Would you like to make $1000 a day? Learn how to become a commercial drone pilot, and you can.

According to Flying Magazine, “UAS pilots in entertainment, working as independent contractors, may earn between $1000 and $2000 per day”.

That may be on the high end of the pay scale for commercial UAV/drone pilots, but it sounds achievable.

Would you like to dump your day job and fly your drone full time, for a living?

Learn how to become a commercial drone pilot and you have a chance to earn really good money, while at the same time doing something fun and new. There’s never been a better time to turn your hobby into a full time career.

In this article I’ll cover everything you’ll need, to not only learn how to become a commercial drone pilot, but how to be a successful one and maximize your earning potential.

Before You get started…

If you’re already a drone hobbyist, you’ll have an even easier path to commercial piloting drones; still, anyone interested, with a little perseverance and planning, can become one if they want.  

One great thing about becoming a commercial drone pilot, is you have options.

Option one: If you’d like to start your own business in the drone industry, here’s one place you can get some information on what you might need to succeed.

Option two: If you would rather just get your license and work for someone else, there are so many industries looking to hire skilled drone pilots right now. here are some industries you can get started in right away.

If you’re anything like me, flying your drone for a living, sounds like a dream job. Demand for commercial pilots is only got to increase from here.

There’s no better time to become a commercial drone pilot and start flying, than today. You can rest assured this industry is not going to fade away any time soon. If you’re wondering how stable the industry is for long term success, the future of drones is promising.

Like it or not drones are here to stay. According to business insider, “Almost every industry and field will be impacted by the presence and usage of drones in one way or the other in the coming future”. That means drones, some day, could be as common as electricity, the internet, or cars. Drones are here to stay,  and this is the beginning of an industry that could revolutionize the way the world works.

The best time to get into the drone industry is now, while it’s still in its infancy. If you want to earn the kind of money I mentioned above, there are steps to take to get yourself setup to fly commercially. Below is a short list of things to do if you’re planning on becoming a commercial drone pilot.

1. Learn all there is to know about the tools of your trade.

2. It’s not enough to know the basics of flight, practice, practice, practice.

3. Study for, and pass the FAA’s sUAS airman exam.

4. Always present yourself in a professional manner.

Become an expert with your tools

Long before you earn a dollar flying UAV ‘s over a movie set or perhaps some farmer’s field, you should know exactly what drone you’ll need for the job ahead, and get well acquainted with them.

If you’re going to be inspecting houses using a thermal imaging camera for a construction company you may want to fly a different drone than if you are planning to film movies in Hollywood, or even still perhaps you’ll be repairing drones instead of flying them?

What ever direction you decide to head as a commercial drone pilot, it’s important to have as much knowledge about your craft as possible. You should know its accessories, and what they’re designed to do, the limitations and strengths of each drone, and what you want to get out of them.

•Do research. Before you go off and buy the most expensive drone online, make a decision as to what you plan to do with it. After you’ve decided on a direction you’re sure of buy the appropriate equipment and learn all you can about it. Perhaps you’ll be doing several different jobs and you’ll be needing many different drones. That’s fine, learn all you can about each one.

•Learn everything you can. Read up about the current hardware you plan to make money with. Know what it’s made out of, the maximum weight it can hold in flight, how it performs in windy situations, learn everything you can. As a hobby you can be passive about learning your machine; if you only halfway understand the gear and how it performs, not a big deal. As a  professional, it’s your responsibility to make sure you know everything you can about it and be prepared in any situation. Safety is always number one, and if there’s ever a malfunction or some issue with your drone, you’ll be a lot better equipped to handle it if you know it like the back of your hand. You should always do all you can to prevent anyone from getting hurt.

•Learn how to operate any and all attached instruments. Knowing the instruments attached to the drone is as important as knowing about the actual drone itself. After all, the drone is just a tool we use to put the attached camera, banner, crop-dusting apparatus, etc where they were previously unable to go. For example: If you’re flying a DJI Inspire Pro, you should know how to use the Zenmuse camera system as well as any software you might need for editing film or pictures.

