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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 21st year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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What can you do with a drone?

13 December 2016

Drones are everywhere and these days it seems as if every man and his dog is trying to make a dollar using them.

There are probably hundreds of people touting their services to real estate agencies, each claiming that they can take wonderful aerial footage of properties which will help the agent sell things more quickly.

Researchers and scientists are using these craft to survey areas of the country that might be impossible to do from the ground and too expensive to do with traditional full-sized aircraft.

Some clowns are even trying out the concept of delivering stuff by drone -- even though, largely due to regulations and safety concerns, it remains "pie in the sky" stuff for the time being.

So are we missing the obvious?

Are there some things we could be using drones for that haven't been thought of yet?

If you had a drone and wanted to make a dollar or two from its use, what would you do?

Well I have a friend in just such a position and I figured I'd do some thinking about it and consult some of the smartest people in the land (Aardvark's readers) at the same time.

One of the first things I came up with was "drone selfies"

Okay, these aren't really selfies. What I'm talking about is arriving at events or gatherings with your drone and offering to take aerial video/pictures of individuals or groups for a small fee.

Yes, you would need the permission of the event organiser and you'd have to position yourself so that you weren't flying over non-consenting others but it would be a great little concession to set up at something like the many A&P shows that take place around the country.

After taking some "dronie" footage of a customer or group of customers the video could be dumped onto a laptop and then uploaded to the cloud (from where the client could download it onto their phone or other device). At $5 a pop this could earn enough in a day to justify the travel and time. Even better, by demonstrating your services at such an event you might end up getting bigger jobs from farmers or property owners who see your drone in action.

Another option might be to tow out fishing lines at the local surf-casting beach.

Already there are people who buy drones solely for dragging their line and hooks out beyond the breakers so why not roll up at such a venue and offer to do the towing for (say) $5 a time? With the price of snapper exceeding $30 a Kg in the supermarket, a quick $5 tow that might return you four or five fish is a bloody good deal for all concerned!

Those are just two of the "new" ideas I've had for making money with a drone -- what can readers offer?

Although my friend is keen to do the real estate work that every other man and his dog are trying to do, I have suggested to him that it would be a much better idea to come up with some new and innovative uses for the drone -- thus creating new markets, rather than competing with every man and his drone-flying dog in the limited existing markets.

Can anyone really make a decent living flying drones -- or do the regulations (and cost of compliance) simply make impractical for all but a tiny few dealing at the very top end of the market?

Have we been sold a line with all the claims that drones will revolutionise the aviation industry? Or are we just a decade early?

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