Solution Provider vs in-house for drone operatoins

Is your company debating between building an in-house drone solution or subscribing to a commercial drone solution? If so, there are several items to think about, most of which come back to the question of if it is worth it to retain all ownership, power, and accountability, or to have a commercial drone solution help shoulder some responsibility and provide expert knowledge and software. Here are five key factors to consider for such a decision.

1. Integrated System

Most often, when an individual or a group decides to build an in-house solution, the common idea is to purchase a drone intended for consumer use. By design, these drones are only capable of capturing minimal photos and videos. Since there is no additional built-in software for consumer drones, this choice leaves very few available options for programs that provide sophisticated data analysis; thus, this choice can leave you at risk of making decisions based on inaccurate data.

 In comparison, most solution offerings comprise of a drone intended for commercial use. Commercial drone solutions tend to include integrated software or are very easy to integrate with software that meets your needs. Also, tools built into the software that makes data capturing is very easy to attain, and process allows for easy analysis and decision-making.

 2. Legal Regulations

 To operate an in-house drone on job sites, you must be knowledgeable of all FAA regulations and obtain an exemption. Then you have to know the state and all local municipal laws and ordinances.  Once the exemption is in possession, you need to adhere to all FAA regulations during flyovers. Failure to do so can result in significant fines, such as the recent $1.9 million lawsuit against SkyPan.

 To put it simply, commercial drone providers take care of all exemptions necessary for surveys. Also, they’ll make sure your employees are educated and up-to-date with the latest FAA regulations. So, you will never need to worry about encountering issues or fines due to compliance on your sites. The liability is with the solution provider.

 3. Liability Insurance

 When operating with an in-house solution, owners will always be at risk of being liable for any related injuries, property damages, or equipment malfunctions.

 To prevent serious legal trouble, in-house owners will need to pay for expensive liability insurance or risk holding complete financial responsibility for any potential damages that result from drone operation or ownership.

 On the other hand, commercial drone providers, ideally, are fully insured. Therefore, any individuals or companies who use drones from providers are not taking any risks towards themselves or their businesses. Additionally, this makes you and your business 100% risk-free if an accident or a malfunction were to occur on your job site. In other words, the commercial drone solution will take care of all maintenance and will ship customers a replacement drone overnight for no added charge if the first drone is lost or damaged depending on the contractual agreement.

 4. Data Processing

 Once a drone has mapped and surveyed a site, the data captured requires compatible hardware, software, and trained specialists in place for the data to be transferred and processed before the data is available. Video may require editing to capture the best quality and target only images that are needed for the desired goal.

 In-house owners will need to take care of all data harvesting or purchase an online platform to help process information. Thus, all data processing would have to be conducted manually or through self-coded means. This method leaves room for error, inaccuracy, inefficient processing times, and awkward formatting.

 However, with a fully-managed commercial drone provider, all the technology and services are integrated into one platform creating a seamless experience between capturing, processing, sharing, and analyzing the data. Additionally, drone solution providers have team members readily available to help ease the process of understanding drone-acquired data.

 5. Cost of Ownership

When thinking about building a drone solution, make sure to consider your return on investment (ROI) carefully.

 The most expensive or reliable consumer drones cost thousands of dollars. On top of that, these are not for accuracy or professional capacity in mind. Thus, it makes them trickier to work with and less likely to meet your mapping and surveying needs.

 Commercial-grade drones, built to meet your expectations, cost approximately $50,000 in upfront capital expenses. Also, additional funds will need to be available for technology updates, repairs, replacements, and insurance coverage.

 By teaming up with a commercial drone solution provider, never incur these costs, including insurance, are offloaded from you. That way, you only pay for what you are using the drone for and never have to worry about pricey overhead costs associated with owning a drone again.

Questions? Contact Kernan Systems at or 202.827.9767