Drones are becoming more and more popular, and are opening up a lot of fun jobs! Drone pilots get to travel, spend time outdoors, and spend all day doing what they love with a flexible schedule.
Drone pilots are getting hired for all different kinds of work, from surveying, videography, to real estate. Many companies are realizing the potential that drones can offer them, and the demand for drone pilots is growing every day!
Flying a drone is a lot of fun, but does it pay enough to be a full time job? Here’s everything you need to know to about the salary of a drone pilot and what the job looks like
Who hires Drone Pilots
In order to get a good idea of what a drone pilot salary looks like, first we have to find out who hires drone pilots!
Real Estate jobs usually pay around $300 for photos and videos of a property that they’re trying to sell. Usually only one person is hired for the job, which is great if you love working solo.
Editing skills are also needed for real estate jobs, to make a good video of the property and make sure the images look great!
This is one of the most common drone jobs available, and is a good way to start getting paid for drone piloting.
Media and Film Production
About half of drone pilots are involved in media production. This has a wide range of skill levels, from making fun youtube videos, filming a video for a new business, to working on the set of a movie.
Media and film production is often a larger project than real estate work, and can take several days to over a week to complete.
There are also different levels of pay depending on the job. The average pay for a media job entrepreneur drone pilot is between $500 and $1,000, but a drone pilot hired for a movie or film can expect to make upwards of $100,000 a year.
Flying drones for construction companies often includes surveying the site, and inspecting the work that has been done.
Using drones for surveying and inspecting takes a lot less time than the traditional method of having people do it and also costs less, which creates a high demand for drone pilots!
The most common form of surveying that drone pilots are hired for is creating 3D maps with detailed data of the construction site, which helps for planning as well as showing progress. Construction Drone Pilots make an average of over $60,000 a year.
Flying drones for the military is a lot more specialized with a many steps and requirements that must be followed.
One big difference between military drone pilots and most other drone piloting jobs is that military drone pilots spend most of their time indoors controlling their drone from a computer. With other jobs like real estate and film production, drone pilots can travel around and be outside as well as working on a computer.
The average pay for a military drone pilot according to indeed.com is over $60,000 a year.
The drone industry is booming, and new drone jobs are popping up all the time!
Many drone pilots are posting their footage on YouTube, which can eventually be a good source of income.
Inspection jobs of all sorts are available for drone pilots. Jobs can range from inspecting cell towers, hail-damaged roofs, to crops and massive oil rigs.
Search and Rescue is one of the most widely acknowledged best uses for drones. Drones can be equipped with infrared cameras to track heat, night vision, and operate over dangerous terrain, making them perfect for finding lost people.
Drones are being used to make police work much safer as well. Drones can survey a scene, identify suspects, and even go into a house to see prevent an ambush without the possibility of harm being caused.
Tours of massive houses, businesses, and events are being popularized through cinewhoops, a drone that can fly in tight spaces and capture amazing footage.
Self-employed Drone Pilot Salary
With a multitude of jobs available, drone pilots can work as much as they want to. As their skill and work quality improves, they can start charging more for their work and make their time more profitable.
The main source of income for self employed drone pilots come from real estate work, inspections, and media production.
Work can be found on websites like Drone Base, through real estate companies, and by advertising your services and looking online.
A good salary is not hard to come by for a drone pilot working full time. Jobs tend to pay between $200 and $500 and can easily be completed in a day, putting the yearly drone pilot salary for beginners at over $50,000.
Realistic Drone Pilot Salaries
Self-employed drone pilot salaries usually start at $50,000 a year but a self employed drone pilot with a couple years of experience and a good portfolio can double the starting salary and make over six figures easily.
If starting off as a drone pilot entrepreneur is too risky, there are many other drone pilot options that pay well.
Getting hired for a construction company, insurance company, or film production company gives you good guaranteed income, as well as the option for promotions, and referrals for the next big drone job.
At a minimum, whether you are a self employed drone pilot or working for a company, you will be well off since the average minimum pay is $50,000 a year.
What a Drone Pilot’s job looks like
Whether you plan on working for a company or find work yourself, the basics of the job will look the same.
A bit of driving is expected to get to the place that you need to film or survey. Normally, you won’t be driving longer than a normal commute to work would take.
When you arrive at the scene, you want to make sure to get an idea of where you’re going to be flying, so that you can maintain a line-of-sight connection with the drone, and make sure there will be no hazards or obstacles when doing your job
Getting good video and pictures can take a bit of maneuvering, so expect to be in the air at least an hour for a normal real estate or inspection job. Make sure to bring a couple of extra batteries, and take more pictures and video than you think you need!
Finally, an hour or two of computer work can be expected for real estate jobs, to edit your shots into a video, and make sure your pictures look good.
The amount of work you can expect depends on the job; media production might be two days of filming and flying the drone, and a couple days of editing as well, where real estate jobs can be completed in a morning.
Start making money as a Drone Pilot
In order to start making money as a drone pilot, there’s a couple things necessary steps, and a couple things to consider.
First, to sell your work you need to become a legal drone pilot, and be certified through the FAA. The required test to be certified costs over $300 to take.
Secondly, you’re going to need to invest in a good drone that will perform well for the work you’re planning on doing. A good DJI camera drone with extra batteries will cost from $1,000 to $2,000, which could be a hard investment to make.
The easiest way to start making money as a drone pilot is to list your services online, apply for drone jobs on DroneBase, and look online for jobs near you! Getting your first job is the hardest part; from there on, you will gain experience and can get good references for future work.
Making Good Money as a Drone Pilot
Once you’ve started making money as a drone pilot, the easiest way to make good money is to pick an area to specialize in.
Specializing in a certain area, whether it’s media productions for businesses, filming weddings, or creating 3D surveys allows you to learn more about the area you’re specializing in, produce better work, and charge more for your work.
Equipment for becoming a Drone Pilot
There are several crucial pieces of equipment you’re going to need in order to become a successful drone pilot!
Obviously to become a drone pilot, you’re going to need a drone. Thankfully, finding a good camera drone isn’t too hard, and there are many guides available on how to fly a drone and take good video!
A reliable car is important to have, most of the time you’re going to have to drive a little ways to get to the place that you need to fly your drone.
A computer that you can edit and submit your footage, create a good portfolio, and run your drone piloting career from is just as important as the drone and is crucial for producing good work!
A phone is important to stay in contact with your customers, to let them know arrival times and keep them updated on their order.
Additional batteries are a must have for drone pilots, there’s no telling if you might need to retake a shot or stay in the air a little longer.
Accessories for the drone aren’t necessary, but a case to keep the drone and your computer safe when you’re traveling is really nice to have!
Becoming a Legal Drone Pilot
Legally selling your drone flying services in the US means that you must meet all of the FFA requirements and get a Remote Pilot Certificate. Thankfully, it’s not too hard to do!
The basic requirements to becoming a commercial pilot include being over the age of 16, fluent in English, and in a stable mental and physical state to fly a drone as well passing the initial knowledge exam.
Becoming a drone pilot pays well even on the lowest level, and if you love flying drones and can edit the footage, it is definitely something you should try!
Personally, a self-employed drone pilot is more appealing to me than working for a company, because I can pick and choose my own schedule. However, you can get paid a lot more working for a professional film company!
If you want to learn more about how to become a FAA certified legal drone pilot in the US, here’s everything you need to know!
Don’t forget to check out our list of the top camera drones of 2022 for picking your first drone or finding your dream camera drone.
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