5 Tips for Hiring a Drone Service Provider for Mapping

5 Must Ask Questions When Selecting a Drone Service Provider

The Drone Mapping Directory can help you find commercial drone operators near you, but that’s just the first step. Once you find an operator, it’s important to evaluate whether he or she is right for your project. Before hiring a drone service provider, we recommend asking these 5 key questions.

1) What certification do you have?

There are many regulations that determine what you can and can’t do in commercial drone operations. Luckily, it’s easier than ever for operators to obtain proper certification, follow the rules, and provide the services you need.

We strongly recommend requiring any pilot you hire to show you proof of certification. In the United States, any commercial drone flight requires FAA certification under Part 107 or Section 333, so any drone operator you are evaluating in the U.S. should be able to show you either a part 107 remote pilot’s certificate or section 333 exemption. In addition, all drones must be registered with the FAA. For all other countries, check http://dronelaw.in/ for local regulations.

Part 107 certificate example:

2) What type of insurance do you carry for your drone operations?

Your business liability insurance policy probably doesn’t cover damage from drone crashes -- so you’ll want to make sure the drone operator you hire can show you proof of insurance for an appropriate policy to cover damages in the event of an accident. Bryant Dunn, Assistant Vice President and General Aviation Underwriter at Global Aerospace, a global provider of aerospace and aviation insurance recommends that at a minimum, drone operators should have a Hull and Liability policy. Learn more about drone insurance.

3) What experience do you have that qualifies you for this specific project?

In the US there were 12,000 remote pilots licensed under part 107 in the first 2 weeks -- but there’s a wide range of experience levels among those thousands of pilots. That’s why it’s important to make sure the provider you hire can meet your project requirements. Checking out the example maps on the directory is a good first step in evaluating the quality of a drone operator’s work, but you should also make sure you clearly identify your project requirements and make sure that the pilot you’re evaluating has the necessary experience to deliver against them. Specifically, we recommend clarifying the following with prospective pilots up front:

  • Project location
  • Project time frame and due date
  • Desired project output. Be specific about what level of accuracy and format(s) you require (e.g., DroneDeploy link, jpeg, pdf, GeoTiff, .las or .obj point cloud, etc.)

Ask the pilot to describe any experience they’ve had flying for your industry. This experience can help them better understand and cater to your business’s needs.

4) What kind of equipment do you use?

The main reason to ask what kind of equipment the drone operator will use is to make sure they have equipment that will enable them to deliver against your project goals. For example, if your project requires a survey grade accuracy, your pilot will need to use Ground Control Points (GCPs). If you need to generate a true NDVI map, the pilot will need to have a drone equipped with a near-infrared camera.

5) What, if any, professional licenses do you have?

This question also relates to the operator’s ability to meet your project goals. While many basic mapping or 3D modeling projects will not require the operator to have any additional licenses beyond their remote pilot certification, if you are hiring service provider to provide a survey that must be certified legally (i.e., it will hold up in court), you need a licensed land surveyor.

Similarly, if you are hiring a service provider to prepare, sign/seal, and submit engineering plans and drawings to a public authority for approval, or seal engineering work for public and private clients, you need a licensed Professional Engineer.