If you see aerial footage or photos, there’s a strong chance it was captured by a drone.
Nowadays, drones are used by hobbyists, realtors, farmers, and professional videographers alike to capture stunning aerial shots and footage.
This rise in drone popularity has created ample opportunity to make money.
If you have a knack for piloting drones and are interested in becoming a licensed drone pilot, it’s certainly possible to turn these skills into a side hustle or full-time business.
In this post, I’ll walk you through the many ways to make money flying drones, how to get a drone license, and the best drones your should consider buying.
How To Make Money Flying Drones
7 Ways To Make Money Working With Drones
As mentioned, drones are used for both commercial and recreational purposes.
If you want to work commercially, you need to get a drone license, which we’ll discuss later.
If you just want simple drone gigs, you can probably get away without a license, although it’s a good idea to get one either way from a legal standpoint.
In any case, there are plenty of ways to get paid to fly drones.
#1. Sell Drone Photos
One of the easiest ways to turn your piloting skills into cash is to make money with drone photography.
According to Thumbtack, the average price for aerial photography shoots is $250 to $350, or even higher if you shoot for lengthy periods of time.
Many drones are equipped with cameras that can shoot in 4K HD footage and capture stunning photos.
To start making money with freelance drone jobs, you can offer drone photography services in your area.
A quick search on websites like Craigslist should give an idea of the competition in your area.
Additionally, you can sell aerial photography photos online on websites like:
Royalties vary between websites, and Drone Stock undoubtedly has the best rate at 50%. Creating a seller profile is free, and this is an excellent way to dabble in selling drone photos.
You can also get creative and explore options like selling photo prints on Etsy.
As long as you capture beautiful vistas, there’s a market for your work.
#2. Real Estate Drone Jobs
The real estate market is another excellent opportunity to make money flying drones.
These days, many real estate agents are willing to spend money to remain competitive and separate their listings from the crowd.
One easy way to accomplish this is to hire drone pilots to film listing properties and the surrounding landscape.
Drone footage brings a listing to life by highlighting the home and neighborhood.
For large properties with forestry and multiple acres, drone footage also helps potential buyers get a better grasp of the grounds.
If you want more drone work, pitch your services to local real estate agents to see if there’s an interest for custom drone real estate footage.
#3. Agricultural Drone Jobs
While this is a more serious drone job, the agricultural sector has a growing need for skilled drone pilots.
In fact, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) anticipates a significant increase in commercial drone pilots over the next few years.
Farmers require drones for a number of tasks, including:
- Crop monitoring
- Irrigation mapping
- Crop spraying
- Livestock management and monitoring
- Seed planting
Some of these technologies, such as seed planting, are not quite mainstream.
Recent FAA regulations are new challenges, but there’s no doubt that drones will have some role in the future of agriculture.
If you can tap into this market, this is another option that can be immensely lucrative.
#4. Sell Wedding Footage
Another way to make money with drones is to specialize in wedding photography and videography.
Weddings are generally expensive. However, drone footage and compilations are becoming more common as married couples want to capture every angle of their perfect day.
If you specialize in wedding based drone work in your area, you can certainly charge a premium to create wedding montages for newly wed couples.
This idea also works for filming special events such as outdoor festivals, reunions, grand openings, and more!
You’ll need some editing skills to make compilations flow well, but this niche drone gig certainly has potential.
#5. Work With YouTube Stars
Like real estate, digital content creators also want to stand out from the crowd.
Since recreational drones are more popular than ever, many popular YouTube vloggers incorporate drone footage into their videos.
While this is rather niche, offering your services to vloggers in your city has the potential to become a well-paid side hustle that doesn’t consume all your time.
#6. Rent Your Drone
While this isn’t a way to make money flying drones, renting out your idle drone or even a drone fleet is an excellent way to turn idle assets into cash.
Fat Llama is one option for renting out your drone for cash.
Fat Llama lets you rent almost anything on the platform, although drones, cameras, tools, and sound equipment are popular categories. Creating a listing is free, and you set your own price.
Additionally, your listing is covered by insurance that Fat Llama provides in the event of theft or damage.
You can also try renting out your drone on other rental marketplaces like Rentah.
If these options fail, listing your drone on the Facebook Marketplace is another alternative, but remember that this option lacks coverage.
#7. Drone Inspections
Another common way to start working with drones is to offer inspection services.
Like agriculture, this gig definitely requires a license and some serious drone piloting skills.
However, the drone inspection industry is becoming more lucrative each year.
Some common industries that hire drone pilots for inspections include:
- Oil and gas
- Architecture and city planning
- Roofing and real estate
The fact is that drones are more maneuverable than people, and much safer to use as well.
Drone inspections are also more affordable than relying on human crews, even if you charge thousands of dollars for the work.
There’s no doubt that drone inspection will only continue to grow, making this an excellent service to consider.
Important Drone Facts & Regulations
After reading about the different ways to make money flying drones, you might be tempted to hop on Amazon and buy one right now.
