Photo Courtesy DroneBase
Drone surveying can be used to double-check grading, as is being done in this photo.

A web service called DroneBase connects drone operators with construction owners nationwide and offers visual and surveying packages.

"It's hard for clients to know what to pay," says Dan Burton, CEO of DroneBase, Santa Monica, Calif. Compared to helicopter or airplane surveying, drones can deliver better output and fly more often for a cheaper price, he says, adding, "It's thousands [of dollars] compared to hundreds."

As the new tech finds its price point, contractors are getting varying quotes, he says, noting, "There is no standardization." To change that, DroneBase offers two packages: aerial site imagery and video, with 15 to 20 photos and three to four videos, plus a final, edited video, for $399; and high-res aerial geo-referenced, orthomosaic mapping and surveying of a site under 50 acres for $499.

"I want to bring this service to small construction firms that couldn't use it before," says Burton.

He advises firms not to invest their own money in drones because the fast hardware cycle makes the drones obsolete within a year. "I've seen companies get burned this way," says Burton. "You don't have to spend money in training or on equipment."

To enroll, an applicant must prove drone ownership and provide a demo reel. The applicant also can take a series of tests to verify the capacity of the hardware and his or her technical skills.

Says Burton, "Essentially, we're creating a new profession [that] didn't exist before."