Drone to 1K Season 3 / Episode 5: Alex Castillo from LA Aerial Image


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Alex is the owner of LA Aerial Imaging. This is actually his second time on the podcast!


Alex was the first guest when the podcast came out about a year and a half ago. Alex was an original RC plane flyer. Then when he was older, he was able to afford this stuff. One day at the airfield, he saw some guy with a quad copter and knew he needed to have one. Then he decided that he didn’t just want it to be a hobby. So he took his photography background as a hobbyist and then just got into video and just started doing video with drones. He does a whole array of different things, such as 3-D modeling for construction sites

David: Do you do real estate?

I tell a lot of people to start with the real estate because it’s easy to get in. Everybody knows a realtor and you can get jobs fairly easy, but you can’t stay in the industry. For Alex, he says, it’s just not fun. In the meantime, he picked up an Amazon prime show called The Bay and he’s also been shooting for the Pop Star network for three seasons now.

David: How did you land your first construction client? What did they want?

My first construction job was subcontracted from another guy. They did some progress shots and 3-D modeling. Alex has done 3-D modeling for rock quarries too, so they can judge their materials and measure them. The person who subcontracted to him found Alex on Google. He needed a pilot in LA because he was getting business there but lived in Oregon.

David: One thing people are asking who are interested in industries like construction, but don’t know the lingo, is “How do I give a sales pitch to an engineering firm or construction or contractor?” What would be your sales pitch for 3-D models?

I don’t have to do sales pitches right now; the contractor is doing them. I learned a lot of the lingo onsite because when I first went in, I didn’t know either. I learned the lingo just talking to the guys onsite. For the most part you just need to explain that it will save them time and money. Construction guys are busy as hell. If you can send them an “as built”, which is a PDF that shows all the information.

David: How often did they have you go out there and do a 3-D model of the whole site?

It depends on where they’re at in the building. In some cases it was once per week, in others cases every other week.

“We’re going to do a testimony video of one of the biggest companies we work with, how they used the 3-D model, how it worked and how it saved them money. We’ve saved them tens of thousands of dollars in the long run.”

David: How much are you able to charge these construction companies or engineering firms for flying every other week and doing a three D model?

About $1500 bucks a flight in total is what the contractor charges. It takes Alex only about 45 minutes to do a model and then he makes $300 when most of the guys on the site made $50 or $60 an hour.

David: What’s your favorite type of thing to work on: What’s the most fun for you? What do you like doing the best?

“I like the film stuff; I like being on set. As the drone guy, there’s lot of waiting around, which can be a little stressful, but other than that, it’s fun.”

David: Do you think the Inspire 2 has helped you get those jobs?

Yes, for sure. If you don’t have an Inspire 2, they’re not going to be hiring you for that job.

David: What would you say you’ve learned that’s new in the drone world? Are you getting better at the stuff you already know how to do, or do you feel like you’ve honed any specific skills?

With nine years of drone flying under his belt, Alex has had more crashes in the last couple of years than ever.

“I think I got complacent with my flying and I’m thinking ‘I got this.’ I think I need to get back to the basics and be a little more aware. I got a little loose.”

Sometimes you might just get on autopilot and not really be thinking it through as carefully.

David: When you’re flying for these construction sites, do they require you to have a tight amount of insurance?

You have to have insurance and a lot of times it’s at least 2 million. It could be up to 5 million. They have really expensive workers’ comp and they have to pay the personnel. They preach safety all day long.

David: What’s changed from getting business now from when you were first doing it. Now, are you actively searching for any business or it just all comes to you?

Alex says he wants to get better at looking for it. All his work lately has been “just coming to him.” He spends about $50-$100 per month on Google Click ads. And, he says, he doesn’t even get that many people from Google. Most of it is referral.

“As long as you’re good at what you do, they’re going to call you back or they’re going to pass your number to someone else. Don’t get discouraged. You have to work actively on your business to grow it.”

Alex says it isn’t about just buying a drone. You have to learn to be a good business owner, provide good customer service and create relationships. You might have to do some free jobs here and there to get the people to know your services and to know your work. Alex says, “Just start somewhere and build it.”

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