BONUS: How to Massively Accelerate the Success of Your Drone Business with Glenn Labay
We are hey everyone and welcome to another edition of ask drone. You weve got a very special guest today and i want you to hear from the horses mouth how you can create scalable recurring revenue, drone jobs in your business. What does it take? How much can you really make and how long will it take you to actually reach that point of having well sustainable income? So today we have a former drone, you student. I would actually classify him as one of my favorite students, because hes so jovial open and willing to learn and knows what it takes to hustle hard. But hopefully we can learn from glenn labay, as he really is going to tell us what troubles hes had what hes had to overcome and how we can make the hustle just a little bit easier. So help me welcome mr glenn labay, hey glenn, hey how you doing man whats going on paul thanks for coming on the show today really appreciate it. Thank you thanks for having me here, thats real. By the way i was just gon na say. I know it looks like a zoom background, but it is actually uh the scoob in one side and his jeep in the other, which honestly i love glenn, so hey for everyone who doesnt know you give us an idea, youre a drone pilot. What jobs are you focusing on right now and uh? Just tell us a little bit about your business all right.
Well, of course, it started years ago. You know five. Six years ago were celebrating five years at aerial, camera services and um started out way back in the beginning. Thinking were gon na, be all movie stars and flying movies and doing all that, of course, everythings evolved, including all of this camera equipment and lighting and everything else that i have here so um. Basically, it started out in that, but as i you know its kind of funny, because i go look at some of my old emails and stuff like that, where i wrote to flir and i wrote to you – know other companies like that you know i was doing Drone deploy and its infancy, so mapping and all that stuff and industrial work was something that i was going towards even way back in the beginning, thermography all this stuff, i wrote to all these people going. What can i do to be that and um so perseverance and persistence, the never ending thirst for knowledge? I constantly even last night, i was uploading new software for 360 photography because i think of thats going to be one of my new future businesses. Um i mean like gigapixel, you know: museum quality stuff, but anyway never stop. I never stop. You just learn and learn and learn. You know. One point that you made is that you are kind of on the cinematography kick and youve kind of moved into the technical world of drone jobs.
So for drone pilots who may not know what it takes to get there help us understand. What did you have to learn? What type of training did you do? That really was effective for you, and overall i mean how long did it? Take you to kind of get to uh a level playing field of constant jobs um. Well, of course, i started up back with taking your classes and your courses and everything im doing. What do you call them? You know, courses and practicing my figure eights and flying forward and going backwards, maintaining doing all that stuff everything i do to possibly learn how to control the aircraft because, again, like i said i want to be a cinematographer. So in doing all of that and still training to this day, we fly our little tiny whoops in the house. All the time tammy and i were always flying fly fly, fly because its all about muscle, memory and um. So going from all of that, through all of the stages that were involved, i mean you know. Of course you know i bought an m600 with. I got grimzy gimbals and all this stuff thinking, oh im, going to be a heavy lifter guy and so all this stuff. But all of that stuff was more steps and getting towards to where i ended up pretty much in the last three years and thats doing solar work. I was able to grasp solar work, some work on my own.
In the beginning, i started doing work with con edison just doing progress reports, but then kind of said, hey. I can do this and do that took my inspire 1 and my little and bought a 13 millimeter. Flir 640 thing flew that, and then i fly my phantom over it and quickly realized that that wasnt gon na work, so i went and bought an m210 which i still have right now and um, though, though you dont think its great these birds. I have just flying – i probably made 150 000 off of just an m210 that you know i send it in once a year and it cost me a thousand dollars for new sensors and motors and all that kind of stuff, but its well worth it so um. I guess thats kind of where im at now looking for looking towards the next iteration without without bowing to geo, fencing and all that other crap. That really annoys my life, so that geo, fencing, thats, something that dji has really implemented and uh has really im. Not gon na lie its its inhibited, some of my operations. I know its inhibited, your operations, yep. I know that you dont, like it a lot of other people dont but uh. Do you think that that is a feature they should drop, or are you recommending that people go to somewhere like drone hacks and just get the certificate to be able to fly wherever they want? Well, i did that and unfortunately, they dont have it for m210s.
