Best Drones to Buy


Deploying Drones: A fresh look at lessons learnt in Best Drones to Buy.

A note for corporate executives: Start with the business process.


Introduction. Taking drones seriously

The role drones are taking centre stage in many organisations, whether they be corporates or national security agencies. Gone are the days of them being hobbyist toys bought by/for technology geeks. These technology investments are now landing on the desks of senior corporate executives and require the same level of business review as other major technology investments. This article discusses some of the business best practices that apply.

We have seen a significant increase of buyers moving from single drones purchases for piloting/prototyping purposes to fleet purchases as drone technologies are being adopted for mainstream integration into business processes.”     


Current trends. Why are we buying drones?

Firstly. A positive sign of the growing maturity of the Drone Market is the amount of interest currently being expressed in the how to go about adopting drone technologies. To this end a number of leading industry players have published articles on how to develop a business case for the adoption of drones. 

Secondly. The reasons why purchasers acquire drones have also changed. Customer questions have moved from asking:

  1. Whether they should get drones to, 
  2. How should they deploy/implement drones and drone units? 

For example:

  • How many drones?
  • How many pilots/staff?
  • What ratio of drones per pilot?
  • What ratio of pilots per drone?

While practical, these questions should not detract from why technology is procured in the first place and how it should be deployed.

The Technology Management discipline has well document best practices developed from lessons learnt for acquiring  and managing (adoption of) new technologies.

“Organisations are taking a much more holistic approaches to acquiring and deploying drone technologies – the focus has moved from buying drones to acquiring holistic and complete drone-based solutions for supporting mission-critical business processes


These practices necessitate holistic approaches to acquiring drones including maintaining a Drone Competency Centre to support the relevant operational process. Included in these approaches are:


Approach 1: TCO. 

  • Total cost of ownership (TCO) is a holistic financial estimate method that helps decision-makers determine direct and indirect costs of a product or system. TCO goes beyond the initial purchase price or implementation cost to consider the full cost of an asset over its useful life.
    • A key objective of a TCO approach is making visible hidden costs, many of whom are related to the actual objective of acquiring the asset, which is achieving a performance objective such as improving a business process.
    • A good TCO assessment will run over the acquired assets full useful life, not just the implementation project duration. The following graphic depicts the variety of cost elements to be included:
COST MODELAcquisition CostsOperating CostsChange Costs
SoftwareObvious costsObvious costsHidden Costs
HardwareObvious costsObvious costsHidden Costs
PersonnelHidden CostsHidden CostsHidden Costs
NW & CommHidden CostsHidden CostsHidden Costs
FacilitiesHidden CostsHidden CostsHidden Costs

This very effective project financial assessment method makes visible previously hidden costs that are required to ensure that all the key areas of a successful technology implementation are appropriately taken into account to ensure full benefits realisation of the intervention and investment.

Studies have shown upfront Technology Acquisition costs can be as low as 20 – 25% of the overall Total Cost of Ownership.


Approach 2: BCM. 

  • BCM (Business Continuity Management) is defined as the advanced planning and preparation of an organization to maintaining business functions or quickly resuming after a business interruption (disaster) has occurred. 

To understand the importance and relevance of BCM it is productive to take into account the what is important to an Enterprise/Organisation.


Approach 3. Corporate positioning 

Typically Enterprises/Organisations position themselves strategically according to the following dimensions. 


The strategic posture adopted by an enterprise would typically also determine their approach to their Risk Management and consequently to BCM in their context. For example commercial enterprise might emphasis operational excellence or customer focus while a military organisation might focus on the effectiveness of their product, rather than cost efficiency.

What is YOUR Drone Value Proposition?

It is relevant to consider that when drones are acquired they were likely intended to become part of a mission-critical process, which cannot afford to be interrupted. 


For eg.: the military the operational requirements of the Core Business Process might be Effectiveness, while for the Commercial Enterprise it may be Efficiency. 

Changing reasons for adopting drones

To emphasise the above, recent drone market studies have shown that reasons for acquiring drones have moved away significantly from the original objective saving costs to saving time, improve quality and safety in core Business Processes. 

Change in reason for buying drones for costs savings to business process improvement

In other words rather than just say, compare the cost of a drone to that of a helicopter performing the same role, the questions become how much time can be saved, how can quality be improved and how to ensure safety of people, bring the focus much more around operational processes. 

Taking into account the Enterprises Strategic stance, the TCO method ensures that all aspects of implementation is covered and the BCM method ensures that resourcing focuses on minimising disruption to business processes rather than the traditional view of a single pilot with a manually controlled drone.

Use Cases

Consider the following use cases:

  1. 24 hr border patrol
    1. (Persistent surveillance)
  2. Locust spray operation
    1. (Cover X amount of Ha/ hour at a rate of Y Gallons per Acre [GPA])
  3. Security incident response operation 
    1. (Respond within 10 – 30 minutes)
  4. Wildlife tracking
    1. (Complete a monitoring cycle before the situation changes too much)

How quickly do you need to resume business in case of a disruption?

The amount of Human Resources and Drone Technology required depends on the business process objective. 

Human Resources in a Drone Support Unit would include pilots, sensor operators and key skills from line management to staff drone operations for their duration.

Depending on the criticality of an operation to keep a single Drone in the air sufficient redundancy could require a rotating UAVs, a hot backup, onsite spares, as well as a emergency replace agreement with the manufacturer. In other words keep one on-duty operator functioning without disruption could require a more than a 1:1 relationshipbetween drones and a single pilot.

For example the following scenarios could apply:

  • React:               Rapid Response             – Simple Mission
  • Respond:          Incident Response         – Complex missions
  • ISR:                  Incident Response         – Complex mission/ Persistent surveillance <20km
  • ISR 20+:            Incident Response         – Complex mission/ Persistent surveillance>20km
  • ISR Extend:       Long range response & surveillance
  • Pipeline:           Long range pipeline monitoring & management

A look at drones in operation…


The deployment of drones in an organisation is likely to extend, and be part of, a mission critical business process. Use all the same risk management approaches that you normally would, in assessing the acquisition and deployment of drones.