Coronavirus has made it harder for millions of small business owners and drone pilots to work. The good news: a number of companies, government arms and organizations are providing financial relief.
Even though drones are often a technology that promotes social distancing (drone delivery could reduce the risk for delivery workers, who say their health is jeopardized while going to strangers’ homes, often where people are quarantined), even the drone industry isn’t immune from the economic hit the world has taken, considering a record 3.2 million people filed unemployment claims in the U.S. in the week ended March 21.
If you’re a small business owner or drone pilot and have taken a hit from coronavirus, there’s help for you.
Here’s how some private companies, non-profits and governments are providing financial relief and other help to drone workers affected by coronavirus:
If you need drone insurance now (or you’re having trouble paying for existing insurance plans)
Flock: U.K.-based drone insurance startup Flock provides insurance targeted at businesses that fly drones. They’ve launched a few initiatives, including:
- Free insurance for companies using drones to fight coronavirus: If you’re working on a project that uses drones to fight coronavirus, you may qualify for a free insurance policy. Flick has pledged £10,000 of free insurance to organizations using drones to tackle coronavirus. To qualify, you just need to fill out this application form with details about your project, and Flock will contact you to let you know if you’ve been selected.
- Ability to freeze existing insurance policies: If your commercial jobs have been cancelled due to coronavirus and you’re an existing Flock subscription customer, you’ll likely be able to pause your policy at no additional cost. Flock added a feature to its app where you tap ‘Fly Unlimited’ in the ☰ menu at the top left hand screen, and you’ll be able to cancel or pause your subscription, removing the need to call customer service.
- Additional Customer Support: If you do need to talk to a human, Flock extended their office hours and launched an emergency out-of-hours hotline. Reach them via live chat on their website, email or phone at 02039665583.
For free drone automation software
FlytBase, an enterprise drone automation company that builds software to automate and scale drone applications for easy deployment of intelligent drone fleets, is providing complimentary access to FlytNow Pro for users involved in public health initiatives against COVID-19.
“Whether it’s helping the police manage lockdowns, providing situational awareness to first responders or supplying medicines to last-mile clinics, drones are likely to play an important role in helping mitigate COVID-19,” FlytBase CEO Nitin Gupta said.
For agencies using drones to help fight coronavirus, FlytNow Pro will be available at no cost, which includes drone live streaming over 4G/LTE/5G networks as well as controlling the drone and/or camera gimbal from far away.
For free data to aid in aerial coronavirus response projects
If you’re working on a project related to coronavirus, there are a number of resources that can get you free access to data that might make your work a little easier.
Free mapping software from Esri
Geographic information system (GIS) software, location intelligence, and mapping company Esri has made its software available to organizations fighting coronavirus.
If you’re helping in the coronavirus control effort, Esri will provide its ArcGIS Hub Coronavirus Response template at no cost through a complimentary six-month ArcGIS Online subscription with ArcGIS Hub, which is a framework to build your own website to visualize and analyze data.
In addition, Esri has already provided a number of datasets on its COVID-19 GIS Hub site, including case locations and social vulnerability.
For more information on how to access software and the disaster relief support, visit esri.com/disaster.
The HxGN Content Program by Hexagon Geosystems:
Hexagon Geosystems‘ HxGN Content Program: Hexagon Geosystems is a sensor, software and autonomous solutions company, and one of their projects has been the HxGN Content Program, a library of aerial imagery that spans 8.3 million square miles of 1 foot resolution aerial data. 315,000 square miles of that imagery is focused on urban centers.
If you’re working on a project to manage the coronavirus outbreak, Hexagon has made its orthorectified, high-resolution aerial imagery library of the U.S. and Europe freely available as RGB and near-infrared imagery via streaming subscription or as a download. Additionally, derivate data products such as digital surface models and stereo imagery are available upon request,
Hexagon says it expects its imagery will be used by first responders, healthcare departments and GIS professionals to assess the spread of the virus, visualize the scope of affected areas, plan coordination efforts, and improve responses.
