Flying a drone is one of the most enjoyable and exhilarating things to do, apart from flying a traditional aircraft yourself! With drones, you can capture unbelievable aerial footage and pictures, do cool tricks like flips, and spend quality time outdoors with your friends.
But did you know you can also make money with a drone? In fact, if you have a good enough drone and some piloting skills, you can make money with a drone as a freelancer or as a dedicated drone operator for a company.
In this post, I'll explore how to make money with a drone, the amount of money you can make, and much more. Let's get started!
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13 Easy Ways to Make Money with a Drone
If you want to make some extra cash and learn how to use your drone professionally, keep reading. Below, you’ll find some of the easiest ways to make money with a drone. We’ll also go over some great consistent ways to make money with the drone if you’re looking for a career in this industry. Between capturing aerial photos, or conducting aerial surveying – there are plenty of ways to learn how to make money with a drone so let's dig in.
Offer Surveying Services
Firstly, you can offer your drone piloting skills and perform very useful surveying services for farmers, cartography companies, and lots of other organizations. Drones have the unique advantage of being able to cheaply survey a plot of land from the air without having to hire a full-blown pilot and aircraft.
With the right equipment set up, drones can carry out detailed, thorough topographic surveys. These offer the exact same quality as measurements collected by other methods in the field. Aerial surveys are useful for:
- Knowing where to build
- Knowing more about water tables
- Determining whether a given plot of land is safe
- Discovering new landmarks and features
- Planning out how land will be divided into parcels
- And much more
In some cases, you could net yourself a long-term career working for a cartography or land surveying company. Note, however, that for a permanent aerial surveying position, you may need to acquire certificates or a degree in the same field.
Regardless, you can certainly make some easy money by offering your drone services and working as a surveyor. Simply attach the right cameras or software to your drone/app, watch the drone, and take video footage from the air. You may also need to take surveying photographs depending on what your clients want. In any case, surveying services are great ways to make money as a drone pilot.
Offer Videography Services
Alternatively, you can offer videography services. In a nutshell, drone videography involves taking high-quality video footage using your drone from above key points or landmarks.
Have you ever watched a commercial or trailer for a real estate company, a state government, or anything else? Lots of videos and trailers these days use aerial footage. That footage is oftentimes captured by a regular drone.
With a good enough camera, you can use your drone and offer stellar videography services, then sell the footage for a profit. Like offering surveying services, you can sometimes turn this into a full-blown career if you find a client who appreciates your work. You can also work as a freelancer; for example, drone owners can offer aerial wedding videography,
Of course, you need to have a good eye to capture excellent aerial video. You also need to know how to pilot your drone carefully and stably. The best aerial video footage is calming and detailed. The better a camera you can mount on your drone, the more your video footage may be in demand by clients.
In any case, videography services can net you a quick payout if you know where to capture good drone footage. Sometimes, you can capture good custom aerial footage while simply experimenting with your drone and having a great time. Then you can use freelance websites or other resources to advertise your drone videos to anyone who may want it for their video projects.
Sell Aerial Photography
The counterpart to videography is aerial photography. As with drone videography, drone aerial photography is a booming field. People in all kinds of industries one high-quality aerial photographs of houses, parking lots, mountains, general landscapes, and everything in between.
In fact, you can find clients who will buy your drone aerial photos in industries including but not limited to:
- Real estate
- Government organizations
- Travel agencies
- And much more
Drone photography is so in demand because it allows people to use high-quality photographs for their websites, commercials, and much more. As with drone videography, you need to know how to take great pictures, and you also need a high-quality camera with great resolution.
For the best results, you'll practice for quite some time before trying to sell drone photos. Learn how to develop your photography eye and your sense of what makes a good picture. As your skills grow, you can develop a portfolio or build a website that enables you to sell your photographs to a variety of clients around the world.
You'll also need to practice your drone flight skills. With photography, you have to be able to cover your drone carefully and stably in position for several minutes at a time.
Check out the video below for some great drone photography tips!
The art of “house flipping” involves purchasing a real estate property on the cheap that usually needs some repairs or renovations. Then, you repair the property and sell it for a much higher price to make a profit, even accounting for the money you have to spend to fix it up. This is called a “fix and flip”.
You can do the exact same thing with drones. Many of the best drones cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. You can potentially charge prices for drones that you find in need of repair, then fix them up. You can then “flip” the drone by selling it for a higher price than what you paid for it.
Naturally, this moneymaking method is only possible for individuals who know how to repair drones in the first place. You need to have some mechanical know-how and understand how drone parts work together to turn a profit.
Still, if you like tinkering with drones and find joy in repairing mechanical devices that need some love, flipping drones could be a great way for you to make some cash. You can work for a drone shop, repair shop, or simply purchase cheap, broken-down drones online.
