“I’ve always considered myself a bit of a tech geek,” said Eric Blevins, owner of Evolve Landscaping and Evolve Flight.
During his session “Eyes in the Sky,” Blevins detailed how to utilize drones to enhance a landscaping business.
He reviewed regulations, mentioning that drones must be under 55 pounds (including what it’s carrying) at takeoff and any drone over 0.55 pounds must be registered with the FAA.
Blevins says the first thing to consider is what you’ll be using the drone for — photos, videos, payload, etc.
“In our case we use it for promotions and marketing the company,” Blevins said. “We also use it for site documentation…customers love it. Companies have decided to go with us because we have the drone technology.”
Photogrammetry, or using drones for satellite measurements, is another so an advantage to the technology. “You can use this to do 2D and 3D models,” Blevins noted.
The drones can also use infrared spectrum analysis to spot plant diseases early on and identify irrigation hot spots.
Blevins added that using drones can also eliminate the need for on-site staff and are ideal for remote areas that are difficult to get to.
Determining if you need a license, is the next step.
“If you’re flying it for personal use only and under 400 feet, then you do not need a license,” he said. “If you’re using any of the photos or videos for your business, or getting paid for a drone project, then you need a license.”
Blevins said the proper procedure to get a commercial license is simple and can help someone avoid hefty fines.
If a P107 license is needed, someone can earn the license through classes that teach flight planning, airspace regulations, weather forecasting, airport operations and more.
“Once you get the license you are considered the pilot in command, which means you do not have to fly the drone but be nearby and in charge of the operation,” Blevins said. “You should also always have a visual observer or a team of folks to keep eyes on it.”
Another factor is insurance. Blevins said you’ll need to have coverage on the drone itself and the equipment, along with personal injury and property damage insurance.
“You can go online and search for companies that specialize in drones,” he said. “There’s a lot of options out there.”
Blevins said an emerging use for drones is also landscape design.
“We can overlay onto that picture what we want our enhancement design to be,” he said.
Overall, Blevins said by adding drone technology, it can be an additional revenue stream for a business. Blevins says he can charge up to $75 an hour in his market for drone work, with additional money coming in for editing the footage together as well.
“Once you’ve got your license and your drone you can really make it work for you,” he said, adding that using the drones for project highlights along with before/after videos are great marketing tactics.