To make money with first person view (FPV) drones, at the very minimum, you just need a suitable FPV drone and some content from your drone that you can sell as stock video.
However, if you want to make money with FPV drones as a business or as your main source of income, then you’ll need an FPV showreel or portfolio to help you bring on clients and create an active revenue stream.
However, as FPV drones have only recently hit the mainstream, it can prove difficult to convince businesses to come on board and adopt this new technology.
The novelty of FPV drone content is a double-edged sword in that it makes for exciting new content, but it is still an unknown in some sectors.
Some essentials for getting started with FPV drones
Before you try to make money with drones, you should make sure you have the appropriate certifications or licenses for the types of drones you plan to fly and work with.
Many clients will (and should) require that you have the appropriate licenses or certifications for the country you’re working with drones in.
You should also have liability insurance coverage.
In some countries, like the UK, you are legally required to have a minimum amount of liability insurance coverage.
Next, you’re going to need a reliable FPV drone setup and a backup drone and/or spares. The last thing you want is to go to a job and have your drone fail or crash.
This is made even worse if you do not have a spare drone or the means of fixing it quickly.
If you’re on a tight budget and want to keep your FPV drones as light as possible, then an analog FPV drone setup is the cheapest option.
However, analog video has several limitations, such as penetration through thick walls. This can be a problem when flying indoors and around buildings.
At the time of writing this, DJI appears to be continuing production of their V2 FPV goggles, and bind and fly (BNF) FPV drones are readily available with this digital FPV system built in, including DJI’s own FPV and Avata drones.
Some higher-end options for FPV video systems include the Walksnail system and DJI O3 system (compatible with DJI goggles 2).
These latter systems will be advantageous for live streaming applications, which we will touch on later in this article.
The digital systems listed here are also known to have better penetration through thick walls compared to analog video systems. These digital systems are also better at handling RF interference.
You are also going to need a camera to capture footage from your FPV drone. GoPro Hero 10 or 11 cameras are now the benchmark standard for video quality at a professional level.
That is to say, for drone tours and fly-through videos with smaller drones, GoPro cameras have an excellent size-to-video quality ratio, having a relatively high bitrate and resolution for such compact cameras.
Of course, there are much more capable cameras for TV and Film applications with FPV drones.
Which FPV drones to choose for commercial work?
The type of FPV drone you will need to use will depend on the type of work you are undertaking.
For conducting indoor drone tours and fly-throughs, or flights near or over people, you could choose a 2.5-inch propellered cinewhoop drone, or similar.
This is an ideal size drone for flying indoors, but if you can get away with using a smaller drone still, then even better.
3-inch and 3.5-inch cinewhoop drones are a good middle ground for filming both indoors and outdoors, but a 2.5-inch drone will still be capable outdoors, provided the weight can be kept to a minimum.
3.5-inch drones are just a bit too much for indoor flying, especially in tighter spaces.
Got a gig where you need to fly faster drones? For dynamic filming with FPV drones, such as motorsport applications, a lightweight 5-inch drone is a good middle ground between safety and speed.
For lifting anything much heavier than a GoPro, and for longer flight times, then a 6 or 7-inch or larger propped machine might be a better option.
Want to film FPV drone shots for the next blockbuster movie? For cinema work, you’re going to need a drone capable of carrying a high-end cinema camera.
You’re also going to need to break into this industry. Drone and camera operators working in cinema are already picking up FPV drone skills to add to their arsenal.
FPV drones used for cinema with large cinema cameras are referred to as cinelifters and can have up to 8 motors in a so-called “X-8” configuration.
Cinema cameras are much heavier than something like a GoPro, especially when adding the weight of a detachable lens.
You’re going to need a decent budget to buy or build a cinelifter though, even before you consider camera costs. A lot of time also goes into optimising cinelifter drones due to resonances that result from large, overlapping propellers.
However, due to the investment and knowledge base that cinelifters require, the rate that you can charge for flying these drones is significantly higher than what you could charge for filming with a cinewhoop drone.
