A pointed question for those looking to switch careers or augment their existing career.
The thought of spending your days outside, in nature and exploring sounds pretty good. Right? As a drone professional drone pilot, there are many alluring factors to this job. As drone pilots we’re able to spend a majority of our time outside, in nature… not behind a screen. The question remains amongst many, can you make a decent living off of a drone pilot salary?
While finding the right drone job might be the go-to play for career employees, you might want to consider becoming a business owner. As a drone pilot, you’ll only be successful if you can plan, mitigate risk over time and problem solve. Business owners are not only tasked with problem-solving, but are forced to problem solve if they will ever survive. This is why many drone pilots end up going down the entrepreneurial pathway, and for good reason. Hopefully, this article will help answer some of your questions related to how much money a drone pilot will earn.
Everyone wants to know the magic formula to being a successful pilot. In fact, we would argue it’s not rocket science. Albeit there are so many formulas to success, it is hard to nail down the perfect formula.
The first thing that many of our new students ask is, how much money can I make as a drone pilot?
If you research online, you will find drone pilot salary statistics that are grossly inaccurate. In fact, most data sources just aggregate data from jobbing companies and Glassdoor.
Which is why we polled our community and called up some friends so that we could provide you with REAL data on how much money drone pilots make.
When we polled our student list, we found that 60% of them were entrepreneurs, not employees.
As per Glassdoor, the median drone pilot salary was $79K. The search term “drone operator” showed results of $33K – $44K. Whereas, as per drone jobbing websites, drone pilots earned on average $85,000 per year. As per our survey, advanced drone pilots can earn $800-$1200 in a single day!
Whether you’re being tasked to fly construction progression reports or tasked to manage a team of pilots… you’re still a drone pilot.
During our survey, we found that over 51% of all drone pilots were somehow involved in media production.
Media production can include marketing material development all the way to working on film sets. While the average job price was lower than construction, the employee salary was higher here than other verticals.
For example, pilots polled showcased that the average job price point was $500. Whereas the average pay for media-based employees was about $85,000.00.
Now media and production can cover a wide gamut of potential jobs. We will also say that a vast majority of drone pilots working in the media, were entrepreneurs.
Personally speaking, I’ve flown almost 100 media jobs over the course of my career. While real estate jobs still pay relatively low, there are verticals in real estate that pay very well. It just depends on where you focus your energy. (This is a crucial point).
After aggregating every single media production I’ve been a part of, the average price point per video production was about $3,750.00.
Typically I’d spend between 1-2 days on production and 1 day on editing to give everyone an idea of what’s involved work-wise.
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Normally most drone pilots starting out will find themselves taking on a lot of small jobs as freelancers. Normally these smaller jobs are priced between $100- $250.00. Whether you’re getting jobs on DroneBase/Droners.io/staffmeup they all typically offer the same price range.
Albeit the types of jobs might have different labels, they are often the same type of deliverable and operation. Whether you’re flying a roof inspection for insurance claims or flying a cell phone tower, many pilots sustain their income with these jobs.
Drone U has an instructor who is only flying roof inspections, this instructor has created an income of $73,000.00 annually by flying roofs.
Another one of the Drone U flight crew is flying cell towers almost daily. Typically, they fly between 3-5 towers a day at $250 a tower. Which means this drone pilot is making close to $1,000/day and more on long days.
We have discussed how drone pilots can make money as entrepreneurs or as employees. We have even showcased how the ideology of an entrepreneur pours into drone pilots, employed or not. As entrepreneurs, we are born and bred to solve problems. Which is why so many drone pilots are naturally entrepreneurial in spirit. Albeit there are still numerous opportunities for those seeking to have a sustainable job & employment.
Typically drone pilots are hired as freelance pilots or entrepreneurs.
There are many employment opportunities, albeit most of them are to work within a drone program. Which can frankly be daunting to startup a new drone program. Drone U has tried to make this easier for program managers, by managing nuanced training and flights through our PROPS program. These positions although typically pay the most.
