of the hype over commercial drone use is over, we see that the demand for aerial photo and video is limited in scope and compensation. It is hardly worth a professional adult to spend several hours a day flying real estate missions on speculation or “Pano Mssions” as DroneBase calls them for less than $250. That is just not sustainable from my point of view.


    1. Hi Lew, thanks for taking the time to read, and we appreciate you sharing your thoughts! Our goal is (and always will be) to drive value for our industry without killing pricing. We will be announcing even more ways to fly your drone on our platform soon, and we hope you’ll check them out!


  6. I really love Drone Base, it has given me something to do with my drone. I think I’m in a bad market area for Aerial Photo and Pano missions though. The percentage i’m seeing makes pursuing aerial jobs discouraging. I most certainly will keep my eye open for your upcoming solutions to the above write-up.


    1. Hey Reggie! Thanks for the support – we’re just as happy to have you as a part of our team. Regarding Pano Missions, we absolutely hear you and are hard at work on solutions that our pilot network will be excited about. Stay tuned!


  7. Wow! Finally the bare knuckle truth. As one of the early lucky ones, I have flown full-time drone operations under 333 and 107 for some very impressive customers; however, I saw the full-speed train wreck coming six months ago. Future work is nearly non existent.


    1. Hey Gil – thanks for reading, and great to hear that you’ve found work with your skills! We believe that the industry is actually expanding – there will be even more opportunities for pilots as drones become more commonplace. Our goal is to continue to break into new industries and provide flight opportunities for our pilots that simply didn’t exist before (for example, pilots are now eligible for editorial work via our Getty Images partnership). To that point, we have some exciting announcements coming soon – we hope you’ll stay tuned!


  8. Hey Dan, those are some interesting statistics! I’ve been trying to convince Corporate people that they should rely on professional drone pilots, instead of trying to use drones on a part-time basis, because we keep up with the latest regulations, we fly regularly enough to have the needed skills, and we go through the inspections, preflight checklists, and safety briefings on a regular basis so that it is habit. There’s a good white paper by the insurance company that sponsors VeriFly, and they make the same argument, so I use (and cite) some of their quotes in my literature!
    I’m very interested to see the mission of DroneBase spelled out, so I can better utilize your resources!




  9. Hey that is interesting to hear I’m not the only one with a drone collecting dust. I was so excited to start! Got my part 107 and a used Inspire 1 after a handful of smaller ones. I thought I would find a way to work on a regular basis flying but that did not happen. I lost a lot of steam. I did about 50 pano missions and got paid for 1/3 approximately. Just got 2 client missions this week but it had been months since I had used my drone. Starting my own business was a daunting task. I get emails for client missions but if I don’t see them within 10 minutes there already taken. So I’ll be watching and would love to do more work! Thanks you guys for your work on the work!



    1. I applaud Dronebase for taking this problem head on. The FAA and the industry oversold the initial potential which led many of us to invest in this new industry; however, while I enjoyed significant work using a 333 Exemption, after 107 passage the work began to dwindle and earnings plummeted. Today, I have no drone work. Tens of thousands of dollars of drones, sensors, a website, and subscriptions sit idle. At the end of the month, I will close up to cut losses. I submitted dozens of resumes in hopes of taking this experience and work for a VC funded group or enterprise using drones in their workflow. Not one response. Says it all.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s