Looking to make money with a drone? Drones can be a lot of fun. It takes just a couple of times flying one to get used to the controls and start piloting like a pro. Before you know it, piloting a drone can turn into your favorite hobby.
However, a hobby isn’t the only thing drone flying can be for you. With a bit of talent and some business acumen, flying a drone can present an excellent money-making opportunity. Check out the top ways to make money with a drone.
What You’ll Need to Make Money With Your Drone
Just like monetizing any other hobby, earning money by flying a drone doesn’t happen overnight. You must prepare, hone your skills, and obtain all the necessary paperwork, as you would when starting any business endeavor.
For starters, you’ll need to invest in the equipment.
Drones come in all shapes and sizes and at varying price points. Depending on what you’re looking for, you can find drones that cost anywhere between just $50 and well over $10,000. If you want to make money with a drone, you should expect to spend at least $3,000 on average for a higher-end professional one.
The precise type of drone you should use depends entirely on what you want to use it for. Multi-rotor drones, for instance, are excellent for aerial photography and inspection, while you’ll need a fixed-wing hybrid VTOL drone for tasks such as surveillance or search and rescue. You’ll first want to consider the type of work you want your drone to do before investing in suitable equipment.
With the drone all set, it’s time to get to training. Drone flying isn’t as easy as it may appear, and you’ll likely go through some trial and error before you figure it out.
However, you can’t hope to make money with a drone if you’re not good at it, so keep practicing. If possible, you could also sign up for courses. While there are many online ones, you might find it easier to master the necessary skills with in-person training.
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Once you’re confident in your skills and ready to start flying your drone commercially, you’ll need to get a license. Without it, you cannot legally pilot a drone for commercial purposes. You can obtain a license in the US from the Federal Aviation Administration after completing a simple flight, safety, and procedures test.
If your plan to make money with a drone involves photography or videography, you’ll need to develop photo and video composition and editing skills.
All there’s left to do is get drone insurance in case of accidents, and you can start finding ways to earn money with your drone.
Top Ways to Earn Using Drones
With the right equipment, some training, a license, and insurance, you can find excellent ways to make money with a drone.
1. Real Estate Photography
One of the most popular options to make money with a drone is real estate photography. Real estate agents heavily rely on photos and videos to highlight their property listings and attract prospective buyers.
Traditional photos and videos often leave much to be desired. That’s why many agencies hire drone pilots to take aerial shots and present their properties in their full glory.
💵 On average, a real estate drone photographer can earn about $51,000 annually. That depends on your precise location and the agency you work with. You will not usually be hired as a full-time employee: you’ll receive contracted work and be paid by the project.
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2. Aerial Photography
Still staying in the realm of photography, you could use your drone for aerial photography and videography for magazines, websites, independent businesses, and more. You’d be surprised at how many companies need such services.
Depending on your specialization, you could take landscape photos and videos with your drone, shoot commercial properties for advertising, or even help create marketing content for different types of businesses. This is a creative and fun way to make money with a drone.
💵 If you want to increase your earnings, you could even join the entertainment industry, helping with video production. With the average videographer salary of $71,032 in the US, you could turn your drone-flying hobby into a steady career.
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3. Stock Photography
While you can earn the most with your drone by starting a business and connecting directly with clients, that’s not your only option. You don’t have to turn drone piloting into a full-time job or a career. Keep it as a hobby and still earn a pretty penny on the side by selling stock photos and videos.
Depending on the site you join, you could earn money in several different ways. Some sites will offer immediate payments in exchange for a license to use your photos and videos as they see fit. Others will only pay you once someone downloads the content you’ve shared on the platform.
💵 Your earnings can vary significantly based on the stock platform you choose and the popularity of your content. Most stock photographers earn up to just $500 a month. However, the top 20% can easily earn over $2,000.
4. Wedding Photography/Videography
Of all the ways you could make money with your drone, event photography and videography might be the best, especially if you choose to shoot weddings.
