Drones have been making headlines in the last few years and with good reason! Slowly but surely the drone industry has been taking over the world, pushing it beyond an aviation hobby towards a high-paying job.
The average annual pay of a drone pilot in the US is $58,280 per year. Meaning, drone pilots make $28.02 an hour, which is approximately $1,121 per week or $4,857 per month. That being said, this is not the highest pay you can get, as many drone pilots are making six figures per year by combining their passion with an entrepreneurial spirit, to create their own companies.
You can make drone piloting a well-paying profession, one that can turn your part-time hobby into a full-time job. To help you get started we have listed a few specialties you can consider to create a successful career.
Mapping & Modeling
Drone mapping and modeling are two different skills (one accurately captures what is there, the other builds on that to project multi-dimensions and what’s to come), but either one can help you kick off your career. Over time, more homeowners and builders are interested in getting a full view of their property, allowing them to scan and lay out a plan that works in the years to come. (Hear Taylor Mitcham’s story of how she became a certified drone pilot in mapping and modeling—it all started on a construction site.)
Moreover, it can help building contractors keep track of the construction progress. And think about how cool those time elapsed videos will be at the end of a project—watching a three-month project unfold in 60 seconds. That’s a great calling card to ensure you will be chosen for the next project!
Utility inspection is a rising market, one that can ensure employment in the months to come. While you may think you need a thermal drone to become a utility inspector, that is not the case. You can easily get the job done using a digital camera drone, which is all you need to inspect cell towers, power lines, rail tracks and other utility inspections. Many companies are looking to hire a long-term drone operator and can have you set up in no time. (If this really sounds interesting, we found this free guide to “Best Practices for Drone Infrastructure Inspections.”)
Luxury Real Estate
Luxury real estate is a niche on its own. With properties going up into the millions, you will be covering and capturing all they have to offer. These projects are generally reserved for drone pilots who have a creative side and can show off these estates, ranches, and farms in full view. There might be a little commute from time to time, but that should not hold you back. (Here’s a sample that’s been edited into a luxury home fairy tale.)
One of the hottest markets for drone pilots is film production. They pay well but require you to fly bigger drones with excellent precision. Fortunately, you can rent the equipment while working on the film and will still be able to make a great living. However, it is a tough job, one that requires you to master proximity flights—flying fast and close to physical objects in nature, like speeding through forests or near mountain ridges. Along with offering a creative touch, you must be willing to get the job done without disrupting the team. (Take a look at this Proximity Flying Lesson for Cinematic FPV Drones or this proximity nature flight.)
Solar inspections have become easier with time, as the technology around drones continues to evolve. The gig is generally based around raptor maps which generated reports of broken solar cells, along with the calculation of loss. While it may sound complex at first, the more you learn about the process the easier it will become. Moreover, everything from the flight to interpretation is fully automated. (Here’s a Drone Farm Inspection.)
For any of these exciting and growing opportunities with drones, a first step is to get your commercial drone pilot license. We offer a hands on, personal approach that has led to our students having a 100% first time pass rate when taking the FAA Part 107 exam. Ask us how to get started.