Having a drone opens the door to many possibilities.
Drones have a wide range of uses, from flying for fun to commercial projects.
In this article, I’ll share the 21 best ways to make money with a drone and what you need to get started
Earning money with a drone? You have to get your Part 107
Your activities will be classified as commercial if you plan to earn money with a drone.
You fly as a hobbyist until you start making money.
Even if you upload drone videos on your monetized YouTube channel, you still qualify for commercial activities.
As a commercial drone pilot in the United States, you must acquire a Part 107 license.
Suppose you want to fly your drone commercially in the UK. In that case, there’s not much difference from being a hobbyist other than having an Operator & Flyer ID and mandatory insurance for commercial drone flights.
But let’s focus on what it means to be a commercial drone pilot in the USA and how you can make money with your drone.
The federal minimum wage in the USA is $7.25 per hour. Drone pilots earn a lot more than that.
On average, a commercial drone pilot earns $83,000 a year, but you can make over $100-$200 per hour with your drone in most industries.
Now that I have stirred you up, let’s review the best 21 ways to make money with your drone.
In the meantime, Keith Davis, our fellow writer, shares with us his entire journey from being a drone hobbyist to a commercial drone pilot, opening a drone business and taking off.
You may want to check his articles for a boost of inspiration.
How to get a Part 107 license (commercial drone pilot)
Obtaining a Part 107 license is challenging for beginners, but don’t get discouraged.
Let’s take this step-by-step, shall we?
Obtaining an FAA Tracking Number
First, you must register on the Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) website.
IACRA is a web-based portal application that guides drone pilots through the FAA application process.
Without an FAA Tracking Number, you cannot continue to the next step; hence, you cannot legally make money with your drone.
Remember that this process is mandatory now that we have new Remote ID regulations.
Schedule the Part 107 exam
To schedule for the Part 107 Exam, you must:
- Verify your eligibility on the PSI website.
- Create an account on PSI.
- Click this link to log in and choose Unmanned Aircraft General – Small UAG from the dropdown menu. Enter your postcode and radius to find the closest testing center near you.
- Schedule an exam.
Note: The Part 107 test costs around $175 but may vary.
Study for the Part 107 exam
There are many Part 107 courses you can find online, and while some are free, the best ones are paid.
I strongly recommend the courses in the article below.
Attend the Part 107 exam
During the exam:
- Do not talk to others
- Do not bring any electronic device to the testing center except approved calculators.
- Answer at least 70 percent of the questions right.
Complete FAA Form 8710-13
Now that you have passed the exam, complete FAA Form 8710-13 on the IACRA website.
- Step 1: Log in on the IACRA website with your credentials
- Step 2: Click Start New Application.
- Step 3: Choose the Application Type > Pilot and Certifications > Remote Pilot and start the application.
- Step 4: Follow the steps on the prompt and add your 17-digit code when requested.
Note: The 17-digit code you should have obtained after passing the exam may take up to 48 hours to appear on IACRA.
What to do next?
Now that you have a Part 107 license, you can earn money with your drone.
The permanent card will take six to eight weeks to arrive via post, but you should have received a temporary commercial pilot certificate by email.
Having insurance is not mandatory if you want to earn money, but beware that flying drones is always a dangerous job. You never know when things could go wrong.
It’s highly recommended to have commercial drone pilot insurance with some base liabilities covered.
Note: Don’t forget that as a commercial drone pilot, you also have to register your drone
Best ways to make money with a drone
Making money with a drone is not an easy journey. It is a long and challenging road, but it is all doable.
So many people managed to earn not only a few bucks but an outstanding income from it.
You will have to start charging low and work your prices up once you extend your portfolio.
But until then, let’s see how you can make money with a drone.
1. Real Estate Photography
One of the easy ways you can start earning good money with your drone is to have gigs as a real estate photographer.
It is a simple approach that mostly will require you to capture different aerial shots of properties that are for sale or rent.
Moreover, with a cinewhoop FPV drone, you can take some fantastic indoors real estate videos.
But as a real estate photographer, you must ensure you know how and where to apply for permission to fly in different areas.
