Drone businesses ready to take off

Published 7:56 pm Friday, July 6, 2018

Over the last two decades, drones crossed from the realm of science fiction to everyday technology. With an ever-expanding list of uses, Beaufort County Community College is hosting a class to help those interested in starting a drone business. Probyn Thompson will teach “How to Start a Drone Business” on July 12 at the college.

Probyn ‘Probe’ Thompson is president and CEO of Air Probe LLC. He has over thirty years of expertise in planning and executing operations globally for both military and private sector. Thompson retired after 23 years with the US Air Force. He then returned to work in the unmanned aircraft system industry for a drone manufacturer for four years before founding Air Probe LLC.

“We work with a lot of farmers,” said Thompson. “They’re costs are going up. They work on thin margins. We’re looking for the best way for them to increase their return on investment.”

Drones can monitor large tracts of land, including agricultural fields and forestry lands, reducing the time spent driving around to sites. They can increase the efficacy of law enforcement and fire prevention in remote areas. Thompson has shown farmers that road and fence inspections that used to take them days can now be done in a matter of hours. BCCC’s service area is the most expansive of any community college in North Carolina. Large farms, limited roads and an abundance of waterways mean that drones are ideal for this area.

“The state of North Carolina is looking at employing drones to deliver medications and emergency services such as defibrillators, especially in the event of hurricanes where roads may be cut off.”

The three-hour workshop will present participants with the required information to enter into the drone services industry. Participants will learn to set up a successful and legal drone business in compliance with state and federal law. Thompson will discuss how to obtain a FAA-Part 107 commercial drone pilot license and the different equipment available. Potential business owners can think through the various market “verticals” that are profitable.

While Thompson does not expect everyone to become a drone pilot, he thinks farmers, teachers, realtors and others should look at how they can work with drone operators to stay relevant in their fields.

“This revolution is here,” he exclaimed. “We can’t keep doing things the way we’ve done them. Technology and automation are going to change everything. If people are prepared for these changes, they will be set for life.”

To register for the class, call 252-940-6375 or email continuingeducation@beaufortccc.edu. This class is free through the Small Business Center at BCCC.