Practice until you’ve become a proficient pilot

After learning all there is to know about your drone and any possible attachments, it’s time to get that bird in the air.

In other words, log as much flight time as you can. By becoming the best pilot you can be, you show employers you’re serious about your work, you have the skills to get the job done right, and you’re prepared for any surprises along the way.

  • Practice like a professional. There are sites out there that list knowing how to hover, knowing basic flight movements, and landing and take-off are what you should know if you want to become a commercial drone pilot. These people have probably never flown a drone for commercial purposes. If you don’t know anymore than the basics of flight, no company is going to want to hire you. I suggest you have 6 months to a year of solid flight experience before jumping into commercial piloting. You don’t have to wait that long, if you’re really serious about flying commercially, just get your flight journal and logn as many hours as possible. That way you can show as possible employer all the hours you’ve spent in the sky.
  • There is difference between hobby and commercial flying.  Before I became a commercial drone pilot I would fly with no purpose. I would take off, and fly around up there and had no real direction. I learned quickly, when I got my first job, I should’ve been practicing the way I would need to fly if I was getting paid. For example if I plan to do rooftop inspections with my drone, I could fly up over my house, and act as though I’m inspecting it. Knowing how to get close, where to fly, where not to, all these things will help you in the field. After all, who would you rather hire, a pilot that’s capable of take-off, yaw and pitch turns, and can hover in place or a pilot that knows his instruments, and can perform advanced maneuvers?
  •  Learn all you can. If you get the chance to take classes on flying and can afford them, take some. Any time you can present a possible job prospect any type of certificate, or show you’ve graduated from some type of flight academy, you gain an edge against any possible competition. when your competition has nothing but their word they’ve been flying for 6 years, and you have half the experience but one or more certificates showing graduation from experienced flight schools, you will stand out. 

When you apply for jobs, and you can list a thorough understanding of all the tools, your resume or application will look a lot better than someone who may have similar flying skills but doesn’t have a thorough grasp on how their instruments work. Flying is only part of the job. Working the instruments is a big part of why someone will want to hire you as a drone pilot.

Earn your FAA part 107 sUAS airman certificate

Possibly the most important part of getting ready to be a commercial drone pilot is being 100% legal. Within the last few years the FAA  opened up commercial use of drones with the part 107 airman certification exam. It wasn’t too long ago when there were no guidelines in place for up and coming drone pilots who wanted to put their talents to use.

Thanks to pressure from such companies as Amazon and Google pressing for commercial drone use,  the FAA finally decided to allow drone pilots to make money while flying. The FAA released the part 107 sUAS airman exam. It is open to any person, 16 years of age and older, flying any drone up to 55lbs, and flying no higher than 400 ft. It costs $150, and is a one time test. Once completed you’ll earn a certificate that allows you to use your drone to make money. It has various alternative names, but they all mean the same thing, FAA’s part 107 sUAS airman certificate.

As far as I’m aware this is restricted to the US, and if you want to make money while flying drones you need to pass a multiple-choice style, knowledge exam. The test could be compared to that of a commercial drivers license but more challenging. Be prepared to know nautical terms, latitude and longitude coordinate systems, laws governing where and how high you’re able to fly near airports, the  effect weather has on flying objects, as well as call signs, and several other categories of knowledge.

I’ve taken the test myself and I believe it to be a lot less challenging if ample time is spent, days or perhaps weeks prior to taking the exam, studying. It can be the difference between passing on the first attempt and needing to spend another $150 to re-test.

There are several ways to study to ensure you pass the first time, online and classroom style courses are a good way to learn all you’ll need to know. There are even classes you can take, some at accredited universities, where thorough preparation will be given to those that really want to get it right. However, you decide to study, it’s my suggestion you don’t just try to wing-it.

Once the test is passed you will only be given exemption to fly commercially if you pass a background check by Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Don’t worry, they are looking for things that might tie you to groups that would want to harm America or its citizens, not whether you have a sordid past and a few skeletons in the closet.