Moreover, having commercial insurance for your drone would be an excellent approach just to be safe.
A real estate aerial photographer can earn up to $80k a year, depending on experience, area of activity, and possible clients or real estate company you work with
2. Aerial Photography & Videography services
As an aerial photographer and videographer, you are an independent contractor offering your services for many activities, such as weddings, ceremonies, small events, private property photography, and so on.
This approach will help you widen your drone service portfolio with different types of media you create for others.
The advantage is that you are diversified and gain experience in flying and photographing or taking videos with your drone, possibly covering more than one industry.
But the disadvantage is that you will depend on finding your clients or setting yourself apart from others for the clients to find and choose you.
As a salary, it will be totally fluctuating. It can be $20 an hour or $200. There is no pricing for that, and it will differ from customer to job.
You will have to negotiate on-demand prices for such services, depending on the number of hours and complexity of the job.
3. Roof Inspection
As a drone roof inspector, it is relatively easy to get in.
Everyone with a roof directly above their heads may need to occasionally appeal for such inspection services, especially after major storms or hurricanes, to assess damage.
Such a routine job can earn you 200 dollars or more.
But if you’re looking to inspect roofs with your drone, you need to know how to apply for proper permissions to fly in any restricted areas where you could have such jobs.
4. Construction inspection
If you have a bit of an enriched portfolio, experience flying drones, and the required certificates, another way to make money is to become a construction inspector.
You can either have such service and appeal to construction companies for jobs or full-time employment to monitor and assess progress and risks on construction sites for land-based surveying or mapping.
Nowadays, inspection with drones is more mandatory in construction in first-world countries. It offers a perspective of progress and evaluates things you cannot do in other ways.
Getting into construction inspections may not be as easy as with real estate or inspecting roofs, but it is all attainable because many construction companies haven’t evolved yet to such an approach, and they should.
You could be the one to do it.
You can earn more than $100k a year as a drone construction inspector.
5. Other inspection jobs
There are endless ways to make money as a drone operator inspector.
Although what we mentioned above are some of the popular options, you can be an independent contractor looking for any type of client who requires visual inspections with a drone.
This may be the wider area that could increase your chances of finding such gigs, but you will hardly be specialized in any type of inspection.
In this situation, you will be the one to set your own rates. But beware not to undersell yourself; start low and progress your way up with prices once you enrich your portfolio.
6. Advertising services
Similar to real estate photography, many companies may require professional aerial shots for advertising their commercial establishments.
Or maybe Porche wants some aerial photographs of their car lots.
In today’s world, advertising is at every step, on every social media, website, video platform, TV, large banner or newspaper.
The best way to advertise is visually, either by video or, but most commonly, by photographs.
That’s why, although it doesn’t have an “official label” as a drone service, working with different advertisers and companies looking to promote their facilities or zones could be an excellent way to earn some money with your drone.
7. Make a monetizable drone YouTube channel
Now, this will probably be one of the easiest and the most challenging ways to earn with your drone simultaneously.
This approach will require a lot of luck, dedication, and knowledge of YouTube and Search Engine Optimization.
I have seen so many successful YouTubers who are making a good living with their drones, only making cinematic video tutorials or helping others with their drone issues.
The possibilities are endless. But being niched as a drone niche YouTuber may come with a chance to increase your personal exposure as a drone pilot.
And with an audience, you can do more than earn money with your videos.
You can easily find any drone jobs through your audience and reach sponsors and companies like never before.
Being a drone YouTuber will help you develop professionally in the drone industry.
You will have to work your way up the ladders with your drone.
You don’t need Part 107 to publish videos if your YouTube channel is not monetized. But once you start earning, then you surely need it.
Now, you can earn as a YouTuber with your drone from a couple of dollars per month to millions per year.
But this will be an arduous journey that will take many years to accomplish.
Now, I am not the person telling you, “GO YOUTUBE; YOU WILL EARN A LOT.” I actually advise you that if you’re not willing to work for free to grow your YouTube channel for many months and, once monetized, earn only a few dollars a day, don’t do it.
