DroneBase: Business at 400 Feet

DroneBase is a platform that connects customers needing aerial photos or videos and professional drone pilots.It streamlined the creation process and made it easy for companies to leverage its proprietary technology and pilots’ network to attain aerial footage at a fraction of the cost and time.

The next information horizon

Dan Burton, CEO and founder of the platform DroneBase, stated, “The sky is an indispensable source of vital business data.” [1] After obtaining an MBA from HBS, Dan created DroneBase in 2014 to connect customers needing aerial photos or videos and professional drone pilots. He wanted to allow businesses to access previously unavailable data while riding the wave of interest in commercial unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

A two-sided marketplace

DroneBase creates value for registered drones pilots and companies requiring jobs to be completed, or missions.

  • The more certified pilots on the platform, the more businesses will visit it to fill their needs.
  • The more companies that offer missions through Drone Base, the more pilots will visit to find jobs.

Attractive offering for companies

Professional drone pilot is a career opportunity that only arose in the last decade, except for military applications. Therefore, companies needing aerial footage to support projects struggle to get it Hiring a full-time drone pilot is often out question due to:

  • The low frequency of missions in one company
  • The spread of locations to film
  • The time constraints to fulfill such needs

The only solution was contacting independent professional drone pilots and offering considerable recompense for one to hopefully accept the project in a timely manner. Clearly, the success rate of such requests was low and the efforts required too high.

DroneBase streamlined the creation process and made it easy for companies to leverage its proprietary technology and pilots’ network to attain aerial footage at a fraction of the cost and time.

DroneBase’s value proposition toward pilots

Most importantly, DroneBase opened an otherwise hidden market to drone pilots. Indeed, the company invested heavily in creating this new niche market and gained recognition from it. The platform now positions itself as a guarantor of its pilots, linking pilots and companies and making the platform intuitive for all: amateurs and experienced pilots [2].

DroneBase also ensures each pilot meets requirements: to access the platform, every pilot must create a profile and complete online training and a quiz, a quick background check, and a test mission before seeing the complete pool of missions.

Additionally, DroneBase negotiates other training discounts for registered pilots, hedging its risk of low-quality services even more but creating value for pilots. Many Drone Base pilots flew previously as a hobby and now enjoy flying while being rewarded with cash and experience.

Last, DroneBase builds awareness of the drone community and potential. The company’s blog publishes many industry-related posts, educating the public and its pilot network, growing its online presence, and benefiting from inbound marketing. Articles like “Common Misconceptions About Drones” [3] or “Where Can I Fly My Drone?” [4] perfectly exemplify this multi-objective strategy.


A continuously improving platform

DroneBase has developed as a market leader in many regards. The two-sided marketplace grew in the last five years and now offers services in all states and over 70 countries (as of October 2019). This growth and level of scale were accomplished through different factors:

  • DroneBase quickly expanded its offerings to various industries (see industry details below [5]).
  • The competition in this niche market was limited and slow to react, limiting Multihoming: DroneBase mainly competes with Skycatch, Kespry, and DroneDeploy.
  • DroneBase expanded and constantly innovates its technology to increase its range of solutions (e.g., thermal imaging, third-party integration, intuitive analytics tools, etc.).
  • DroneBase ensured it constantly offered missions to its pilot network. When “client missions” were unavailable, the company was giving “pano” missions, where DroneBase would ask a pilot to map an area before finding a buyer for pictures and videos.

DroneBase existing industries applications

The sky is not always clear

DroneBase built an incredible platform but, like any two-sided marketplace, it is vulnerable if it loses the trust of pilots or business customers. While business customers seem satisfied, pilots often complained about the business’s revenue sharing. The main complaints came from the loss of pilots’ ownership rights, royalty issues, and the non-disclosure of revenues. [6] For example, DroneBase advertised early that it would share all profits equally, but instances proved them wrong. In such a tight community of pilots, a good reputation could easily be ruined.


[1] https://dronebase.com/about

[2] https://dronebase.com/pilots

[3] https://blog.dronebase.com/common-misconceptions-about-drones

[4] https://blog.dronebase.com/2017/07/28/where-can-i-fly-my-drone

[5] https://dronebase.com/solutions

[6] https://phantompilots.com/threads/dronebase-getty-images.126010/post-1352931



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Student comments on DroneBase: Business at 400 Feet

  1. Thanks for sharing. It is very interesting how this platform certificates “flight” skills, creating standards for pilots. It will be interesting to see how incumbents in the logistic sector will react to this kind of “indirect regulation” of the drones pilots market.

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