They dont have it for enterprise stuff; they have it. They have inspire 2. I think, is about as high up as they go for dji. I think that dji should keep geofencing but keep the blocking of aircraft flying with geofencing. Great give me a warning. Tell me its time to you know: oh youre, approaching a zone ive literally been in a site that ive flown over and over again with one bird come in with something else, and i fly out, and i dont know if it crossed the line or what it Starts going into an auto land, you know 10 acres into a place behind a fence that im working and im going holy, crap holy crap, addie mode, addy mode and its like just ridiculous and theres. Also the point of redundancy. We do our due diligence and we have to fly thats why they have lance yeah thats. Why we fly, we get authorizations in zero grid and all that kind of stuff. But um, you know, let us do our work. You know we dont. We dont need the mother ship watching us because you know if i want to drive my car to mexico, i should be able to drive my car to mexico. Yeah thats a very good point, um and i have to say it really makes you wonder why dji doesnt allow more companies to become a part of the qep program, the qualified entity program to negate that geo fencing.
But you bring up a good point right. Youve got it: youve got an m210 youve got some expensive gear, but weve got some new drones out the mavic 2 enterprise dual advanced, and we also have the autel evo 2 dual enterprise that just came out last week – and you know, were talking about 200 batteries Versus you know, seven to fourteen hundred dollar batteries, depending on which matrice that you fly, which arguably lowers the barrier to entry to conduct solar inspections uh, you know, but with all of that said, how long did it really take you to you know have that sustained Business and with these new drones do you feel, like you might move to one of those smaller drones, especially the autel one that doesnt have geo fencing yeah. I definitely agree with that idea because i think that you know granted youre still going to spend a lot of money to get into any kind of solar work. You know lets say you buy the autel or youre going to spend 8 000 or 8 500 bucks on a camera. Another 1800 bucks and youre gon na buy batteries, and you got to spend a thousand on the controller. Then you should have two so youre still gon na get 20 25 000 to be able to go to work and be credible and to be able to drive to buffalo new york from here six hours away and do work and not find out that.
Oh no, my bird just died so uh its not still not going to be cheap, but its going to be better its going to be better like with smaller aircraft and that kind of thing, mainly because of batteries, uh, god batteries. You know im starting to get just a little bit of puffing starting to show on some of my tb55s or whatever theyre called, and you know well, im gon na have to buy batteries again pretty soon so now, im just debating whether to hold off and wait Or just keep running these birds, but honestly, you know ive been real happy with the m210s, but theyre too big. I did a telephone pole job and you know these people and thats a whole nother subject. As far as safety is concerned, im flying around town with this giant freaking thing and they want radiometric uh. You know infrared photography, you know just ridiculous, just roars giant things flying around you know just i couldnt believe it im like uh thats, terrible. So how long? What did you say it took you to actually become uh, profitable or self sustaining on these birds right so um, so it took about a year id say and then for the last two years its been you know, once you get established with people and youre consistent, You work hard. You deliver youre willing to go the extra mile, you dont whine, unless you you know, unless theres a good reason and its usually not a wine, its a good point.
You know you just uh you just you can work yeah. So its really – and i really only probably have a handful of consistent clients and then you know, then i have lots of other work that i do, but i mean i work constantly with probably four or five different companies and three of them are drone service providers. So you know that was one thing that you brought up in pre show. Is that a lot of these jobs that youre getting are coming from some drone jobbing aggregators, and there was one particular company that you mentioned – that frankly, ive actually never heard of before and for everyone out there whos wanting to get these solar inspection jobs. These recurring revenue jobs, these jobs, that you know you might fly say four five, six times a year or even every month. Where are these jobs coming from um? I will give my recommended list for folks out there to go for as far as drone service providers. The ones that ive had good luck with, i would suggest you getting on their pilot list uh mind you um, that these guys work they they have the jobs and theres a lot. Theres work, um and, as i said in our previous attempt to have an interview, i think a lot of these a lot of jobs are going to be great for guys that are in more urban types, areas where theres more population and theres more things to shoot And look at i live in western massachusetts, the berkshires its a lot of groovy and far out people out here and theres a lot of trees and forests and which makes it really challenging to do solar work here, because theyre on hills and fields and in the Woods and they dont cut down their north side of trees and theres a lot to do so.