That’s why earning with your drone on YouTube could be incredibly rewarding but exceedingly demanding and challenging.
To start earning with your drone videos on YouTube, you will have to acquire at least 1,000 subscribers and over 4,000 hours of watch time on your standard video content (not shorts) over the past 12 months.
8. Rent your equipment
If you have a good budget to invest in all sorts of professional drones or you already have a fleet, why not rent?
Opening such a drone rental company is not difficult if you have the gear or the capital.
Per day, you can rent specific drones from $25 to $100, depending on the drone and location, of course.
If you insure your drone, you shouldn’t worry much about possible cost downsides due to negligent flights others may do with your drones. This will be rare.
However, it won’t be long until you start returning your investment and making a profit.
Now, how much you can earn per total will depend on your advertising skills and the location in which you are based.
9. Get into the filmmaking industry
One of the most used industries of drones is, in fact, filmmaking.
It is not only about films and TV series, but appealing video clips and TV commercials have benefited enormously from the technological evolution of drones.
As a matter of fact, the use of drones in the filmmaking industry is one of the best-paid jobs you can get as a drone operator.
You must have a strong portfolio and a natural ability to create cinematic content and maneuver drones.
If you have all those and you get the opportunity to work as a drone operator in the filmmaking industry, you could be earning 500 dollars or more per hour.
10. Sell your aerial photos and video to stock websites
Although this method is no longer a way to make an excellent full-time income, it is one of the easiest ways to earn a quick buck.
But who am I to say that you can’t earn full-time income with aerial stock photos or videos?
Basically, you have to capture high-quality aerial photographs or short videos (usually 5 to 30 seconds) that may have a commercial purpose and place them for licensing on stock or microstock websites.
Note: To start having a decent income, you will have to have thousands of aerial images and videos on sale with stock websites.
In this case, one major downside is that with most stock websites, you are paid only about 15-30% of the license, whilst the company gets 70-85% of the commissions.
You will be paid pennies most of the time. But sales add up.
Pro Tip: Aerial videos are much better sold and have a higher value than aerial photographs on any website that support both media format for licensing. And if you don’t go exclusive with that website, you can upload on multiple platforms and widen your sales.
A few of the platforms you can license your media are:
- Getty Images
11. Become a drone journalist
This would be a complex approach as most journalists may need to have specific degrees to work and be recognized in the domain.
But who says you can’t become a drone journalist assistant? Or maybe a drone journalist for smaller newspapers or TV stations that don’t have demanding requirements.
Wherever there’s an accident, wildfire, or local event, or simply you write or assist with news media for a new construction site, you can do it as a drone journalist.
A drone journalist is perfect for gathering images from hard-to-access locations or unique aerial shots that will be used in editorial consent.
12. Fly an FPV drone to events
Have you seen recent videos of drone concerts on the internet where someone is flying a drone above the crowd to the stage and carefully flying around the DJ and overshowing the entire concert area?
Simply watch the above video.
Those types of videos are high-risk but very demanding.
For this, you will need a lot of experience in flying FPV drones.
You also need to have a cinewhoop drone, such as Avata, but I’ll go with a custom cinewhoop capable of carrying a GoPro or even a cine-lifter.
With hard work and dedication to the FPV world, you can get some good income by flying FPV cinewhoop drones around concert areas.
Just beware that behind is a ton of approvals and consent needed because usually, without, you’ll be breaking at least five drone laws.
13. Mapping & Surveying
If you have base knowledge about drone mapping and even without this can be learned, you can get started making some nice bucks.
Many companies are looking for drone operators with drones capable of doing area surveying and working with mapping software.
According to Ziprecruiter, the average pay rate for drone mapping is between $22 and $36 an hour. But in reality, if you have enough experience with mapping and surveying, you can earn between $100 and $240 per hour or between $800 and $1500 a day.
14. Sports performance analyses
Drones are used in sports to find new and innovative camera angles when recording games and for live streaming as well.
In sports, many of these drone shots can be used for performance analysis to improve further games and get a clear perspective of how the game progressed.