If you’re an AMA member
If you’re a member of the Academy of Model Aeronautics and you have been financially affected by COVID-19, you may qualify for free 1-year membership to the AMA.
The money to cover the membership fees is being donated through other members (and matched by the AMA for up to $3,750 in contributions) as part of their “Separate but Together” fundraising campaign.
To qualify for free membership, you need to apply or nominate someone else, who may then qualify. Additionally, applicants must have an expiration date between March 30 and June 30, 2020 to qualify. You can donate, apply or nominate someone else at this page.
If you are now unemployed or are a freelancer or small business owner who has lost business
CARES ACT coverage for independent contractors/self-employed individuals
Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed byPresident Trump on March 27, small businesses, entrepreneurs and self-employed workers qualify for expanded unemployment benefits including unemployment insurance, debt relief, an employee retention credit and more.
Perhaps most notably for drone pilots, unemployment benefits would be extended to self-employed workers, independent contractors, and those with limited work history for up to 39 weeks of employment through the end of 2020, fully funded by the federal government. If you’re eligible, unemployment compensation will be the sum of whatever benefit would have been provided at the state level plus $600, which is referred to as “Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation.”
Learn more about what small business owners can expect in terms of financial support from the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.
Contact your bank to ask about fee waivers, deferring payments and more:
Most major banks including American Express, Bank of America, Chase, and Citibank are providing relief to customers struggling financially due to lost income during coronavirus through a number of measures including waiving late-payment fees, deferring interest charges, or not reporting missed payments to credit bureaus. Find out what type of support your bank can provide here.
Apply for a U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) federal disaster loan
SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans are available to provide low-interest
federal disaster loans for working capital small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small aquaculture businesses and most private non-profit organizations.
You can qualify for loans of up to $2 million, at a 3.75% interest rate. While the loans can not be used to replace lost sales or profits or for
expansion, you can use them to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts
payable, and other bills that could have been paid had the disaster not
occurred. Find out more about that loan program here.
Tuition grants can help you boost your skills while you’re out of work
Dronitek, which offers online, drone-related certification courses, is providing assistance for people who are now unemployed and/or have a disability affecting their ability to find work, to qualify for training costs.
The company has an application that they can use to help you qualify for up to 100% of your remote pilot training costs paid with grants available through the State of California Employment Development Department (EDD) and the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR).
Dronitek has a long history of helping people use government funding to get drone training.
“With additional funds being added to the EDD training fund by the Trump administration, now is the time to apply,” Barry Morris, President of Dronitek said in a prepared statement. “It’s an easy process with our help. We work directly with these agencies on your behalf to get you trained and job ready using grant funds that are readily available and hired into the workforce flying drones through these programs. There may never be a better time to get trained.”
If you’re a photographer seeking financial relief
If you’re an art photographer and have lost income due to coronavirus, you may be able to qualify for grants, interest-free loans and more to help you get through it.
Artist Relief Project
The Artist Relief Project provides financial support and stipends on a first-come, first-serve basis to artists in any discipline who have been impacted by coronavirus-related cancellations and closures.
To apply, you’ll have to share your resume and website through their online application form.
Arts and Culture Leaders of Color Emergency Fund
If you’re a person of color and a drone photographer, you may qualify for the Arts and Culture Leaders of Color Emergency Fund, which provides $200 for artists affected by COVID-19.
Format’s Photographer Fund
Format, which is an online portfolio platform, has a $25,000 relief fund designed to help self-employed photographers facing financial difficulties during the outbreak. To apply, you’ll have to fill out their online form. If selected, you’ll be eligible for up to $500.
If your DJI warranty expired
DJI updated its product warranty period for some customers, acknowledging that coronavirus has prevented some customers from being able to quickly and safely send their products in for repair.
Products with an original warranty ending from March 14, 2020 to April 30, 2020, will have the warranty extended to April 30, 2020. The coverage area of the warranty service will remain the same. It’s unclear if the warranty period will extend beyond that, or if it will also extend for DJI Care Refresh customers.
If you know of other ways that members of our drone community who have been affected by coronavirus can get support, please leave a comment below!