How Much Can You Make As A Drone Pilot? [Realistic Expectations]

Stack of 100 dollar American bills

A job as a drone pilot has become a career desired by many. Although salary should not be your primary focus, it is still very important when choosing any job to pursue.

So, how much can you make as a drone pilot?

Beginner drone pilots can expect to earn between $62,000-$70,000 per year. Experienced drone pilots can expect to earn between $73,000-$116,000 per year. The average hourly earnings is $20,70 for beginner drone pilots and over $26,49 for those more experienced in this field of work. These numbers may vary depending on how much you decide to charge for your services.

According to Phillybyair, there are currently 522,645 registered drones in 2021. This number is rapidly growing and is not expected to slow down any time soon.

Is There Still A Demand For Drone Pilots Today?

There is definitely still demand for drone pilots today! As more people register their drones to become drone pilots, more corporations find more applications of drones opening up new job opportunities.

Drone assortment

Drone technology has solved so many problems related to things like saving time and money in different industries.

Due to the very low barriers for entry, it has become quite challenging to start off in this career. It has caused lower-end drone service prices to drop significantly.

This can make it quite challenging to make a decent return on investment for the money you spent on the drone itself, including the various equipment needed for the particular job you are using your drone for and of course the time you invest.

We have a full post on this topic if you’d like to learn more.

Related post: Are Drone Pilot Jobs Really In Demand?

How Are Drone Pilots Employed?

One of the main issues you may face when becoming a drone pilot will be trying to find work/employers. For those more experienced, this will obviously be much simpler than those just beginning.

Handshake

Drone pilots are being employed in three main ways.

One being a freelancer or client based drone pilot. Another being someone who creates their own business around drones. The last option is someone who is already a professional in a specific industry who becomes a drone operator for a drone program.

Each of these options have their ups and downs which will vary on several factors.

Let’s explore them in detail.

Freelancer/client based drone pilot

Becoming a freelancer/client based drone pilot is probably one of the easiest and most popular ways people enter into this industry.

This can make finding work both challenging and simple.

It can be very challenging as in freelance services and drone networks such as Fiverr or DroneBase, there are many people looking for jobs they can do.

It can also be simple as there are many different job opportunities you could try and do.

There are various levels that can be required for each different job listing which means it caters to people of all experience.

Drone entrepreneur

Job boards are a go-to solution to find drone related jobs for many, but due to the sheer amount of competition, many decide they are more suited to create their own businesses.

Creating any business is a challenging process that requires patience, determination and time. With the right approach, it could yield amazing results.

The start-up costs of the business can also be quite low depending on the things you require for the particular area your drone business will be going into.

Examples of areas your drone business could focus on are photography/videography, filmmaking, construction, inspections of rooftops or buildings…

Architects planning project

Related post: 5 amazing drone pilot jobs you can get today

To create the business, you will need a drone pilot licence, insurance, a business licence and you will need to build up a client base if you don’t already have one.

You will need to decide early on what your drone business will focus on and buy a drone specific for that application as many drones have different features. You can decide to expand your business to reach other clients later on when your business has grown.

If you have the motivation or drive to succeed in creating your very own drone business, then this is the route you should choose.

Industry professionals joining a drone program

Various industries are beginning to include drones in their routine operations. This is because drones have proven efficient in making the workplace safer, saving time and saving money.

These industries have created departments and drone programs for people who are already in the industry and have the knowledge and experience required.

All these individuals will need to do is to get certified to fly a drone and they will be able to become a drone pilot without even leaving behind the knowledge they have learned from their experience.

One downside to this is that in most of these industry drone programs, you will most likely need to have a certain amount of experience and knowledge to be allowed to join.

Some examples of industries where you will most likely need prior experience to join are agriculture, construction or inspections of things like wind turbines or solar farms.

Solar farm

That being said, you can still find some drone programs that will only require you to have a certain amount of experience flying drones, and not much experience in the particular industry itself.

These include drone pilot jobs in industries like real estate or journalism where you will most likely only need to take pictures and film things.

If you have a passion for drones and you have years of experience in a certain industry, then this is best tailored to you.

How Much Does The Average Drone Pilot Realistically Make?

With all the factors we’ve mentioned above, it’s very difficult to say for sure what a drone pilots salary will be. This industry is still relatively new and is not yet being tracked by many people.

Salaries will depend on who your employer is and what industry you decide to use your drone in.

Mountain sunset with view from drone

Here are some results UAVCoach got from their salary research on Glassdoor:

“Drone Pilot” shows a median salary of $79K, but it is somewhat inflated due to manned pilots being included Glassdoors calculations.

“UAS Pilot” was more accurate, but it only brought up three legitimate results. Base pay seems to be $62K – $70K.

“UAV Operator”  jobs resulted in mostly military and government positions with an average salary between $33k – $40k.

Drone Pilot Salary | How Much Money do Drone Pilots Make? (uavcoach.com)

As we’ve mentioned, as a beginner you can expect to earn anywhere from $62,000-$70,000 every year. As an experienced drone pilot this can jump between $73,000-$116,000 every year.

This makes the average hourly rates to be $20,70 for a beginner drone pilot and over $26,49 for a more experienced drone pilot that has 5 years of experience or more.

The main factors that determine how much you are paid, are how much a company offers for packages (usually between $300-$800) and how much you decide to charge for your services.

You can make money as a drone pilot but it may be challenging when just starting out.

What Are Some Examples Of Drone Pilot Jobs?

There are many examples of drone pilot jobs, and there will be many more!

Some examples are:

  • Aerial photographer/Videographer
  • Filmmaker
  • Building inspector
  • Wedding Photographer
  • Real Estate
  • Mapping in construction sites
  • Surveying wildlife
  • Search and rescue
  • Drone deliveries
  • Security

Conclusion

Drones are rapidly becoming more and more popular and being used in more and more industries. Many think this rapid growth will not slow down for a few years. Now is the time to get your part 107 certificate and start selling your services.

There is no salary that is set in stone and you will most likely need to make your own estimates depending on the factors we mentioned above like years of experience and the approach you take.

Do you think drone pilots earn enough money?

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