Drone Mapping Pricing: Understanding the Costs That Go into a Subscription

drone mapping pricing

When starting the drone mapping solution buyer’s journey, there’s a lot to learn. One of those is understanding the costs going into a subscription and pricing.

Since you’re not necessarily paying for each individual product that comes with a drone mapping solution in full, it’s important to learn what determines the price you pay. In this article, we’ll focus on everything that goes into the investment of a drone mapping solution.

The goal here is not to relay the various price tiers, but to serve as analysis for understanding what you’re paying for in a drone solution subscription and why.

What you’ll learn in this post:

  • The various costs that affect the price of a drone mapping solution
  • The drone mapping solution pricing model
  • If investing in a drone mapping solution is actually worth it for your business

 

Introduction

There are a few things that come together to affect the final ticketed price of a drone mapping solution– hardware, software, and service costs.

Each of these components play a vital role in not only the solution but also its pricing.

To help you have a clearer understanding if a subscription model is a fit for you, we’re breaking down what goes into every individual pillar of an effective drone mapping solution.

Drone Mapping Hardware

The hardware included in a drone mapping solution involves the data capturing stage of the workflow, which is the UAV itself and its accompanying parts. Assuming we’re relatively familiar with the price of the survey drone, the three driving factors going into hardware costs are the camera, GPS, and insurance.

The camera

The quality of your data is highly dependent on the quality of the camera attached to the drone. The better the resolution of the camera, the better, more accurate data. This is because photogrammetry and stitching are made easier and clearer.

Think about it, a low-quality camera leads to a low-quality photo, hence low-quality memory. Apply that same philosophy to the photogrammetry process. Except, in the end, you get low-quality data that could negatively impact a project.

The GPS

Another piece of the drone data capturing process that impacts a solution’s price is GPS. If you’re using a drone straight off the shelf, the geotagging information can be off by 50 feet! For some folks, this is okay, for most, it’s not.

Commercial GPS is what gives you tight, sub-inch accuracy that makes the world of a difference for the photogrammetry process. This is important for projects in engineering, construction, mining, etc.

For example, when reporting dirt quantities on an earthmoving project, knowing the actual progress being made cubic yard by cubic yard is everything. Being off by 50 yards can be a costly inaccuracy as well as leaving you completely in the dark about actual headway.

That’s why commercial GPS is so important. It allows you to get that near perfect accuracy, so you are in-the-know about items like dirt quantities.

There’s even more sophistication that can come into play for commercial drone GPS affecting price, that being Post Processed Kinematic (PPK) and Real Time Kinematic (RTK). You can learn more about this here.

UAV Insurance

It’s smart to insure your UAV, especially when conducting commercial operations. Depending on the circumstances, there are a couple of types of insurance you can get.

The first is called “Hull” coverage, which insures the drone itself.

Also, there is liability insurance covering the costs of any injuries and damages to associated equipment, third party materials, etc.

Most drone mapping solutions include both of these in the price of their subscription. If they don’t, consider it a dealbreaker, insurance can cost an extra few thousand dollars.

Depending on the many elements impacting the price, you can spend anywhere from $1,000 – $50,000 on the UAV and drone mapping hardware. From its most simple form to its most advanced form with all the bells and whistles intended for commercial use.

Drone Mapping Software

The software included in a drone mapping solution is a more challenging piece of the puzzle to quantify; it’s not as simple as differentiating between a consumer drone from a commercial drone.

It’s like comparing apples to oranges. There are so many options for interpreting data. We’re talking analytics into dirt quantities v. stockpiles v. safety v. all three at the same time. The list goes on…

With the need for more specific and advanced analytics, the more money you’re investing in software. However, the three most valuable components attached to the software portion of a drone mapping solution have to do with flight planning, data processing, and quality reporting.

Flight Planning App

When putting together flight plans, you’re able to upload them to the app paired with the drone for take off. The application reads the information and relays it to the drone for an autonomous flight.