When the drones arrive at your home, repair them as best as you can and then sell them for a profit. If you know what you’re doing and know how to find affordable parts, you can make some serious cash once you get a system going.
Drones are some of the best items to flip – so give it a try to make more money!
If you have a bit of start-up cash in your wallet or bank account, you can alternatively start your own business renting drones. As noted above, lots of high-quality drones cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to buy outright. Many people don't have that much cash, but still want to play with a drone for the weekend or capture some video footage for a project.
You can provide those drones by renting them to customers for fees. Note that you need a good selection of drones to make it in the drone rental business. However, once you purchase enough drones and get spare parts and insurance for each of your products, you can turn a consistent profit.
Make enough money and you can even purchase a brick-and-mortar or retail store. This is one of the most consistent ways to make money with drones over the long term. It's a great moneymaking method if you love drones and want to make your career involve them however you can.
However, note that running a drone rental business does cost you a lot of money. You may need to take out a business loan to get this idea off the ground (both figuratively and literally). On top of that, keep in mind that people will eventually crash one or more of your drones. So you’ll need to purchase new replacement drones sooner or later and offer insurance to customers.
Start a Drone YouTube Channel
The YouTube market is booming. Now more than ever, it's possible to make a profit on YouTube and similar video-sharing platforms by starting a channel and getting enough of the following that you show advertisements during or between your videos.
YouTube makes it even easier to make money. Once you get 1000 subscribers, you can start showing ads on your videos and turn a profit for each ad shown. This will take time, however, so don't start a drone YouTube channel expecting to make money quickly.
You can make a drone YouTube channel for the following topics and more:
- Drone education, such as how to repair a drone or how to fly a drone safely
- Drone tricks, like flips or spirals
- Advanced drone education, which is great for drone enthusiasts who want to fly like the pros
You can essentially make a drone YouTube channel about anything you like! So long as it relates to drones, you can use your own drone video footage and showcase your favorite drone products.
If your YouTube channel becomes popular enough, you’ll make more money through advertisements and regular subscribers. Then you can build a platform off your popularity and:
- Potentially make money on platforms like Patreon
- Potentially make money through deals with drone companies
- And more
There are even some ways you can make money on YouTube without making videos!
Start a Blog about Drones
Similarly, you might be able to make money with your drone if you start a blog about drones as a broader industry or hobby. Hobby blogs may not be as important as they used to be, but they can still be great ways to earn passive income given enough time.
For example, say that you start a blog about the joys of flying your drones. You post a bunch of guides about how to care for a drone and perform maintenance and how to do simple tricks, like flips.
Once you have enough of a consistent readership, you can make money by:
- Posting advertisements on your website. Many blog platforms, like WordPress, enable you to launch advertisements quickly and easily. You may then make a profit for every person who clicks on one of the ads
- Using affiliate marketing. With affiliate marketing, you partner with product manufacturers and advertise their products during your blog posts. For each sale the affiliate company makes due to your posts, you’ll get a cut of the profits
On top of that, you can use your drone blog to redirect people to your YouTube channel or other websites for your broader platform. If you are really serious about educating people about drones, consider launching a blog and YouTube channel simultaneously.
Both platforms will feed into each other and help you build a follower base more quickly and easily.
Teach Drone Operating Lessons
The best drones are also the most expensive. That means people don’t want to crash their devices under any circumstances, even if they want to fly them fancily. You can help people achieve this dream by selling your services as a drone operating teacher.
Let’s face it – flying drones takes a lot of work to get good at. But a lot of people don’t have the time or the money to teach themselves. You can advertise your services as a teacher on platforms like Teachable, Upwork, and more.
Then you can offer in-person or video drone flying lessons. In these lessons, you can show people how to operate their drones safely and effectively. You can also teach people how to do tricks.
Of course, this moneymaking method is a great idea only if you are an expert drone operator yourself. Furthermore, you’ll need to be familiar with lots of different drone types. There’s no guarantee any of your students will have the same drone models as you.
Once you become good enough at teaching drone operation, you might develop a reputation and get new students quite easily. Plus, being a drone operation teacher is a great way to engage more deeply with your hobby. There’s no better way to learn how to fly drones more effectively than to teach the basics to other people!
Make Drone Deliveries
Drone deliveries are certainly the way of the future. Amazon is already experimenting with drone deliveries for products people order, which should help the massive company key to its standard free delivery benefits.
You can work as a drone delivery pilot for all kinds of companies, including Amazon plus a lot of other companies like medical companies and more. Drone deliveries are advantageous because they:
- Aren’t limited to the same restrictions as driven deliveries. This can be especially helpful for medical companies, such as when they need to deliver life-saving medicine to people ASAP
- Are oftentimes safer than driven deliveries since they have less of a likelihood of their delivered goods being stolen
However, drone delivery is still an ultimately young industry. New pilots are needed more than ever, so those with drone operating skills should seriously consider this career.