Um uh companies like um, you know drone base, obviously theyre really good. I think i know guys whove made a lot of money with drone base. I know people complain about them, they do they are low, but if you got a lot of jobs you know and theyre and theyre close to your home and you live in a rural or urban area. Uh you can make you can make money. Can you make a living, i dont know i wouldnt be able to do it with them, but good guys. Would you call it paid practice? I would say paid practice for sure, because its going to get you set up with your systems, youre going to be working. Your checklist daily youre going to be doing all these things, which can make you lazy, but at the same time you burn this whole system into your head. You know i used to leave without you know i used to leave with three propellers. You know and id get out there and id be like. Oh what am i doing. You know its just ridiculous so, but you get all those systems built into place. You come up with your battery managements and systems and all that stuff all start coming in the you know play, and you start getting really efficient and really good at it. So yeah paid practice is for sure um i cant remember there was another one. I dont have it on my list here.
Theres one uh fly dot photos that i recently did and these guys uh paid me 200 to go to a local cvs store and basically do cardinal shots and it took like 20 minutes and they hire people and they do all this marketing stuff. And if you can get on fly dot photos list for pilots, i imagine again, if youre in an urban environment, you know if youre denver chicago whatever any place that has a good population um. You probably would work quite a bit again side work, not really. I wouldnt say you could make a living at it. Um fly guys. I really like fly guys like fly guys a lot. They seem to be really busy in the other part of the industry now and im kind of a fan. Lately i dont know if its because they give me so much work and they pay me top dollar, or at least they say they do but um, but they do pay pretty well and they give me a lot of work and i really like those guys theyre Really friendly and theyre nice guys so hey nick, hey jonathan um, my favorite of all is uh. Leo adams at skylink s, k y e l, i n k skylink leos doing some really good things: hes a young buck. Man, hes young, like you actually hes younger than you paul and hes hes, got a pretty good business going um and they do a lot of solar.
They do a lot of infrastructure and um uh. He just called today to do some rtk stuff and all of that so hes got a really wide reach and hes been killing it for about two years now, hes doing a really good job. You know – and you know i can get into the whole pilot network thing and what i think of it, because youre only as good as your pilots, but i dont know how solid of a model that really is, but it works for these guys and im glad That they do good and i appreciate the work and so skylink so go to skylink, uh hes. Definitely looking for solar type people in the midwest. You know a lot of these coast is covered. Probably a lot of californias covered. I dont know but definitely get on the mailing list and um and once you get hooked up and you show that youre reliable and you work hard, you will get work from all these people consistently. I promise you that thats awesome, glenn uh skylink was the one. I was after because that was a new one and its honestly awesome to hear that someone is excelling, because when you do things the right way, it seems to kind of happen. Naturally, that said, you know when it comes to starting your business, maintaining your business, the hustle that it takes. What do you think is the hardest thing or the hardest uh subject to overcome as an up and coming drone pilot? What was the hardest thing for you to overcome? Gosh i dont know probably back in the beginning just getting out and meeting people and feeling like i was moving forward when i felt when i really felt like i wasnt getting anywhere at all.
So i think getting out and meeting people is really important. Um again like in the last interview we did, i had you know never never give up on your on your contacts and and possibilities. Because, two years ago i had met a group of surveyors. I had been to a meeting of they. They have like a chapter of surveyors out here, uh one out in boston, one out in western mass and they meet these guys meet every month. They drink and they have you know whatever, but they talk business. I went. I did a presentation. Two years later, ive been getting quotes because this particular survey company in my town, whos, very big and very reputable changed ownership, and the new owners son out in california is also a surveyor and hes working with you know, uas technology to get his work done, and So pops over here whos, you know older and hes like yeah lets. Do it you know so here i am two years later doing quotes and bids havent done a job yet, but were talking and were communicating and i feel like somethings going forward. Finally, so i guess the hardest thing is you really got to get out? You got to meet people, you have to talk to people, not the chamber of commerce. Maybe it works for you. I hate all those things so annoying. Well, i have to say when it comes to the chamber of commerce, the only one that really worked for me was like the higher upper echelon.