In order to do this, a tablet should also come with the drone mapping solution so you can easily see and upload plans anywhere. The cost breakdown for this is about $400 on average for the tablet, plus the value of the flight planning app.

Data Processing

In this part of the process, the data captured by the drone is taken and stitched together to create deliverables like orthomosaics, 3D volumetric analyses, cut/fill maps, etc. You’re able to view these on an application or a cloud-based portal.

Buying processing software separately can cost a few thousand dollars.

Also, the most bottlenecks in the entire workflow occur during this process, which is why working with a provider on this can be beneficial.

Reporting

The quality report gives you a detailed depiction of data accuracy. This step of the process ensures the information you’re receiving from the drone is correct.

This information is incredibly valuable; it assures you’re receiving quality data and this is essential in certain regards to meet industry standards.

It is tough to put a number on quality reporting because it’s usually included in the offering of a drone mapping solution, however, not on the market as a stand-alone item. You can report on data items yourself, but it can get tricky building a reporting system in-house.

Dealing with heaping amounts of drone data is why many companies choose to work with a drone mapping provider. The ability to make easy and fast decisions based on information you see on a cloud-based portal/drone mapping application is going to be your true moneymaker, hence why it’s the driving factor to when buying a solution.

With everything said and done, there are a couple of things that validate the price of good drone mapping software. Is interacting with it easy and convenient? Do you trust the data you’re receiving?

Drone Mapping Services

The services provided by a drone mapping solution can range from FAA training to flight services to customer support and success, it can vary across the board.

If you build a system in-house, there’s not going to be a one-stop shop for support. If you go with a solution, involvements can still differ.

With the more personal help comes higher value services. Some drone mapping providers have designated employees that work with you on a first name basis, others only use ticketing systems.

There’s a difference between no customer support, some support via email or chat with little or no training versus complete phone, email, and chat support with FAA Part 107 training and onboarding personalization.

Although drone services aren’t considered a technical product, it might be the most important to your team’s success. The value there is based on your preferences towards convenience and success. So, the higher levels of support, the higher the price you’ll pay.

If you have a really great relationship with the customer success manager/support specialist at your drone mapping company, consider that priceless!

Understanding the drone subscription model

Now that you understand the different costs associated with the price of a drone mapping solution, let’s talk about how you pay.

Many drone mapping companies set up their pricing structure as a subscription model. This means paying a set price monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc, which is more conducive for fully- managed and full-service drone mapping operations.

Depending on your needs, the payment can vary as well. If you want to deploy PPK or RTK drones on your job site, that monthly payment will look a little different than just your average commercial drone.

This pricing structure is beneficial for folks who want to try it out, but not invest in the individual drone mapping products themselves.

How to determine if a drone mapping solution is worth the investment

After breaking everything down, you can definitely see a pattern with how the price of a drone mapping solution is affected.

The more money invested into each individual part, the higher quality experience you’ll receive (much like every other aspect of life).

If you are looking to fly one site, occasionally for commercial purposes– scaling for that isn’t too difficult. We recommend working that operation in-house, it’s simply not worth the investment of a drone mapping solution.

If you’re flying a few sites more than twice a week, that’s when it’s a good idea to outsource your drone mapping workflow. Things like FAA requirements, hardware upgrades, data management, support, and more come as amenities to make your life easier.

Conclusion

There’s a lot that goes into the price of a drone mapping subscription, things you probably didn’t even realize.

Learning this before making the investment is important because it helps you realize one of two things:

1. Rolling out operations in-house isn’t so simple and cheap and you actually need the assistance

2. You may be jumping the gun on purchasing a subscription when your drone mapping needs aren’t so extensive

 
Regardless, making an informed decision about the next steps in your drone mapping buyer’s journey should be much easier.

Comment below and weigh in with your thoughts on about the costs of a drone mapping subscription, we’d love to hear!

Related Content: The Real Costs of Commercial Drone Ownership 

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