Once confined to tech hobbyists and the military, drones (also known as unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs) have become a lot more mainstream in recent years. In fact, research shows that the drone industry is predicted to reach $63.6 billion within the next three years.
And as the drone market continues to grow, so does the number of opportunities to make money with them. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just getting started, now is a great time to take advantage of this burgeoning industry! Here are just a few of the many ways you can make money with drones.
1. Aerial Photography and Videography
One of the most common ways to make money with UAVs is by offering aerial photography or videography drone services. You can sell these images as prints on Etsy or upload them to stock photo websites like Shutterstock or Getty Images.
Many of these sites allow drone photography from both amateurs and pros. And each time someone purchases your stunning aerial photo or video shots from the website, you earn a commission. For a full list of stock photography sites, check out this list.
2. Weddings and Special Events
Outdoor weddings are an excellent opportunity for drone operators; many couples are willing to pay a premium for fabulous aerial shots of themselves, the venue, and attendees.
The key to being successful as a wedding drone pilot is to stick to long shots and unique angles from the sky, which allow you to capture special moments without getting in the way of the guests.
3. Advertisements for Resorts
Drones have become the latest tool for resorts to showcase their properties. Drones offer a unique perspective that can give prospective guests a real sense of what the resort has to offer. They can also be used to create stunning aerial shots that would be impossible to get any other way.
4. Elite Drone Racing
Believe it or not, you can make really good money being a professional drone racer. The Drone Racing League is a drone racing company that holds First Person View (FPV) drone racing competitions across the globe. The drones stream a video to the racer as they attempt to complete various racecourses as fast as possible.
Truthfully, it is not that easy to get accepted as a professional pilot in the DRL. But if you get accepted, you can make a living from it; elite pilots can secure contracts that pay up to $100,000!
5. Selling Drone Products and Accessories
If you’re not interested in selling drone footage, you can always make money by selling products related to drones. You can sell the drones themselves or just the parts and accessories.
If you can find a supplier from which you can purchase new models at a low price, you can resell them for considerably more by listing them on platforms like DroneTrader or your own online store. You can also sell your products and services through general online marketplaces like eBay or Craigslist.
6. Real Estate Listings
The real estate industry has embraced UAV technology in a big way, with up to 44% of real estate marketing utilizing drones. They are used to take aerial photographs and videos of properties, giving potential buyers a unique, bird’s-eye view of the property. Drones are also used for property mapping, aerial surveys, and roof inspections.
To get your foot in the door as a real estate drone operator, you can start by contacting real estate agents and offering them a free photo and video session. If they like the images you produce, they may employ you to do more listings and inspections.
7. Farm Surveillance
Another great way to make money with drones is by offering your services to farmers. For example, drones are commonly used to survey crops, which helps farmers more accurately assess their yield and make decisions about irrigation, planting, and fertilization.
Surveying is not the only way that farmers are using drones; they are also using them to locate cattle, spray pesticides, and track crop growth. Drones used for agriculture typically need specialized equipment, like infrared video capabilities, that help farmers determine how well their crops are doing.
8. Drone Delivery Service
Drone deliveries are the way of the future; they’re fast, efficient, and don’t get held up in traffic. Amazon is already starting to utilize them with their Prime Air delivery service. With a drone delivery service, you can make money by delivering items to customers quickly and efficiently.
For this type of business, you want to make sure you choose drones equipped with GPS and autonomous flight capabilities. Then you can determine what kind of items you will offer to deliver. (Keep in mind that most drones can’t accommodate much weight, so you may want to stick to documents and small items.)
9. Music Videos
Drones are increasingly becoming a staple in music videos. Their ability to capture aerial shots that were once only possible with helicopters or cranes has made them a popular choice for music video directors. You can use your expertise as a drone operator to help the director’s visions come to life!
10. Security and Surveillance Services
Drones are becoming increasingly popular for public safety and surveillance purposes. They offer a cost-effective and flexible solution for monitoring large areas and can be equipped with various cameras and sensors to suit the needs of the area being surveilled. Another significant advantage is that they can be operated remotely, which reduces the risk of exposing humans to danger.
For this kind of job, you’ll need a drone with a high-resolution camera, preferably with thermal imaging capabilities.
11. Drone Coaching
Since research suggests the drone industry could grow more than 15% in the next five years, there is a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs looking to make money by teaching others how to fly drones. As a drone tutor, you can offer your services to anyone from hobbyists to businesses. Drone coaches can teach through various methods, such as video courses or one-on-one sessions.
12. Start a Drone YouTube Channel
A unique way to make money with your drone is to start a drone-based YouTube channel. For example, Ed Ricker is a YouTuber with over 170k subscribers. His channel features drone footage and educational content about drones.
Once you grow your channel to 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time, you can apply to become part of the YouTube Partner Program, which allows you to monetize your channel through ads and channel memberships. With a big enough audience, you can also make money through sponsorships and affiliate links for products and services related to drones.
How Much Can You Make with Drones?
Drone operators can either work part-time or full-time, and pay within the industry typically ranges between $50 and $250 per hour. Some drone pilots even make six figures per year!
It’s worth noting that most drone pilots who earn a full-time income are well-established in a specific niche. For example, their business will be in construction projects, industrial inspections, or education.
How to Get Started with Drones
Now that you have an idea of how to make money with drones, you might be wondering how to get started. Here are some tips to keep in mind when creating your drone business.
Choose the Best Drone for the Job
Not all drones are created equal. For starters, you’ll want a commercial drone with 1080p or 4K video that can take images that are at least 12MP. The bitrate should be around 100Mbps. A professional drone will be pricier, costing $2,000 or more. However, it is worth the investment as you want to ensure you are providing quality images and videos to your customers.
Get Training and an FAA License
If you’re new to drone flying, it’s essential to get training and become a certified remote pilot before starting your business. You can take an online course or find a drone coach to learn how to fly your drone effectively.
Next, you need to familiarize yourself with state regulations to stay on the right side of the law when operating your UAV business. You can obtain a Section 107 certificate through the Federal Aviation Administration website.
It’s essential to have liability insurance when operating a drone for business purposes. Drone insurance can help protect you financially if your drone crashes and damages someone’s property.
Create a Portfolio
When you’re starting, it’s crucial to create a portfolio of your work so that potential customers can see what you’re capable of. You can do this by setting up a website or creating a social media page dedicated to your drone business.
Market Your Business and Find Clients
Now for the fun part: winning clients and making money! There are several ways you can find drone pilot jobs.
One of the best ways to find clients is to network with other businesses in your area. Attend local business, wedding, or real estate events and introduce yourself as a drone operator.
List your drone services on your LinkedIn and Facebook profiles to increase your potential for making connections.
There are many general job boards with drone pilot job listings, including Indeed.com and LinkedIn. You can also check out websites with dedicated job boards for drone pilots like:
Free Stock Photography Websites
You can upload your drone images and videos to sites like Pixabay and Unsplash to get leads. While you don’t get paid for uploading your work to these sites, they can lead to clients. For example, many drone operators find that their free photos result in inquiries from people interested in hiring them for drone-related gigs.
Drone work requires a bit of training and investment upfront, but it is a great way to make money. Whether you’re delivering products, providing surveillance, or taking breathtaking aerial photos, there are dozens of ways to turn your drone into a part-time side-hustle or a full-fledged business.
If you have a knack for tech and an entrepreneurial spirit, your drone business could even bring home a six-figure income; the sky is the limit!