Once you’ve passed the exam and are certified as a commercial drone pilot, you are now held to a higher standard than recreational pilots, but it also means you can start making money with your drone.

Exude consummate professionalism

I’ve seen many other sites talk about what you’ll need to become a commercial drone pilot but very few I’ve seen mention much about being a professional.

I’ve talked several times in this article about being a professional, getting noticed above the current crowd, and having an edge other’s may not. Having a healthy understanding of business, as much as any pilot training you can do, will be essential to getting work.

As the years roll on the drone industry is only going to expand, probably into directions most of us have no idea about. All that money going into an industry is going to be earned by someone. The question is, how do you get ahead of other people that are just as capable as you, or more, in flying drones? How can you get noticed when the next guy can out fly you, has more money than you, or more employees than you? The answer is, be as professional and customer focused as you can.

Make potential clients or possible bosses looking to hire, see you as the ultimate professional. Carry yourself like you would want to see someone you were hiring.

If you were going to hire a drone pilot to survey a home or photograph a wedding, wouldn’t you want someone that appeared to have all their ducks in a row, looked professional and clean, and didn’t look like they just rolled off the couch?

When you first meet a potential client or company looking to hire you, make your best first impression. Make them see what they’ll get if they hire you to do their job; someone who’s willing to go above and beyond what they’re asking because you care. Don’t be fake by any means, I’m not saying to plaster a plastic smile on your face and be someone you’re not. I’m just saying act as if you are them, looking at you,  now, are you pleased with what you see? Would you want to give the kind of money I first mentioned above to someone that presented themself like you or could you have done better?

In business, getting noticed above the rest is hard enough. Take every step you can to let them see what they’re getting is the ultimate professional.

Well, that’s all the advice I can give, good luck out there. Believe in yourself, have fun, and be safe.

If you have any comments, you agree, disagree, I left something out, or you just want to give an opinion, please leave a comment below or send me an email. I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Good luck flying and let nothing stand in the way of your dreams.

Wishing you all the luck,

Matt Pierce


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12 Responses

  1. Jasmere says:

    No joke, I didn’t realize that this was a thing until I read this. A professional drone pilot? That’s so awesome. Now a few questions to you though, first how much practice would you say goes into it? And what seperates an okay flyer from a good one? Also, how costly would you say it is to start a hobby in this field? You may have inspired me haha.

    • Matt Pierce says:

      Well i’m glad I could open a door for you into something new. Now to answer your questions. How much practice would I say? That’s hard to say, i’m not the one hiring you. It’s really subjective, it’s hard to give you an answer that’s not mostly my opinion. Some companies hiring want around 300-500 hours of flight time, some want more. If you are someone that picks flying up really fast, you focus right away with how you practice and are serious from the first flight to become a commercial pilot, you might be able to have the skills needed in 150 hours. It’s more about how well do YOU know your stuff, and how comfortable you are in the situations you need to be in to do the job you’ll be hired to do. If that makes sense.
      I think what separates an ok pilot from a good one, again this is very subjective and more my opinion than anything else, but to show an extreme example, a true beginner that has just mastered take off, turns, hover (which is the same as knowing how to do nothing essentially), and land would be an ok pilot. A good one might be one that races drones in a warehouse type setting with obstacles to clear, other drones to avoid, and can still fly at the extreme speeds that racing drones fly at to complete the race.
      The cost, for a beginner is good news. A beginner drone can cost anywhere from $50 to $300. If you want to start with a smaller, cheaper drone that you won’t mind crashing a few times and can just replace parts if you do crash. However, DJI’s Phantom series is like the cadillac escalade of the drone world. With gps stabilization and all the bells and whistles you will notice the difference between a phantom and any drone under $200 for sure. Phantoms practically fly themselves.
      You can check out my other articles. I go over drones for beginners and there is some good stuff in there. I hope I answered your questions to your satisfactory.

  2. Mark says:

    This is indeed a very promising job prospect. I am very fascinated with flying and planes (and drones for that matter). I even hope to become a pilot someday and fly an airplane. Becoming a drone pilot could be an alternative to my dream of flying someday.

