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Ridiculous Wages: Combatting the Low Ballers of UAS

May 29, 2019


I’m looking for a drone operator. Need someone by tomorrow at 11 am (currently 3 PM), must have a drone capable of shooting 4K, shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes. Pay $75. 


            Well goodness. How kind of you to set my rate for the project. How many of you have seen this on bidding sites for drones? (One comes to mind, but due to legal issues I won’t say the name for fear of offending – and being sued, mainly that) Its scary, but its real. Postings like this leave me - well - scratching my head. How can someone bid on it? And in what other industry does the customer believe they have the right to tell me what a service they are admitting they can't perform is worth? 


I’m a full time business owner and I see this almost daily now. I still get the email alerts to that site we won’t name, because its almost become quite comical to see just how low these people are going, AND THEY’RE GETTING BIDDERS! Listen, I know there are a lot of us out there who are still new to the UAS industry, and many who work part time. I applaud you for wanting to get into this industry, but new or not, this is ridiculous and you shouldn’t be bidding on it. 


“But, if I do 10 $75 jobs in a week, that’s $750!” Sure. It is. 


            But that’s $75 for your time on site. Did you account for the fact that you’ll have to get there? That you will need to check for airspace constraints tonight since they need you tomorrow? What about a site walk around and prepping the drone for takeoff? Safety? Anyone? Hello?  Did you account for the wear and tear on your equipment? Post processing and quality checking the shots? Did you account for your monthly insurance expenditure? What if you’re using on demand insurance? What if its inside airspace, and while you have the waiver, you didn’t account for the man hours you spent submitting request for authorization from the FAA?


            I couldn’t care less that you’re okay making $75. But my problem is that this sends the wrong message to the public. You are devaluing a skill set, and a service. Just this past week I saw a posting from HomeAdvisor.com, where they published the apparent “going rate” for a land surveyor? Would you like to guess how low they estimate the costs of a land surveyor? And the posting was so generic. It didn’t specify a surveyor in what area of the nation, for what service, or for how large of a project. But needless to say the surveying, and engineering community was in an uprising. 


            When you have your forty hour a week job at wherever, and then bid (or agree to get told your price in this case) $75 for a project which will take you 4-5 hours from start to finish from looking up the airspace, writing up a contract, to traveling to the location, then flying, to QC’ing, and then delivery of the photos, and creation of an invoice, you hurt us all. You give companies such as (B&C Aerials attorney’s have omitted the name for legal purposes, but they used to be big in agriculture ;) read in a really fast voice like on one of those late night infomercials) You end up giving them legitimacy in a growing market which is already oversaturated with amateurs and overnight YouTube pros. If you care about this industry, its future, and its public view and trust, you’ll stop this nonsense and start bidding a fair price. I don’t know of a single company that $75 for a project of any kind is enough to cover overhead costs. Even ones run out of a garage, on a Sunday before returning to work. 


            Now I’ve heard the other side of this coin. “Low ball operators aren’t hurting your business, you just don’t provide a good product.” (Now go back read that last sentence in the stupidest voice you can think of at the time) Well that couldn’t be more from the truth. In fact, I’ve found that the further into the industry one moves, and the more industrial your service becomes, the higher the pay, the greater the expectation from the client, and the more professional the service becomes. Its really only been in real estate I have usually seen this. However, a company was recently paying pilots $8/pole for distribution inspections. $8/pole to drive their own vehicle, use their own equipment/insurance, their own PPE, their own computer to QC everything, all while the contractor covers their own gas, hotel, and more. $8. 


            How is that sustainable? It isn’t. Stop giving legitimacy to companies who are devaluing our service, and know little about the service they’re providing.

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