Sections from AWP – Example 4

7.3  In-house drone operations vs drone service providers


The number of drone service providers has been growing rapidly and there might now be suitable third party service providers where previously there were none.

Confidentiality requirements or intellectual property considerations might make the use of third parties unattractive.

Senior management is often not aware of all the risks and responsibilities associated with commercial drone use, especially if no risk assessment was performed or brought to their attention.

Since drones are also sold as model aircraft and are used by hobbyists, many managers underestimate all the legal implications of a company becoming a drone operator.

Meeting all the legal requirements that come with being a responsible drone operator brings costs and requires management attention. Any assessment of in-house drone operations vs hiring specialized service providers needs to be based on a clear understanding of all the responsibilities in-house drone operations entail.

Generally speaking it can be expected that for generic drone services (e.g. aerial photography) companies will increasingly rely on specialized outside service providers.

Any decision to outsource certain drone services needs to be based on an assessment of the service provider (e.g. standards, licenses, references). Accidents or disturbances caused by the service provider will still affect the company.


  • Missed opportunities to outsource to third-party drone service providers due to unawareness of service availability.
  • Full costs of a legally defendable in-house drone operation are underestimated.
  • Third party drone service providers do not operate at the expected standards and safety standards deteriorate.

Audit Steps

  • Analyze the rationale for in-house drone operations vs hiring specialized drone service providers.
  • Assess what the company uses drones for and how generic those use cases are (e.g. aerial photography).
  • Compare in-house mission costs with service charges of specialized drone service providers.
  • Analyze in-house mission cost calculations for the inclusion of non-obvious cost components like insurance, write-offs and overhead allocations.
  • Use web searches to assess the availability of third-party drone service providers.