Like that cost uh. I was like two grand to become a part of it, but uh we got some. Some really big name clients out of that uh, including facebook and all their stuff, and you know now kevin whos an instructor here and he was a he was at the fly in. I think you might remember him, but now hes, covering all the amazon jobs in the state of new mexico and uh. You know it. I agree with you that its networking um. It also sounds like, though, in the response to the question, how important it is to have perseverance and persistence always, and you have to really live this. You know i mean ive been living this for six years now and i feel like nobody, because i, when i talk to guys you know like you who well i started this in you know 2014 or whatever i was flying and building models, and all that i Didnt even hear about it about 2015, i heard about these flying cameras and i always wanted to be a professional photographer and im like holy crap theres my opportunity nobodys doing this yet so perseverance and persistence man you got to live it. You got to do it. You have to every single day you have to eat, think sleep technology, whether its drones, lidar whats, coming next whos doing what go to the podcast theres, four or five that are really good out. There read the read the emails from you uvas or whatever its called see.
I dont im not really in all these acronyms, so im kind of dumb. That way, but read all that stuff hear about whos coming in vtol, stuff and stuff. You know i just saw the thing about uh, who is it somebodys uh? Oh boeing just did a air to air drone fueling of a f 35 today a couple days ago. What you know beautiful, learn, read: dig fly and excel yeah. Now i think networking is really important in staying fresh on technology is important as well. Is there anything that is kind of coming on the horizon that excites you for the drone industry? I dont know man it morphs so fast. You know theres, always new things coming all the time im a little tired of beyond visual line of sight. To be honest with you um, i think its great, but whatever you know, theres its going to be so select and so few that it doesnt even matter to the rest of us, so ill partake and ill watch it. But you know you know rfid and all that nonsense, um, im right there with uh race day, quads or whatever you know im like you know, just go away. Man, you know pick: do it the companies that need it should be the ones that have to do it if youre going to be a company like amazon or whatever an amazon build, and you know all this kind of stuff, if youre going to be a company Thats going to have and need that infrastructure then give it to them, but you know theres a lot of small companies that just do work that require piloting and were all responsible, and we all take it seriously.
Well, most of us and um. You know the ones that are terrible, you know and suck they they get weeded out or you know, then you deal with them just like drunk drivers, but you know yeah. You know you do make a really uh a really prominent point about the company that went on cnbc to say in three to five years were gon na. Have drone delivery now completely cancels amazon, prime air, so uh yeah. You got ta love that but theres a couple things you brought up. I wan na touch on really fast, which is you know you kind of talked about the fact that theres so much new technology always coming around, and you know a lot of it is hubbub. Frankly, you know remote id with the the lawsuit and the challenge. You know theres a real question in the fundamental authority of the faa now and it seems like theyre really going to have to answer that, but i actually really like your position uh, which for everyone listening, we did not actually talk about this in pre show. But i like your position about look the guys who are doing drone delivery, sure make them do remote id, but everyone else. We have such a phenomenal safety record in the history of aviation. We are technically the safest pilots that have ever lived. So that said, i mean it does kind of seem erroneous to have remote id, but its going to be definitely interesting, uh to really see where that goes, but in regards to the jobs that youre doing outside of solar inspections, what other type of drone jobs are? You really taking on that really give you the right profit margin, you, you feel, satisfied and fulfilled when you do these jobs, what are they? Well, i pretty much do solar work now, ive got so much work.
