Drone rental businesses are popping up everywhere. Learn more about them in this article from Skylab Flight Systems
There are some businesses around that rent drones but those are mostly to television/film industry and not to the everyday user. But I found an advertisement that said I could rent a Yuneec Typhoon Q500+ for a week! The drones advertised for rent were ALL consumer drones. That’s what made this drone rental business stand out to me. The owner is renting popular drone models to whomever will meet his requirements. So, I sent an email to the address on the advertisement.
That is how I met Brad Sayer, owner of Outdoor Equipment Rentals. OER is physically located in Highland Mills, NY but conduct a very busy online business. In fact, the bulk of OER’s drone rental business IS online or via telephone. The attraction, for me, was the price on the listing for a Yuneec Q500+ Typhoon. The ad listed the price at $199 for a 7 day rental. When you check into the details, there you find that the listed price if for a 7 day rental of the drone and includes round trip shipping. Hmmm, not too bad. There is a way to try before you buy, was my initial thought. However, it’s not that easy. OER has to protect their investment as they are a business.
This is how a typical mail order rental from OER works. The rental reservation comes in via email or telephone. The date of rental is settled and then the renter must return a signed copy of the rental agreement to OER before the process can move forward. At this time, the renter pays the rental fee based on the length of time needed PLUS gives a credit card number with $1000 of available credit as a deposit to cover lost/damaged drones. OER offers a discounted repair rate if the renter pays an additional fee up front. However, that does not cover total loss situations. Once all payment information has been received and verified, then the drone can be shipped out. The time of the rental does not include the shipping time to and from which is very generous. The drone is packed into a case with two batteries, a charger and written instructions on how to operate the drone as well as a pre-paid return shipping label. Then OER ships out the drone to the renter. When the renter returns the drone, Brad says that they inspect the contents for damage within 24 hours of the drone being returned. Then, if there is damage, pricing is prepared for the repair and passed on to the renter along with photographic proof of the damage.
Brad tells me “Demand for drone rental is very high and we are usually sold out.” Currently, OER will rent you a Yuneec Q500+, a DJI Phantom 2 with GoPro and a DJI Phantom 2 Vision + and will be expanding their offerings to include the Phantom 3 and 3DR Solo. According to Brad, “The real challenge is with wear and tear and damage, and I’m still playing around with policies, damage waivers, etc. to find the right balance. I’ve certainly become quite good at taking apart Phantoms and replacing parts!” I think all drone operators can relate to becoming great with repairs!
Who is OER’s typical customer, I wondered. “My customers are a mix – I’ll get an individual who wants to play around with one, or has an event (family reunion, company picnic, etc). I also have professional videographers who need one for a shoot, as well as a few real estate developers/construction companies that use them to photograph large projects. As you can tell, the rental market is very diverse.” One thing Brad is considering including with future drone rentals is an actual instructional video for both operation AND repacking for shipment. According to Brad, there is a surprising amount of damage occurring when the drone rental is packed for return. It seems that the renter is not packing the drone correctly in the case, causing the damage during return shipment.
OER is not just a drone rental company however. You can rent a variety of equipment from them including another hot rental item, the GoPro action camera. For a complete list of what OER offers for rental or if you are interested in contacting them to rent a drone yourself, please click HERE.
To be honest, I had not thought that renting out consumer drones would be as popular but it completely makes sense if you are someone just looking to do a one off recording event, like some of OER’s customers. But, that made me wonder about how much the renter actually uses the drone or how well they fly it. Based on the list of drones offered by OER, they are about the easiest to fly bunch compared to what is currently available. Like myself, and some of you as well, Brad worries about how fast the technology is advancing and just how easy it is for someone to get a drone and put it in the air. About the pace of drone tech, Brad says “the easier they are to fly and more affordable, the more chance for people to do stupid and dangerous things with them.” I would agree with Brad. And that brings me to something that a lot of veterans are saying, the need for proper drone training/education has never been greater than it is now. That need will continue to grow as the technology advances.
For the time being, any adult can rent a drone. That is great as I love to see more people get into the hobby as well as watch the commercial drone industry grow. Brad Sayer shares that opinion. But he is not just cashing in on the latest craze. Brad is also a drone operator. He bought his first DJI Phantom 2. Now, he flies his own DJI Inspire 1 and even provides aerial photography services from time to time, but only to help fund his hobby. Brad is keeping a very close eye on trends and what the FAA says and, of course, does. He, like the majority of people, thinks that the proposed rules make sense but sees pressure mounting on the manufacturers for more built-in safeguards like hard programmed geo-fences, no fly zones etc.
I believe that Brad and his company OER are providing a service and being as responsible as they can be without standing over the shoulder of whomever rents the drones. It’s not unlike any other new piece of technology or hardware, there will be people that misuse it no matter what safeguards you try to put in place. There will always be someone trying to skirt them. It’s up to us, the drone community (operators, hobbyists, retailers, renters & manufacturers) to do all we can to police ourselves now. I don’t need to tell you what will happen if we do not.
As always, I thank all of you for your time! Thank you all for supporting the site and remember, FLY SAFE!