Monetizing Off-The-Shelf Drone Technology: FPV Air Tours

For some, nothing beats climbing into a helicopter and taking an air tour around a city or landmark. With the right location, weather, and pilot, they can be short of life changing but are also expensive and dangerous at the same time. This is a small market, yet returns are good enough to keep these businesses thriving for years. They stay in business even with the high cost of insurance and or steep liability wavers customers must sign. These services require faith the pilot and aircraft are in top order, while betting your life and a good sum they are. I believe the market would be considerably larger and return greater if you remove the expense and risk for some of the same experience.

First Person View (FPV) Radio Controlled Flight is a recent growing hobby and the result of the convergence of many technologies. In the past it was left to science and military projects or electronic engineers. Yet a new growing hobby has emerged over the last 5 years that no longer requires as deep an understanding of related technologies for the same results.

Recent products on the market make the hardware relatively cheap to purchase and easy to use. An example is the Hubsan Spy Hawk Glider which offers FVP on a stable 3-axis gyro assisted flight platform. This hardware is perfect for FPV flight with a 5 Megapixel Autofocus Camera that provides a clear high definition picture. Using an FPV platform, along with immersive headgear, a user can be placed inside the plane and see first person over a countryside without ever leaving the ground.

Scalability

The HD signal transmitted from a single RC aircraft can be captured and extended to a number of personal headsets with little added cost or degradation of picture.  Each tour could theoretically have more participants than a small aircraft could hold.

In the traditional full-size aircraft approach, each new customer adds weight, higher risk, and decreases the range of the aircraft. Using RC/FPV we have no risk to the customer. Even customer disorientation or panic which can happen in the air is much easier manageable on the ground, if at all.  A dozen people per FPV tour is not a great challenge, more of space then technology. The cost per additional headset and equipment per person is minimal (< $500) and could pay for itself in a single day or week with ample foot traffic.

Example Market: The NY Rail Trail on the Hudson

This is an ingenious conservation project on a mass scale. Instead of demolishing a hundred year old railway bridge that spans the New York Hudson River, it was converted into a walkway and open to the public providing the best views on the Hudson. Thousands of people use the bridge every weekend in the summer months. This location is a growing market as more people come every year and neighboring businesses have shown a marked increase in sales.

Example Start-up: FPV On the Hudson

This could be a 21st century business opportunity. A unique company offering exciting drone rides around the NY Hudson River Valley. Tours provide a spectacular view of rolling hills and shimmering waterways which have a deep history in the founding of our nation back to Henry Hudson himself.

FatShark

Comfortable LCD goggles place you inside a small RC aircraft in real-time and full comfort. Your RC aircraft will be piloted by an experienced captain who will take you on a tour over the waterway area around the Rail Trail crossing. A unique perspective on a historic area.

Marvel in real time as you wisp and fly over the Hudson River Valley, a first person experience like no other.  The technology makes you feel like you are the one flying not the plane. Make a beautiful day unforgettable.

Rates could start at: $25-$35 for 10 minutes for individuals and include group and VP tours with more attendants and longer flight times.

For a small additional charge the service can include an number of upgrades. The tour could be somewhat interactive where participants can select destinations and decide when to stay longer of a given area of interest.  A one minute teaser video clip of the tour can be provided in tier packages that include USB stick or full HD version of the flight for $35-$50. Videos can also be uploaded to youtube for easy sharing. T-Shirts, Mugs, Hats, Stickers will increase brand appeal while providing advertisement for future sales.

  • Standardize equipment and approach to branch out and replicate in other scenic areas and cities
  • Partner with local businesses by providing advertisement on aircraft, walk-in discounts, networking and up-sell
  • Give-back to local communities by donating time and equipment to inspect landmarks and standing structures, support local Law Enforcement with drone training, crowd control and rescue operations. These efforts not only add real value to the brand but can lead to future government contracts for specific work in those areas that apply

I didn’t mention the risks, including damage to property or persons due to faulty equipment, negligent operation of aircraft or customers going into seizures which any moving video can induce. There is no free lunch, comparing these to traditional air tours it is less risk and can be handled with proper equipment care protocol and training/certification of pilots.

One day in the future, in a city near you, FPV tours will be a popular thing.

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