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Drone Pilot – A Very Lucrative Career

May 19, 2021 | 0 comments

Note: Keep safety and responsibility in mind when flying. If you’ve never flown before, it’s never too late to learn. Find a hands-on Training near you.

 In order to legally operate a drone business, you will need a Part 107 License. If you want to pass the test on your first try, take a Prep Course.

Here you’ll find details about drone pilot jobs, industries that use drones in their work, and examples of compensation and salaries.

Nevertheless, before we move forward, we want to ask you a question: Why are you here?

  • Do you hold a Remote Pilot Certificate in the U.S., or some similar certification in another country, and are looking for work?
  • A drone enthusiast wondering what opportunities there are for drone pilots?
  • No piloting experience, but wondering what non-photographer positions might be available in the drone industry?

Learn more: Drone License: Getting your Part 107 Certification – FAQ

Here you’ll find information about the jobs available in the drone industry, both for photographers and non-photographers, as well as the types of work done with drones today.

In the industry, the question of how much money drone pilots make is one of the most frequently asked, and it’s simple to see why. There are drones in every industry, and with all this new high tech at such affordable prices, it’s only logical that everyone wants a piece of the pie. 

The question is: How large is the pie? It is a big, big pie. 

The work that Drone Pilots do is varied.

Multiple industries are all revolutionizing the way they do things by implementing drones. Some have taken lift and are already making the best use of them while others, still need convincing. Drones have allowed us to have eyes in the sky. They allow us to extend our vision and give us perspective to angles we could not achieve otherwise unless of course, you have a helicopter in your backyard.

Real Estate Photography

This one is pretty obvious. With drones, you can create a story out of a property. You can give life to the experience of a brand new home. With aerial photos, drones help us expand the closed spaces of a photograph, and anyone, with a link to a listing, can visit through a virtual tour or simply just freeze in awe to beautiful panoramic perspectives that could not be seen otherwise but by being there physically.

Learn more: Real Estate Drone Pilots Dominate the Industry

Construction

The use of drones can give construction teams a bird’s-eye view of job sites, materials, machinery, and workers. UAVs allow contractors to optimize grading plans and operations, as well as identify differences between as-designed and as-built site plans.

Home Inspection

An inspector’s ability to collect data about a building’s roof in a safe and timely manner is crucial for the process of evaluating a residential or commercial property.

An inspector without a drone might have to climb a ladder or maneuver around in the sun while covering their eyes, often without anyone around to see them. Furthermore, some buildings are simply impossible to access by a person.

Site Progress Monitoring

Drones are often used by planners and architects on construction sites to observe progress and ensure it corresponds with their vision and imagination. Developers and construction site businesses can also use the information obtained to track their inventory and update investors much more accurately. 

Infrastructure Inspection

Drone inspections enable inspectors to avoid putting themselves in dangerous situations by collecting visual data on the condition of an asset. Inspectors can use drones instead of climbing a tower to inspect a guy-wire or scaffolding within a boiler to examine a weld. They help make the operation totally safer.

Learn more: How To Make Money with a Drone Business

The list could go on and on. What do you think? There are tons of applications for drones and most of them can be very lucrative. Certified Drone Pilot is a title that is still relatively new. Learning the ropes now will make establishing your name in the industry a lot easier than later.

What should I do to position myself as a drone pilot?

The concept of being a drone pilot can be seen in either two perspectives:

A program within an Industry or Freelancers

Drone Programs within an Industry

As you’ve already read above, many industries are now benefited from applying the use of drones in their day-to-day operations. While it all started by hiring independent pilots, some have already by now created Drone Operation Departments where they can either be exclusive to operating the drone to also include the responsibility of managing the information they gather with drones. These are usually large companies with very well-defined usage of drones.

Self-employed, Client-based Freelance Drone Pilot

As a freelancer, you are completely on your own which has both pros and cons. You get to choose your own hours and your hourly rate but, you are the sole responsibility to get more clients. You have to also consider Insurance, Liabilities, and Risks involved in any operation, as you represent yourself and not some big company to have your back.