I dont know what else to do i mean i do other jobs. You know i mean i, i just flew b roll for uh because i also do broadcast im a you know. I do im a you know, a photography director and everything, and we do a lot of live broadcasts through another company called laudable productions and um. So weve been doing a lot of covid broadcasts, for you know really high end stuff in theaters and live remotes, and all that. So i fly a lot of stuff in production as well. You know my portfolio of work is so diverse it you know, theres, really nothing. I can say other than solar thats. Solar is the most consistent thing, but i do many many other things. Many things well thats i mean, and i love it. I cant stop. You know you just keep going yeah, you got ta keep going um, especially yeah. You just got ta keep going well uh glenn before we let you go. Is there anything that you feel like other pilots, other drone pilots up and coming ones intermediate advanced right? One thing i have to say that i have learned recently or relearned, i should say, is how important it is to just keep learning um. In fact, now i have a tie to massachusetts, as i am going to graduate courses at mit now, obviously online, but that said that was kind of just an ego builder frankly, im not really sure why.
I said that, but other than the importance of continuing to learn um. So that said, i mean: what do you believe that pilots should know from you what they can learn from you? I know you faced a lot of challenges in doing this, but if there was something that you want people to walk away with, what would it be? Well, i think theres, nothing theres, nothing out there. That can speak for experience, so in order to get good at anything, you have to fail a lot and i failed a lot im. 59 years old im, not one of the young guys here im one of the older guys. I failed at several businesses, but most businesses have succeeded in one way or another, so you learn by your mistakes. You learn by your failures. You learn by making people mad at you. I wouldnt say that so much for the drone business, but i think in life. In general thats a really good thing to understand that its okay to drop the ball once in a while its embarrassing. You look stupid, but you know you just dont talk to those people anymore and then and then, but the other thing is is when youre flying. You know just learn how to fly. Fly. Fly fly, fly, fly, understand your technology understand how your equipment works. Take it look at it touch it all the time you know sleep with it in the beginning, be like.
Oh, i love my drone. You know. Do all that stuff, just be one with what you do. Youre gon na make mistakes. I make mistakes all the time. Your equipment does things like what and it flies that way all of a sudden and if and so why we dont have attitude mode on every piece of equipment out there just blows my mind, because i cant tell you how many times things have done, weird things And ive been like switch, switch, switch and even switching out and switching back youre like duh its still, but you dont panic, you just you know youre into it, and you know how to you know how to work around it. But those things only happen with experience. So you really got to get out and fly. You got to fly near trees. You got to fly near power lines. You got to fly near moving things you got ta, you got ta, do all those things that are uncomfortable. You have to fly over water. Oh, my god waters terrifying for like two years, terrifying. Oh, i can fly over a forest but boy. I fly over a river and im like its the end of the world, but you got to do it. Youll find out how it works, and then you get better and better so experience, experience, experience and dont be afraid. So actually you reminded me of one last question. I wanted to ask you which is earlier.
You know you kind of talked about the trainings youd come to our training, uh, the fight mastery, you know kind of doing the the proximity stuff and, while at first my purpose in developing those methodologies were to help people with video right, smooth the buttery, smooth video. How important do you believe that it is to be able to fly in close proximity when youre doing these more technical jobs? Oh its huge? I got to tell you one. Let me tell you something: lately ive been doing a lot of these uh um uh whats, uh uh drone deploy missions. They do these uh roof models for whatever reason. Well, glenn takes it a step further because you cant fly the thermal until an hour or a half an hour after sunset, so i go and pop into pix4d and go into uh. What is it you know? Uh, you know fly mode. What is it free fly mode or whatever, and i finish the model and they end up with these amazing models when theyre done, because they dont they dont cover enough obliques and everything. So i said you know and thats something i learned from you guys. You know so uh flying crows, close proxy dude. I make amazing models. You have no idea, no idea. My models are stellar thats. Why? I want to incorporate 3d interiors with the exteriors, because i know we can do it now and thats thats my thats, my retirement gig man well im happy to hear that youre making uh really good models, theres some new stuff out there that works with pix4d to Make even better meshes now, but i agree with you that the acquisition methodologies from every other app theyre, just its just not enough and with pix4ds free flight.
