Are you considering a career as a drone pilot? If so, is it important to understand what unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) pilots earn…Is the drone pilot salary at par with other aviation jobs? What can you expect to earn in this exciting and rapidly-growing field?
Keep reading to find out more.
The idea of being a certified commercial drone pilot sounds exciting. But is it really possible to make enough money as an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) pilot to live comfortably in today’s economy?
And if so, how exactly? Are there any salaried drone operator jobs out there, or is it strictly a freelance/gig economy industry?
It’s important to answer these questions before you take off on this exciting and rewarding career.
As a drone pilot, you can expect to earn a competitive salary. How much you make will depend on several factors; such as your experience level, the industry you work in, and whether you’re a freelancer or a full-time employee. Your ability to network and sell yourself will of course be a significant factor as well.
Industries that use drones extensively, such as film and television, typically pay higher hourly rates than other sectors. However, the average salary for flying drones depends on the skills and experience of the UAV operators.
One of the most common questions that aspiring drone pilots ask is who hires drone operators. The answer, quite simply, is almost anyone who wants to use drones for a job or business purpose.
Certain industries rely on unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) pilots more than others. Industries such as agriculture and construction have a high demand for commercial flight services, while sectors like film and television rely heavily on UAV pilots for aerial photography and videography.
Many UAV pilots choose to work as freelancers, offering their services to different companies or clients on a project-by-project basis. Others opt for full-time employment, working either as employees of drone piloting companies OR companies that are large enough to hire their own unmanned aerial vehicle pilots. A large construction company is an example of this.
You can choose from three possible paths:
These drone pilots are those who own and operate their own businesses. This path is best suited for experienced pilots who have a strong understanding of the drone industry and are comfortable marketing their services to potential clients.
As a self-employed drone operator, you’ll be responsible for finding your own work and negotiating your rates. You’ll also need to obtain the necessary licenses and insurance for your business.
While this path offers the most flexibility, it also comes with the most risk. Self-employed drone operators must be comfortable with uncertainty and have a strong entrepreneurial spirit.
Freelance drone pilots are those who work on a contract basis for different clients. This path is a good option for pilots who want to have more control over their work schedule and rates.
As a freelance UAV pilot, you’ll be responsible for finding your own work and negotiating your own rates. You’ll also need to obtain the necessary licenses and insurance for your business.
One of the main benefits of this path is that you’ll have the freedom to choose which projects you take on and how much money you earn. However, freelance UAV pilots often face challenges when it comes to securing consistent work and obtaining repeat clients.
Professional Drone Pilots are mostly hired as freelancers on a project basis as it becomes more convenient to hire a drone operator who is available locally. There are various UAV pilot networks like dronebase, droners.io, precision hawk, etc. which allow professional drone operators to register themselves, build their portfolios, and get paid.
These portals help you find freelance projects from various industries and you can choose according to your own preference. The pay would depend on the experience and skills of the drone operators.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not collect information on the industry, indicating that it has yet to start recording it.
We did some research on UAV pilot salaries and garnered a few insights.
That being said – let’s look at drone pilot salaries across industries.
|Industry||Average Drone Pilot Salary|
|Aerospace and Defense||$84,295|
|Film and Video||$69,107|
|Mapping and Surveying||$88,196|
|All Other Industries||$89,264|
As you can see from the table above, drone pilots in the aerospace and defense industry earn an average salary of $84,295. This is followed by construction at $79,368 and environmental services at $83,856. The industry which pays the lowest drone operator salary is film and video at an average of $69,107 per year.
The location of the drone pilot job also affects salary. Here is a quick overview of drone pilot salary by location.
|Location||Drone Operator Salary|
As you can see, drone pilots in the Northeast earn an average salary of $87,068 per year. This is followed by the West at $90,195 and the Midwest at $81,153. The lowest paying region is the South at an average of $76,695 per year.
According to the data from Salary.com, the average drone pilot’s salary also varies based on the city and state you live in.
|Location||Average Drone Pilot Salary|
|Little Rock, AR||$75,453|
|Los Angeles, CA||$91,386|
|West Hartford, CT||$87,933|
|Baton Rouge, LA||$78,377|
|Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD||$83,392|
|Battle Creek, MI||$81,077|
|New York City, NY||$98,422|
The hourly rate for drone pilots ranges from $41.21 to $74.04. The median hourly rate is $61.50.
The table below shows the hourly rate for drone pilots by experience level.
|Experience Level||Hourly Rate|
As you can see, entry-level drone pilots make an average of $41.21 per hour while experienced drone pilots make $53.91 per hour on average. Senior-level drone pilots make the most at an average of $74.04 per hour.
Based on different industries Airstoc provided the following data for Drone pilot salaries on an hourly basis.
As you can see, Oil and Gas is at the top with Mining and Surveying coming in at second and third respectively.
If you’re interested in a career as a drone pilot, be sure to invest in training and certification to increase your earning potential. With many industries using drones extensively, there is plenty of opportunity for success in this exciting field.
Freelance drone pilot salaries range from $35 to $150 per hour with a median wage of $85 per hour. On the other hand, full-time employed drone pilots make an average of $80-$120 per hour with a median hourly rate of $95.
So freelance UAV pilots for flying drones can earn higher hourly wages than full-time employed drone pilots. However, if you prefer to work as part of a team and have a more consistent income, a full-time drone pilot position may be right for you.
As the popularity of drones continues to increase, so does the demand for drone operators. But can you make a living as a drone operator? The short answer is yes, but it depends on several factors, including your experience level, the industry you work in, and whether you’re a freelancer or a full-time employee.