With the appropriate permissions and licenses, you can take advantage of this new industry and can even reach a six-figure salary per year.
From private investigations to surveilling a vital area, drones have found their roles and greatly impacted how such surveillance is being conducted.
But to get into the surveillance industry with a drone is not a straightforward approach.
Do you have any background in the domain? Can you work with private investigators or security companies looking to extend their activity area to aerial surveillance?
Then this may be an excellent opportunity for a full-time salary and decent earnings.
16. Emergency services drone pilot
Emergency services have gained momentum to use professional enterprise drones for search & rescue, accident analysis, and even search for missing persons.
Such enterprise drones can be equipped with infrared or thermal vision cameras, speakers, and high zoom capabilities.
If you have a background in working with emergency services and love drones, you may stand a chance of being such a drone operator.
As drones evolve each year with the industries, we will see more and more drones being used by police, fire brigade, or any emergency services.
Remember that someone has to fly these drones.
It would be unclear the requirements of getting to fly emergency service drones without working for them, but in each country, state, or territory, these may vary.
17. Teaching drone flights
Do you have a good knowledge of flying drones of all types, from small UAVs to large enterprise drones or FPVs?
You can practice this and teach other people how to fly drones.
Once you have the expertise and you are a person who loves teaching, you can surely be an educational person in the drone industry, a great teacher.
According to ZipRecruiter, the drone instructor’s salary averages 20 dollars an hour. But this may vary.
Generally, teaching companies charge $200-$400 per student for several teaching lessons and can have several students.
As a teaching instructor, you will always find students to teach drone flights and can get a nice earning out of it.
But beware of all the legal requirements, getting accredited, having insurance, equipment, and how to advertise yourself.
18. Get into drone racing
If you love FPV, you have a few options when flying your drone: freestyle, create cinematic content, or, usually, race.
For FPV pilots who love adrenaline and have a good instinct for flying drones, this can be an opportunity to get into professional drone racing.
Drone racers will have several sponsors for both their content created and to represent in racing.
Moreover, if you win such racing competitions, you can earn a good amount of money on top of what sponsors can offer you.
Top drone racers can get sponsors such as DJI and Redbull on top of endless options.
However, this is a long journey of practice and racing, crashing FPV drones and advancing up the ladders to the point you start making some earnings.
That’s why I would not opt for drone racing for a full-time salary. It’s just an opportunity to earn some money on the side to the point where you can be a legend in drone racing and make acceptable finances.
» MORE: Best Beginner Drones for Racing
19. Get into drone repairs
As I just mentioned above, crashing FPV drones… What about repairing them? But not only yours.
It would not be a good approach to repair DJI or Autel drones unless you are authorized to do that.
But with good technical skills and knowledge in FPV, you can repair FPV drones, work in Betaflight, and set up and fix issues.
And you can charge for these services.
It would not be a significant income as with other opportunities to make money with a drone, but it all depends on how well you can deal with drone repairs and how much time you spend on it to make it worth your while.
20. Build drones and sell them
Same as with the above point, what about building FPV drones?
If you know soldering and Betaflight well, you can get drone parts such as frames, ESC, FC, Motors, VTX, RX, and other components and put them together.
These components are relatively cheap if you put them together yourself as compared to a fully built and set up drone.
In this way, you can make a profit by selling them. And parts. And help configuring.
The opportunities are endless;
You can even make your own custom drone, brand it, and get it out there.
21. Create drone courses with your knowledge
Same as with teaching others to fly drones, if you ace the theoretical field on how to fly a drone, drone laws and regulations, build, repair, set up, aerial photography, and videography, you can take courses and sell them.
Such courses have to be in both video and written format.
That is an area of expertise where you can earn quite a lot of passive income once you have established a following base and have created entire courses for sale.
Many drone pilots were able to make a small fortune out of this.
And the ample advantage is that you don’t necessarily need to have every qualification and certificate. You just have to know your stuff and the niche.
Of all the ways to make money with a drone, creating drone courses could be the most rewarding if you know how to monetize and advertise it properly.