Virtually everyone nowadays wants professionally-made videos of their wedding day with gorgeous aerial views of the venue and guests. Finding lucrative opportunities shouldn’t be much of a hassle.
You can work independently, start your own business or find gigs on freelancing platforms like Upwork or Fiverr. Alternatively, you can reach out to established event photographers and see whether you can collaborate with them.
💵 On average, wedding photographers can earn around $52,500 a year, depending on their location.
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5. Surveying and Mapping
Surveying and mapping the land, especially in remote areas, used to be done with helicopters. However, with the rising popularity of commercial drones, the job description has changed.
Drones can easily access virtually any environment. Whether it’s the remotest part of a forest or an area affected by wildfires, they can easily fly over the land taking in data without risking harm to the pilot.
For mapping and surveying, you’ll pilot your drone over a specific area, taking photos and videos of the land. Then, you’ll likely have to use mapping software to ensure the accuracy of the images you produce.
Surveying and mapping can be done for construction projects, 3D models, archaeology organizations, and more.
💵 On average, you can expect an annual salary of $70,000, though depending on your expertise, you could even get a six-figure salary.
6. Search and Rescue
If you want a job that pays well and helps you give back to the world, taking your drone and joining search and rescue missions could be just the thing for you.
Many search and rescue missions can be dangerous. The terrain could be inaccessible or hazardous, sometimes making it impossible to organize search and rescue operations. That’s where drones can come in particularly handy.
You can cover vast areas from a safe distance, easily detect missing people, deliver emergency supplies, and more.
It’s a stressful but rewarding way to make money with a drone.
💵 Those involved in search and rescue could earn an average salary of over $99,000, though you’ll need skills and experience to reach such high earnings. You could also offer services only when the occasion arises or choose to volunteer and help out.
7. Drone Deliveries
While we’re still a long way away from having everything delivered by a drone, there’s no denying that drone deliveries are becoming increasingly popular. If you aren’t interested in using your drone for photography and surveying, it’s a great alternative.
You could partner with businesses that handle their own deliveries or join order fulfillment services.
Whether this is a good field for you depends mainly on the type of equipment you have. As a general rule of thumb, most drones cannot carry excess weight, so you’ll need powerful equipment designed to carry loads.
💵 On average, you can earn between $20,000 and $50,000 as a drone delivery pilot.
8. Drone Tutoring
Another fun way to make money with a drone is by teaching others how to fly one. If you’re primarily interested in flying your drone for fun and don’t want to get involved in photography, delivery, mapping, surveying, and more, you could offer drone-flying classes.
You’ll get to do precisely what you enjoy, simply piloting your drone. You’ll just have to transfer your knowledge and skills to others as you do so.
💵 Depending on where you’re located, you can expect to make anywhere between $20,500 and $100,000 annually, with the national average being around $59,600.
Structural and building inspection can be a dangerous job. Poorly maintained buildings, those located in earthquake zones, or those affected by flooding, natural disasters, and more can pose a serious threat to human inspectors.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that drone inspections are becoming exceptionally popular. Drones can inspect every nook and cranny of a building, regardless of the condition it’s in, without risking human lives.
💵 Drone inspection and monitoring usually pay between $50 and $200 per job. However, there’s a possibility of earning even more in some locations.
10. Social Media
If your ultimate goal is to simply enjoy drone piloting by yourself, you can always turn to social media to make money with a drone. All it takes is an active social media account, some creativity, and a decent drone.
As a general rule of thumb, starting a YouTube channel could be the most lucrative way to earn money from flying your drone. You can share your experiences, tips, tricks, and failures with your audiences and build a supportive community. You could even offer tutorials on flying drones, choosing locations, and making perfect shots.
💵 There are no guaranteed earnings for a social media influencer. You’ll need to build up your audience, then monetize your content with ads, affiliate marketing, sponsored posts, and more.
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Piloting a drone can be extremely exciting. While there’s a steep learning curve, it’s easy to get immersed in this hobby and start honing your skills. Once you develop the expertise, you can find dozens of different ways to make money with your drone.