You need to be a really good pilot to make drone deliveries successfully and consistently. In some places, people actively try to shoot down delivery drones to steal whatever they are carrying. You’ll need to know how to avoid these hazards to make good bucks.
Note that, when you work as a drone delivery pilot, you can’t normally use your favorite personal drone. You’ll instead use drones specifically designed for carrying goods and products and that are approved by your employing company.
Use Your Drone for Advertising
Alternatively, you can be a drone pilot and get paid to advertise for different companies. Drone advertising is another young industry that’s sure to take off over the next few years. For example, 2014 saw drones being used as flying billboards for the first time.
These jobs are pretty similar to certain pilot jobs, such as banner pilots who fly planes with large banners billowing behind them. As an advertising drone pilot, you might perform tasks like:
- Flying a drone with a billboard around
- Flying a drone around with an advertisement playing from speakers
- Flying a drone to interact with or disrupt peoples’ routines
- And more
Many of the same potential hazards that affect delivery drones also affect advertising drones. Therefore, you may need to be trained on proper drone flight patterns to avoid crashing your drone or being shot down by vandals.
Some companies may also let you use your drone for advertising on a freelance basis. This is less common than working as a dedicated drone pilot for an organization, but either way may let you make money with a drone.
If you work for a company, you can make money with a drone consistently and bring home a steady paycheck. Plus, you’ll get to do what you love; fly a drone for a living!
Offer Aerial Surveillance
Earlier, we noted that you can make money with a drone by surveying land for the purposes of geographic surveys, real estate analysis, and border drawing. In a similar way, you can make money with a drone by offering aerial surveillance.
Aerial surveillance is more about tracking or monitoring individuals, places, or objects. For example, some police organizations now use drones to monitor areas where they believe criminal activity is taking place. They may also use drones to track the movements of stolen vehicles or criminals who are trying to flee the scenes of crimes.
In general, you can find work performing drone surveillance with government organizations, the justice system, and more. It could be more difficult to find aerial surveillance work on a freelance basis since you usually need some legal or authoritative reason to be doing this.
Still, you can net good profits if you know how to fly a drone carefully and consistently. Some aerial surveillance work prioritizes drone operators who can fly stealthily (i.e. without their drones being easily spotted by the people or things they are surveilling).
Offer Real Estate Photography
While we touched on the benefits of drone aerial photography for the real estate market above, we didn’t go into more detail. Real estate photography is a booming business for drone pilots, and for good reason.
Lots of real estate companies require high-quality photos to make their properties seem attractive to prospective buyers or renters. In many cases, the best way to showcase a property is to get an aerial picture of the entire house or apartment building.
Drone operators can provide quality real estate photographs to realtors, renting agencies, landlords, and all kinds of other organizations. You’ll need to have a great camera and be able to position your drone skillfully in the right areas to take pictures.
As with other aerial photography jobs, you’ll also need a good eye for taking photos. You can develop this with practice, or be hired on a consistent basis by real estate photography companies.
Alternatively, you can work as a freelance real estate photographer and use your drone to get eye-catching images that really make properties pop. This is a good way to make consistent, lucrative money as a drone pilot, especially if you have an excellent camera and drone already.
If you need a better camera, you can save up cash until you get a great camera and software setup. The better pictures you can take, the more money you can make as a real estate drone photographer.
Find Drone Pilot Jobs
In addition to all of these moneymaking methods, you can find other drone pilot jobs for consistent paychecks. For a lot of drone enthusiasts, the dream is making regular money while flying drones, not earning a little side cash through freelance gigs.
Fortunately, drones are becoming a more important part of the economy across industries. Drones will require pilots for the foreseeable future. Even though AI is improving, drone pilots can adapt to situations and evade threats better than most AI programs.
Therefore, you can find drone pilot jobs:
- Taking photographs or videos, as detailed extensively above
- Delivering products or medical supplies for companies or people
- Advertising for companies
- In the military, operating as a drone pilot for surveillance, combat, or through flying disaster relief drones
- In the construction industry, where you’ll survey construction sites or perform surveillance to make sure construction sites aren’t vandalized when the crew isn’t on site
- And much more
Drone pilot jobs are also likely going to be more important in the future. At the time of this writing, the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that electromechanical and mechatronics technologists and technicians earn average salaries of nearly $60,000 per year.
These are the professionals who operate, repair, and learn about drones and new drone technology. As the field develops, most drone pilots and operators may make even more money as their jobs become as important as pilots of traditional aircraft.
How Much Money Can You Make with a Drone?
There's no upper limit to how much money you can make with a drone if you have the right skills and expertise. As a freelance drone pilot, you can make anywhere between several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars per job.