    Your post has definitely hit a chord in my brain and I think I’m hooked. I haven’t tried flying drones as a hobby yet as they can be expensive obviously but doing this as a job and earning money from it, then that would be very nice.

    I’ll definitely be researching more about drones and the whole nine yards. Thanks for the opening my eyes into the world of drones.


  3. Jeff Ball says:

    I love the idea,, I would like to try a drone,, can you suggest a simple one to start with? Can you recommend how to get certified in the area we live in? ‘
    Are you selling drones on this website?
    Where is the best place to buy one?
    What kind?
    What’s the different prices?

    • Matt Pierce says:

      I’ll have links to websites, the best ones in my opinion, soon. So you can check them out here. A simple one to start with is DJI spark or Mavic, and I believe the prices are around $300 for the spark and i’m not sure on the Mavic but like I said i’ll have links up in a few days.

  4. Annie says:

    This is something I am definitely going to share with my son-in-law. He is a stay-at-home dad right now, a former airplane design engineer who was moved up into management and hated it. He is a pilot already, but not allowed to fly by his family because of the kids! This is absolutely perfect for him. The kids are just in school all day for the first time this year, and he is looking for his next career. Thank you, thank you!

    • Matt Pierce says:

      Sounds like the perfect scenario for him to get a drone, get it up in the air for a few hours every other day, or so, and start practicing. Flight training is also something that people, especially true beginners, can really benefit from.

  5. Bobbi says:

    This is amazing, I guess I never knew that drone commercial pilots was a thing, and I did not realize the money that could be involved. I do believe it is going to be as big as electricity the internet some day but it seems like a lot of work for a beginner. I love this, if I could make $1,000 a day for doing something that I loved, life would be grand. Great article and I am going to share this with my nephew who is a huge drone fan.

    • Matt Pierce says:

      Realistically to get your own drone business up and running is fairly inexpensive. Compared to many other businesses. The most expensive thing is a top quality drone, which depending on what you’ll be needing it for could cost in range between $4k and $10k. Now I’m not saying you HAVE to have one this nice. The phantom 4 is what I started on and it is good for a lot of jobs businesses would ask you to do. But you have to remember that $1k a day is going to require top shelf equipment and skills. Even then, I think the average pay scale I’ve been hearing of lately is closer to $50/hr. Still, no too shabby. That’s a very comfortable living if you ask me. Then the $150 for the exam fee. Once that’s done you’re set.
      Compare that to some other businesses and it’s next to nothing. The hours flying is what a true beginner should focus on. Now and in the future companies want pilots with flight exp. So if you’re wanting to jump into the commercial drone pilot seat, or know someone else that might want to, start logging those hours in the air.
      It’s really not that hard top fly with how user friendly drones have become with gps.

  6. Irma says:

    Amazing! Like other people commenting here, I did not know that this was a thing, but now that you mention it I can see the vast number of uses for this skill and I am glad that I have read this post.

    How is public perception of drones these days? Is it getting better? I usually think of drones as invasive tools that the government use to spy on civilians, or are used for warfare.

    • Matt Pierce says:

      Thanks for commenting. I’m glad I could shed some light on the world of drones for you. To answer your questions, America is mostly alone on the whole, “untrusting of the probing eye in the sky” type mentality. Many countries around the world are already implementing delivery with drones. Unfortunately, America is falling behind because of that thinking. I’m in no way trying to say your way of thinking is flawed. I too am an American and is mostly through my involvement with drones have come to see the spying or peeping through windows with drones is a tiny fraction of the world of drone hobbyists. It takes some very misguided individuals to use drones this way.
      They have so many practical uses in today’s society I’m working on informing Americans, whenever I can, about the positives that outweigh a few disturbed people with nothing better to do with their time than peep in Windows.
      I think many Americans are starting to see drones in a better light. I don’t know, that’s a good question. Maybe I’ll write an article about that. Anyone else have any opinions on this matter?
      Let me know in the comments. Thanks

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