I mean its been the gold standard for a while. So im really grateful to hear that its helped. You out and that youve been able to one up the competition um because i mean thats our purpose here at drone. You and i feel like so many people forget why we do what we do. We are not. You know, teaching classes out of our basement. We are not uh, you know, pedantic cfis were like well, you should know this because youre a pilot you know were here to really help people turn their passion into profit were really here to help people gain that confidence to do what youre doing right to live. The drone life youre outside you get to explore. You get to have adventures. You buy brand new jeeps that look beautiful and scoobs. I build them. I build them, you build them, not buy them. Excuse me: hey im a bootstrapper too glenn, thats, uh thats. Another reason that i, like you, but i got ta, say glenn. It has been so awesome to see you grow and and definitely appreciate having you on uh. One other point id like to make – i know, were running out of time here, but another thing i just want to tell folks is to make yourself more valuable to companies and everything do training get osha training. Take your osha 10 courses learn to go to thermography training. These are things ive done, not because im amazing, but because i got tired of the line catching up to me and i was like well im gon na go to the next catch me.
Uh cell tower training, i did cell tower training im a coven compliance officer for hollywood movie sets because i was gon na fly, a gig for michael bolton, the singer and they bailed on the on the drone shot, and i ended up becoming a covid compliance officer. Good thing that no now um lets see um yeah im taking osha 40. Now, oh also, i got my um uh, my uh first aid with cpr certificate. People want to see that stuff. You. You know these big companies that fly uh. You know florida power and light, and all these big guys who have like helicopter and military guys running the organization, theyre all part of risk management and doing their sheets and its just crazy. The risk mitigation learn risk mitigation. Make that your number one priority dont be that guy learn all the things you need to learn. What are the risks associated? Find one go online, look for a risk mitigation sheet somewhere and go through those and do the check sheets and youll find that your value to others will be more and they will continue to hire you and you will be able to ask for more money. And then you too can build scoobs and build jeeps thats awesome. I think thats actually really powerful information uh our new pre flight checklist in the props program. So for those drone new users who are not familiar with the props program, thats, our professional, reliable operators practicing safety and it is a new educational platform built for drone teams, pilots and programs.
But that said in that new pre flight checklist on the back is avoiding emergency procedures and what to do so risk mitigation. I couldnt agree with you more, but i think you know, as you talk about that. I just want to hit on this really fast. As you talk about that, one of the things that ive said for a very long time is look in order to fly really really well, you have to be safe, because when you are safe, you learn the methodologies of what it takes to become a safe pilot And once you have that foundation, you can do the harder stuff and the riskier stuff, but until you have that really good foundation of that muscle memory that you kind of talk about its seemingly impossible to be able to do the high level work. The stuff that youre doing yeah, i ive, heard a podcast another podcast recently a few a couple months back and it was a faa and it was an faa official guy talking search and rescue and a comment that he made in there. And you should all take this very seriously, and that is his statement was. Is that we treat a drone pilot, a uas pilot the same as we treat a delta pilot? So if you have a problem, if something happened, guess what you are under the same scrutiny. The same uh problems, everything that happens as if you were an airline pilot thats, how they look at you flying your little tiny aircraft or your big ass aircraft.
Yeah yeah, no youre serious mitigation be safe, youre. Definitely right, glenn, i and yeah. I agree: everyone uh, who uh, who should be flying, should be flying responsibly and that kind of goes back to you know having these airspace restrictions. If we know how to do things responsibly, we shouldnt have uh daddy, saying no uh and ive seen so many errors in that program, but uh trying to end on a positive note, glenn im, you know what i have to say. I am so happy for you. Im glad that you have these recurring revenue jobs, your business is going and growing, and frankly i also just want to say: look everyone. If you are a drone, you member make sure you download the new community app because glenn is in there. He is answering questions. He is helping people and uh; no, he is not stealing your data like facebook, but but on that bombshell, glenn thanks again for coming on. I appreciate it. Love you, my brother, youre, a good guy, appreciate you right back at you glenn. Thank you again all right. Everyone thats gon na, do it for us today. Thank you again for joining us. As always, let us know what you thought of the show and if youve got a question for glenn, just download the droneyou community app in the app store its also in the play store, and you can ask him. Questions directly also have to say make sure you check out that podcast about remote id in the lawsuit, because this really could be kind of an industry uh changer frankly, and the consequences on both sides are rather enormous, so make sure you check those out.
But thanks again for joining us thats going to do it for us today. This is ask drone.