According to ZipRecruiter, the minimum hourly wage of drone pilots is $20. That means the minimum annual salary of a drone pilot is $42,000. But many drone pilots make much more. In the upper range, the average salary of a drone operator turns out to be $171,500 with an hourly wage of $82. The answer seems pretty obvious. You can certainly make a living with a drone pilot job.
Airstoc surveyed 700 commercial drone pilots in the U.S. Most freelancers make around $150 per hour, with top earners landing up to $500 per hour.
Some drone jobs are more lucrative than others.
Drone surveying has huge potential for GIS specialists. Topographic surveys can be carried out with a drone that is of the same high quality as those gathered using traditional methods but in a relatively short time. This significantly reduces the expense of a site survey as well as the burden on field professionals.
With a salary of $115,000 and an hourly rate of $56, these drone pilots are in high demand.
According to the multiple listing service (MLS), houses and apartments with drone photographs are up to 68 percent more likely to sell than those without photographs.
Aerial images allow buyers a greater sense of the property’s appearance, proportions, and surroundings.
Real estate photographers make an average salary of $107,500 with an hourly rate of $51.
As a drone pilot instructor, you teach people who are willing to learn and improve their flying and real-world operational skills and give industry-leading training, student mentorship, guidance, and expertise on the theory and practice of unmanned flight.
This position pays an annual salary of $100,600 and an hourly wage of $48.
For this, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) based monitoring system is developed to obtain both the wide-area coverage of distant sensors and the high levels of detail and accuracy of ground inspection and monitoring at a low cost.
Unlike high-altitude systems in satellites or airplanes, the UAV resembles a helicopter, with all measurement equipment installed under it to collect comprehensive information from low altitudes. Although the survey is carried out from the air, the resolution and accuracy are comparable to ground surveying and monitoring.
Furthermore, the UAV can collect data quickly and safely for pollution monitoring, powerline inspection, forest fire detection, railway track inspection, disaster monitoring, etc.
The drone operator in this role can expect an annual salary of $100,600 and an hourly wage of $48.
Drones used in search and rescue operations are UAVs used by emergency services like firefighters, disaster response, or rescue teams. UAVs are helpful in providing real-time visual information and data in the aftermath of natural disasters such as earthquakes or hurricanes. They have also become an irreplaceable tool for aid in finding missing and lost persons.
In this role, you can expect an annual salary of $100,000 and an hourly wage of $48. Keep in mind there are likely to be other duties and/or requirements associated with this level of earnings.
When any natural disaster occurs the responders need real-time imagery and other essential information in order to make better decisions and save time & cost of search and rescue missions.
As you can see, many drone jobs pay over $100,000 per year. So, if you’re looking to make a good living as a drone operator, these are some of the best positions to pursue.
There are many different drone pilot jobs that can lead to a six-figure salary. But it’s important to remember that experience, skill, and industry all play a role in how much you can expect to earn as a drone pilot. If you’re just starting out, you may not, in fact probably won’t, be able to command the same salary as an experienced drone pilot working in a high-paying industry.
But that experienced pilot should not be seen as a barrier, but rather, as an example of what is possible.
If you’re looking for a better drone operator salary, the above positions are good places to start. Whether you’re interested in surveying remote landscapes or inspecting rooftops for construction projects, there’s plenty of opportunity in drones‘ rapidly growing field.
If you want to start making big money as a drone pilot, these are the jobs to aim for. With skills like surveying and mapping engineering, real estate photography, or UAV pilot instruction, there’s no limit on how much you can earn in this exciting field!
With the right training and certification, you can become a highly sought-after UAV pilot and command a competitive salary.
Drone U offers 40+ on-demand drone courses designed to prepare you, and help you, move up the salary ladder quickly. As a Drone U member, you get UNLIMITED access to all of our in-depth training courses. Plus, you get the opportunity to network with like-minded people inside our exclusive community.
Check out the Drone U membership.
Organizations are beginning to use drones for a variety of purposes, including delivering packages, inspecting buildings and infrastructure, monitoring crops and livestock, surveying damaged areas after natural disasters, and more.
With the right approach, drone businesses can be highly profitable and provide a valuable service to their clients. So if you are thinking about starting a drone-based business, it is important to do your research.
Research and Markets predict a growth rate of 51.1% over the next five years. Organizations like advertising agencies, security firms, and construction companies are expected to spend over $16 Billion on drones over the next eight years.
Drones are not yet fully-automated. Human supervision is still essential for certain operations and performing specific tasks. Not to mention that as of now, and likely for the foreseeable future, the FAA rules for flying drones is that there be a pilot who is in command of the drone at all times.
The future looks bright for drone pilots. With the industry expected to grow exponentially in the coming years, there will be more opportunities for drone pilots to find well-paying work. Some estimates suggest that the drone industry could create 100,000 new jobs in the next 10 years.
So if you’re thinking about becoming a drone pilot, now is the time to pursue your dreams. With the right training and certification, there’s no limit to how much you can earn as a drone operator!
As more industries invest in drones, it’s clear that drone pilots are well-positioned to succeed in today’s economy. So why not consider a career as a drone operator?
There is some debate among experts about whether drone pilots make good money or not. According to some industry sources, a career as a drone pilot can be quite lucrative. You can often earn six-figure salaries with just a few years of experience and strong technical skills.
That being said – there are many factors that can impact the earning potential of a drone pilot. These include – the size and type of business, as well as regional differences in pay.
Despite these challenges, becoming a drone pilot is still worth it if you have the right skills and motivation. With the growing demand for drone services and exciting job prospects, there are plenty of good reasons to become a drone pilot!
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