PrecisionHawk is helping drone pilots while it builds an empire

By Luke Geiver | February 14, 2018

PrecisionHawk is doing more than its part to foster the global adoption of commercial drone technology. The North Carolina-based enterprise drone technology developer and service provider founded in 2010 has achieved as much—or more—than any drone firm since the Raleigh-team started. In early February, only two weeks after announcing a major Series D investment round of $75 million, the company unveiled an acquisition plan that has formed a drone pilot network featuring more than 15,000 commercially licensed pilots. The new network will help hundreds of thousands of drone missions to be completed by the end of the year, according to the company, while it also helps PrecisionHawk meet the growing demands of its clients in insurance, agriculture, energy, construction or government.

With the recent build-up of its drone service network, PrecisionHawk has bolstered its offerings in a big way. The company is already a major force in the areas of drone tracking, sensing, enterprise solutions, software development and custom analytics. Last year, the company hired an additional 100 employees and was touted by several investors for its work to date in the space. “Drones are increasingly providing valuable insights to businesses across a wide variety of industries,” said James Goldinger, manager director of ClearSky, a recent investor in the company. “PrecisionHawk is leading the way in many innovative and forward-thinking applications.”

The development and expansion of its newly formed drone pilot network will help enable more pilots to fly and generate revenue while also enhancing the reach of PrecisionHawk, according to Lia Riech, vice president of marketing and communications.

The Droners,IO Network

Through the acquisition of two previously established drone pilot networks, the company will merge (a firm with a network of pilots in the U.S.) and AirVid (a similar firm with a large international presence). Dave Brown, founder of, will run the newly combined network under the title of vice president of drone networks.

The system allows certified pilots with Part 107 or 333 credentials to create a profile on a network that posts drone-based jobs from clients in need of services. For single jobs, clients and pilots can interact about the job, discuss fees or flight needs and schedule a job. Through the expanded network, Brown will develop a streamlined set-up that speeds up the process for larger jobs and minimizes the need for pilots and end-clients to interact. “We’ll have a streamlined workflow,” Brown said of the expanded network. “Pilots will have jobs pushed to them. They won’t have to go back and forth with the client. They can accept or reject the job.”

Growth, Demand For Pilots

According to Brown, the big verticals are going to see a tremendous amount of growth in jobs for insurance, cell towers and construction this year. “Almost on a weekly basis, big clients are asking for services,” he said. “It will only be a matter of time before we see other verticals ramping up.”

To match the best service provider for the right job, Brown has created a metric-based system that couples a pilot with the right credentials with a specific type of flight. Users of the network create a profile that includes their previous work, flight skills, location, insurance coverage and other information. Pilots are also asked to specify their average hourly rate because every pilot charges a different fee for different reasons. On the single jobs, pilots can ask for upfront costs and talk more with clients about job expectations. In most cases, the network receives a 10 percent portion of the job fee.

On the enterprise side, jobs are scheduled and budgeted well ahead of time, Brown said, so when the flights come up the prices are already set. Most jobs for real estate or construction run in the $100 to $150/hour range. Some high-end video or cinematography shoots can exceed $300/hr.

Enterprise jobs are driven more by flight volumes. Brown said he tries to assign jobs intelligently to pilots so they don’t have to spend a day driving around instead of shooting and flying. “The pilots may have to reach six to eight locations in a day,” he said. Volume-based jobs, such as cell tower inspections or roof inspections will generate between $65/hr to $100/hr depending on location, but will include several flights potentially at different locations.

The type of pilots in the network varies, Brown said, with roughly half of the pilots at the intermediate skill level range and the rest with a high-level of flight hours and experience.

Chad Hatcher, owner of Xtreme Heights Aerial, began his part-time career as a drone pilot through After starting to fly locally in Texas, he began to look at other flight jobs in New York listed on the network. “I wouldn’t have been able to reach out to someone in New York and secure a job without the network,” he said. He’s flown in several states after learning about the network and finding job postings through it. Hatcher is excited for the expansion and new vision for the network now that Brown, AirVid and PrecisionHawk are a team. “The amount of jobs and quality of work we were getting was tremendous but this will be amazing,” he said. “I think this could become a full-time job.” For Hatcher, getting paid for jobs immediately from was a major plus for using the service.

Brown is excited to expand the pilot network to enterprise clients with PrecisionHawk. The company’s ability to apply its data service through new algorithms or custom flight software for flight paths will appeal to end-users, Brown said. “This is the first time in the drone space where we have a large network of pilots teamed with a company that has expertise to do custom things,” he said.

A software engineer with experience in developing networks and startup firms, Brown never sought outside capital to grow “I was happy with the organic trajectory of the company,” he said, “but it was great to give the reins to people that understood how to best use and grow this offering.”

AirVid, founded by Patrick Egan, will give PrecisionHawk a network of pilots outside the U.S. Egan will stay on as a consultant to PrecisionHawk.