Learn more: 5 Reasons why you need Drone Insurance

Running your own business is hard and it is a hustle, but this is definitely not the first time you read this. You can scale your income as far as you want. There are no limits. To work as a full-time pilot, getting clients and doing the work yourself to managing an entire fleet of drone operators and getting clients for your enterprise. While finding clients might be a struggle at first, you’ll reap the benefits of your decisions once you build a reputation for mutually beneficial business relationships.

How Much Money Does a Professional Drone Pilot Actually Make?

There are several variables that respond to a drone pilots income:

  • What Industry are you working in?
  • What type of Job will you perform?
  • Type of Employer or Client?
  • Is it a large-scale operation or a small one-time operation?

In either case, if you are Self Employed / Freelancer or a Private Employee, all these factors will have a direct impact on how much an employer or client would pay for your service. The higher technical ability will usually require higher industry standards. For example, you cannot use a Mavic Mini 2 to perform Landscape Mapping or Construction Jobs. You’ll need more expensive equipment and more technical know-how for some types of jobs.

On a large scale average, a drone pilot professional could see figures anywhere between $19k to $62k a year, staying on the safe side. However, there are some drone professionals that do average over $300k a year.

Learn more: A Guide on Pricing your Drone Photography Services

What type of income can a drone pilot expect.

Given that Certified Drone Pilot is a title that is still relatively new, obtaining accurate stats on salaries will be difficult. 

Let’s take Drone Professional Photography as an example. You could consider either Charge by the Day, Charge by the Hour or Charge by Half a day. You could also consider charging based on Content Packages. 

Your pricing could vary based on the type of content your client is requiring. Edited and raw images and individual video clips as a basic package and upselling and overall edited video with all the music, gimmicks, and effects, creating a short film, to the extent of your creativity.

The average price for this type of production usually ranges between $500.00 and $1,250.00. When pricing, always consider the following aspects:

  1. Your costs: Drone, Equipment, Insurance, Transportation
  2. Risk: Equipment usage, replacement, and repairs
  3. Time a job will take you
  4. Your hourly fee

With these in mind, you can create a formula for accurate pricing that will always yield profit.

Mapping and Inspection

Below you will find a general overview of the pricing information provided by service providers.

  • Real Estate: $150 – $750 per house
  • Film Production: $2,000 – $4,000 per day
  • Mapping: $25 per acre
  • Construction Monitoring: $400 per month

These figures are only to be taken as a general guidance. In your area you could find some places charging completely different but, with these examples you should be able to have a clear concept of around how much things are moving.

What can I do to find work?

For employment, you could use the same means as any other type of employment. Search for job listings at Indeed, ZipRecruiter, LinkedIn, etc. Additionally, enlist yourself up in DroneBase and DroneUp. These last two are dedicated exclusively to certified drone pilots.

On these websites, clients will post their requirements, and based on your location and experience, you can qualify for available missions. They will mission briefing and payment and can opt to take a mission or not. Very similar to the Uber or Airbnb business concepts. They provide the platform and you provide the service. These jobs could net you some decent payouts but I wouldn’t depend on them exclusively.

As a freelancer, your best bet is to have your own website and social media. Make a well-designed website where you can show off your work. We recommend working with JoeSimo for website design. They have very flexible options for small businesses and entrepreneurs alike.

You could do several strategies from offering a free photoshoot to gain attention, giving out a freebie with your contact & website info watermarked. It is also very important to do networking Go online or go to events. Become a known person within your niche. It’s not that hard to have someone introduce you to the industry. Be professional and make yourself known among your peers.

Pro Tip!:

Sending out panoramic photos of well-known areas of the city to Marketing and PR Agencies yields tremendous results. Usually, these agencies are required to hire photographers for photos of their town specifically. This can help you get tremendous exposure. Just make sure you are very polite when sending out your emails and always watermark your work with your website info.

I hope we’ve provided some insight into the potential gains of becoming a certified professional drone pilot. It is incredibly rewarding to be able to provide for your family or simply make a living through a project you are passionate about.

If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to write in our comment box below.

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