Applications for FPV
We’ve touched on a few commercial applications of FPV drones, but that’s just scratching the surface.
Whilst filming with FPV drones is one of the more common applications, there are also opportunities for utilizing FPV drones in scientific research, search and rescue, and security.
Livestreaming events with FPV drones is also becoming popular.
For example, Formula 1 recently utilized FPV drones to add a new angle to their broadcast. Livestreaming with FPV drones has even been used to stream coverage during a baseball game.
The event streaming sector has seen significant development since the pandemic. Now FPV drones are adding a new dynamic to this space.
Without the developments in low-latency digital video systems, this application of FPV drones would likely not be a reality.
Whilst you may have one particular area that you want to go into with commercial FPV, you should also diversify and work with clients in a few different sectors.
You can then take the skills and knowledge you obtain in each sector and apply them to other sectors, helping you to stand out from other professional FPV pilots.
Even flying your drone for fun could bring in revenue. With the increasing demand for new video content online, stock footage libraries are in need of FPV drone content.
You can start filming your recreational flights and put them up for sale on stock footage websites.
Another way of making some money with FPV drones is to develop products in the FPV drone space. FPV drones are constantly improving thanks to the development of new and exciting products.
How to get paid gigs with FPV drones
Once you’ve decided which sectors you want to approach, you’re going to need to network with people and businesses in those sectors and make it clear to them what FPV drones can do for them.
To do this, you’ll want to create a showreel or portfolio to show off your FPV skillset.
FPV drones are a new technology to many people, and it may require some discussion with businesses to help them really understand the value you can provide to them.
One example of easing clients into adopting FPV drone technologies is to offer FPV drone services as an add-on to other services you provide.
Say you offer corporate videos, then you could try throwing in a free indoor drone tour as part of a package to help expose clients to FPV drones.
Or perhaps you could approach any businesses you already work with for opportunities to try out FPV drone content as a marketing tool.
You could then work with them to gather data on the effectiveness of FPV drone footage for marketing and use that data as your own marketing tool.
To build up your portfolio and develop your skillset, you could try reaching out to local businesses or getting some friends together to work on some projects using your FPV drones.
This can work particularly well when it has mutual benefit to you and a local business, friend, colleague, or peer.
Then try to get feedback or testimonials from them. They may even refer you to other businesses they work with.
Additionally, or alternatively, you could try and utilize FPV drones in your current job or profession. That way, you could subcontract your FPV drone work to your current employer.
Now that you’re starting to get examples of your work out there, it’s time to think about how much you want to charge clients for your work.
There are a few useful pricing calculators out there (link).
These calculators can be helpful to give you a gauge on how much to charge, but don’t be afraid to hold your ground with your pricing.
There will always be people prepared to charge less than you, but at the end of the day, you’ll want to set your pricing based on what you feel is a suitable amount to live on and grow as a business.
Lowering your pricing will also have an impact on other drone pilots in your area.
That being said, if you just want to make a few bucks on the side and not rely on FPV drone work for your main income, then you may be able to charge less than some other pilots, but you should still cover any of your expenses and take into account that you are potentially putting your equipment at risk with each flight.
Once you’ve done a few jobs, be sure to keep on top of client relationship management, which could result in repeat business or referrals.
Be sure to try and obtain reviews or testimonials from your clients as well. You can put them on your website or social media channels to bring in more clients.
Word of mouth is one of, if not the most powerful way of telling people about your FPV drone work.
Putting a list of brands that you’ve worked with on your website or social channels also helps show potential clients that you can deliver the goods.
In summary, there are a plethora of ways to make money with FPV drones. Just remember to be confident in your abilities, and don’t be afraid to network with other FPV drone pilots.
Working together can help you both improve your skills and could open up opportunities for you to partner up on larger projects.
Also, make sure you have it clear in mind how you can solve problems for your clients using FPV drones.
Finally, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Try to solve problems in multiple sectors.