Generally, the more technically difficult your job is, the more money you’ll make. For example, you can make several thousand dollars by selling high-quality photos and videos to real estate companies as a freelance drone pilot and photographer.
However, your drone money will be higher as you use better quality cameras, drone equipment, and other accessories.
If you work as a drone pilot for a company consistently, you’ll usually make more money. As noted earlier, many military drone pilots as electromechanical technologists and technicians earn nearly $60,000 each year.
If you work for a real estate company, construction company, or another organization, you could earn a comparable salary. Therefore, you should ask yourself whether you want to earn money consistently or only occasionally as a drone pilot.
If you want to earn money occasionally:
- Simply learn how to use your favorite drone well
- Consider equipping your drone with a camera, or purchasing a drone that can equip a camera apparatus
- Get some basic photography software so you can clean up any photos or videos you collect
- Then, join a freelance website like Upwork. You might be able to find freelance jobs here for drone pilots
- You can alternatively make a website and sell your photos or videos to people online
If you want to earn money as a drone pilot consistently:
- Be sure to get certified by the US Federal Aviation Administration. This organization is required if you want to fly your drone for money consistently and if you want to fly your drone under the FAA Small UAS Rule
- Practice extensively with drones in your off time so you can become a better pilot
- Apply to drone flying programs – many colleges now offer programs to better understand drones and how to repair or maintain them
- Then apply for drone flying jobs. You might need to start as a drone technician before you become a full-on drone pilot
How to Start a Drone Business
Earlier, we mentioned that you could start a business renting drones or equipment to other drone enthusiasts. This could be a great way to make money over the long-term and still fulfill your dream of working with drones all day.
To start a drone business:
- You’ll need some income. If you don’t have the scratch yourself, you may be able to apply for a small business loan
- You should file for your business with your local state government. Some states may require you to pay a fee to file the appropriate paperwork
- Decide what type of business you want to create. For example, you can create a sole proprietorship, an LLC, or a larger business depending on who works with you.
- Hire employees if necessary. Note that you’ll need an Employer Identification Number or EIN if you want to have employees work under you
Of course, it's a good idea to come up with a business plan before starting your own drone business. What will you sell? What will you do? Do you need a brick-and-mortar storefront, or will all your business requests be handled online? These are all essential questions you should answer as you begin your drone business and think of the costs you'll need to cover to get it off the ground.
When prepared for, drone businesses can be quite possible given the growth of the drone market overall.
How Much Does a Drone Cost?
That depends on the type of drone you wish to purchase and use. If you want a basic toy drone for play or practice, you can usually get one for $200-$300. However, if you want to take good-quality pictures and video, you'll need a drone worth at least $300 and preferably more.
High-quality drones come with more powerful motors, additional controls, and advanced software to help you control the drone with increased precision. Furthermore, expensive drones will have better camera apparatuses. These will allow you to mount higher-powered cameras on the drones to get truly top-tier photos and video footage.
If you want to become a professional drone user, you’ll need to spend at least a few thousand dollars. The most expensive drones:
- Are much more durable than their cheaper counterparts
- Provide the best image quality, and many come with mounted cameras that rival separate cameras you can find on the market
- Have excellent flight time, meaning you can spend more time making money and less time waiting for your drone to recharge
- Can operate in different types of weather, including rain or snow
Where to Buy a Drone?
You can find a drone through many online retailers and electronics stores.
How to Operate a Drone
If you need helping learning how to fly a drone, check out the video below!
Do You Need a License to Operate a Drone?
As noted, if you want to be a commercial drone pilot or pilot drones professionally, you need to acquire your Remote Pilot Certificate. This is offered by the FAA. It shows that you know all the rules and regulations regarding flying drones safely and around people.
Fortunately, almost anyone can get a license to operate a drone. You have to be:
- 16 years old or more
- Able to read, speak, write, and otherwise understand English capably
- Pass an aeronautical knowledge exam called the Unmanned Aircraft General – Small UAG exam
On top of that, you’ll need to complete recurring training every 24 months. This ensures that your drone piloting skills remain up to snuff and are good enough to keep your license.
If you just want to fly your drone recreationally, or you don’t want to fly an expensive drone, you don’t need a license. It’s a good idea to get a license if you want to make money with a drone regularly in any capacity (i.e. either freelance or by working as a drone pilot for a company).
Final Thoughts on How to Make Money with a Drone
Ultimately, it’s more than possible to make money with the drone if you have the right drive, ambition, and love to fly drones all the time. You can make money as a freelancer, or find employment as a dedicated drone operator for lots of companies, ranging from construction companies to healthcare companies to law enforcement.
Keep these ideas in mind as you develop your drone operator career. With the right focus and drone equipment, you can get started making money by taking photos and developing your skills from there. Good luck!