Do drone pilots have a better chance of success by working for a company or as an entrepreneur?
The industry trend started as companies hired freelancers, then attempted to start their own drone programs. While there have been several successful programs, many of them struggle to be successful. We believe the most recent industry trend is actually a hybrid of hiring employees and freelancers. Freelance drone pilots have even been brought in to help, then get hired on permanently.
Let’s be honest, how much you make is dependent on your drone skills and how you price your drone services.
Should you go after jobs on Dronebase? This is a question that drone pilots ask us all the time.
Our response is always, “It’s great paid practice, but keep your expectations low”.
Frankly drone jobbing companies offer bottom-of-the-barrel work. Companies like Dronebase have traditionally offered jobs between $50 and $300.00.
The Dronebase jobs are entry-level real estate jobs, inspection jobs, and basic photography. Oftentimes you can find roof inspection work on Dronebase as well.
We had one particular pilot who made $50k in a year from Dronebase jobs. Albeit, that person had special circumstances (a hail storm of the century hit central Colorado).
We believe it’s a great idea for new drone pilots to sign up for these drone jobbing companies.
Understand that these jobs will provide flight practice. They will help pilots really learn how to navigate basic drone jobs…in the process, building your confidence.
Your strategy should be short-term when working with Dronebase and jobbers.
There is always a give and take when choosing drone jobs. Be smart, limit your expectations and have fun!
Drones are just like the smartphone. Remember when the first iPhone came out back in 2007. We were all saying how Blackberry would remain king and we would never use keyboards without buttons. Wow… many of us were wrong.
The drone industry is at a similar tipping point.
A drone is a platform, just like a phone. A smartphone can have many applications that solve many different problems. A drone is the same smart platform, except it can fly in free space.
When drones can control their own movement, we might find businesses using drones more and more as they realize the power of drones. Capabilities and uses are expanding very quickly, and they are revolutionizing every industry that picks them up.
Right now maybe one of the best times ever to earn your commercial drone certification. By taking the time now, setting up the right habits, skills, and systems… pilots can build a successful business or career before the market becomes saturated.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that acquiring your Part 107 certification and learning basic movements will earn you success.
Can you expect to achieve your dreams by putting in just minimal effort?
Don’t fall for the trap that so many lay out. Get 107… learn basic “ground school,” and you’ll be good to go. That’s false, wrong, misleading, and outright fraud.
The formula to be a successful drone pilot is really not that complicated. To sum it up, here is what you would need to do to truly be successful as a drone pilot.
1. Pass Part 107 Exam: Earn 107 Certification
2. Pass nighttime recurrent training to fly at night.
3. Learn how to access airspace through LAANC and WAAS authorizations.
4. Learn how to waive provisions of 107 so you can get jobs the competition cant.
5. Learn how to fly well through practice exercises and great training
a. You’ll need to know rules of takeoff/landing to avoid common pitfalls
b. You’ll need to know emergency flight maneuvers.
c. You’ll need to know how to stop a flyaway
d. You’ll need to know how to fly smooth turns for smooth footage
6. You’ll most likely need to setup a website and business systems to scale your business from the start, so that you can make money more consistently and quickly than other drone pilots. These systems help you to make your clients feel amazing through an autonomous experience.
7. You might need to learn how to use your drone for mapping
8. You might ENJOY learning about subject tracking to film objects on the move.
9. You’ll need good but cheap insurance and understand how it works.
10. You’ll need to know business relationships, sales, and networking.
This is why we built the Drone U library of courses. We know you’ll need the right information at the right time. And nothing else. There is too much to learn and do when owning a business. We don’t have time to deal with fluff and nonsense.
The library of courses will help any drone pilot, creative or technical. Entrepreneurial or Employed.
The library is large so you have choices to pursue your passion. The content is deep and detailed so you learn as much as possible, without BS… Drone U was built to help you follow your passion and thrive! This is why our price point is so affordable, we want to see you succeed from the start.
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