However, there are some important regulations about piloting drones for money.
Additionally, it’s important to buy the right drone for the job if you’re serious about this line of work.
Let’s start with the best drones you can buy.
The Best Drones To Buy
If you’re serious about making money with a drone business, your specific drone model is obviously important.
Just as a photographer needs a reliable camera and high-end lenses to produce quality content, a skilled drone pilot also needs the right drone.
Several professional-level drones that are worth considering include:
- DJI Mavic Air 2. As mentioned, this drone is an excellent drone choice at under $1,000. You can capture 48MP photos and 4K/60fps video and fly for up to 38 minutes.
- Freefly Alta X. Seeing as the Alta line of drones go for more than $10,000, this is for serious drone pilots only. Freefly’s Alta drone line is simply unmatched when it comes to drone cinematography.
- Autel EVO II Series. With 40 minutes of flight time, 48MP photos, thermal capabilities, and 8K 25fps footage, this is another excellent drone choice for professionals.
- DJI Mavic Pro 2. If you’re a fan of DJI drones, the Mavic Pro 2 is also worth considering. This drone has up to 31 minutes of flight time and can capture 4K video and also excels in lower-light conditions.
There are dozens of other professional drone options on the market, and DJI is a particularly popular choice for drone pilots.
Additionally, drone technology only continues to improve, and new models are released each year.
The biggest mistake people make is going with the cheapest priced drone.
Don’t make this mistake.
While it is nice to not pay a high price, you have to remember that with a lower price often lower quality is a result.
I’ve bought and seen many others buy the cheapest drone on Amazon only to regret it.
You are better off saving your money and buying a quality drone rather than the one with the lowest price.
Getting A Drone License: FAA Part 107
When drones first went commercial, there weren’t exactly concrete regulations in terms of drone pilot requirements.
However, as drones became more popular and sophisticated, rules have also changed.
According to FAA Part 107, if you have a drone that is less than 55 pounds, you can fly for work if you follow these guidelines:
- Learn drone pilot rules. There are numerous operational limitations that you must abide by, even if you have your drone license. For example, you cannot operate at night or fly above 400 feet of altitude.
- Become FAA-certified. To get your Remote Pilot Certificate, you must be at least 16 and be able to read, write, and speak English. You must also pass a knowledge exam at a FAA-approved testing center. The FAA outlines the complete steps to become a drone pilot on their website.
- Register your drone. Once you get your certificate, you must register each drone you intend to fly for your business. Registering a drone costs $5 and lasts for 3 years. You can register your drones at dronezone.faa.gov.
Note that FAA Part 107 is for U.S. drone operators. Different countries have their own regulation for drone pilots, so it’s important to check for regulations in your city and country.
Drone Pilot Salary
Registering your own drone business is a major decision.
As a new drone business owner, you’re responsible for finding clients, doing all of the flying, editing photos and footage, and bookkeeping until you can grow your revenue and hire help.
Additionally, the startup cost of a drone business is at least a few thousand dollars when you consider licensing your business, buying drones, and getting necessary editing software.
While drone businesses can be immensely profitable, a simpler way to make money flying drones is to work as a drone pilot for an existing business.
The construction, agriculture, and real estate industries are increasingly hiring full-time drone pilots instead of relying on contractors.
Similarly, professional drone businesses with enough scale also hire pilots.
According to ZipRecruiter, a drone pilot’s salary is approximately $58,000 per year.
However, if you can land drone gigs for major companies, it’s certainly possible to make more than 6 figures by being a drone pilot.
Ultimately, the demand for drone pilots in your city and how many certified pilots there are will have the greatest impact on how much money you earn.
How Much Money Can You Make With Drones?
The beauty of flying drones for money is that there are multiple options depending on your skills and availability.
If you just want occasional freelance drone work, you can list your services on local classifieds and fly on the weekends.
If you work 1 to 2 events per month, you’re looking at a few hundred dollars in extra income alongside your full-time job.
In contrast, the professional drone market is also expected to grow considerably in coming years.
If you start your own drone business to take advantage of this growth, it’s certainly possible to scale into 6 figures with enough clients.
However, like any service-based business, finding consistent clients and keeping operational costs low is important.
Finally, if you work full-time as a professional drone pilot, you’re looking at $58,000 per year on average.
Some pilots make upwards of 6-figures, but again, the demand in your city and your employer will impact your earning potential.
As technology continues to change the world we live in, new employment opportunities arise.
The popularization of drones is a testament to this reality, and the future certainly looks bright if you’re considering this line of work.
In terms of how to make money with a drone, you have numerous options.
This industry could be your new weekend side hustle idea. Alternatively, it could turn into your full-time occupation.
Whatever your choice, just remember to review drone regulations in your area and to get your license.
Flying drones is serious, especially in major cities, and you always need to respect people’s privacy and the airspace you operate in.
However, as long as you follow regulations and hone your craft, there’s no reason why you can’t make serious money by working as a drone pilot.