How to get a drone job – A guide to UAV pilot jobs

By V Kadamatt | Guides

Dec 11
How to get a drone job: Featured image

Do you want to get a drone job? If so, you have stumbled upon the right page! You’ll most likely agree when we say: Flying drones are fun! Making a living flying them maybe a dream come true for some of you.

The number of people employed in the industry is only going to be on the rise with the rise of “drones” and the setting up of FAA’s part 109. In fact, It is estimated that the drone market will grow at an annual rate of 32% (compound) in the years 2015 – 2020. The amount of drone jobs are also expected to grow proportionally .

But what are these new, lucrative “jobs” and how do you apply for them? What are the skills and qualifications you need to have? In this post, we’ll try to address these questions. Read on!

What are the kinds of jobs available now and in the near future?

 How to get a drone job : Drone image

Below are some of the pathways you can take to get a drone job and/or make some money with your drone skills. With some of these drone jobs, piloting is an ancillary skill that you’ll apply for getting the main job done. You will need additional skills and experience (examples being in search and rescue or photography). Some will need to be always full time while others can be done part time. (Check out DroneBase for part time drone gigs that you can make money with!)

There are plenty of ways that you can put your drone skills to use to make additional moolah, but the most important point is that you have to specialize. First ask yourself what is it that you want like. Ask yourself the following set of questions –

  • Do you like photography and cinematography?

  • Do you want to work full time or part time?

  • Are you interested in engineering and/or possess engineering skills and qualifications?

  • What kind of “drones” are you looking at piloting – Small UAVs or military grade?

  • Are you comfortable working stateside or military?

  • Do you work for police or the fire department? Are you interested in agriculture?

  • Do you want to start a drone business?

  • Do you like teaching?

Become a drone videographer/photographer

Amount of drone piloting involved– 8/10

In the world of sUAS, drone videography and photography is by far the most common application of drones and this is where, we’d argue that most job opportunities (both in terms of freelance and salaried) lie as of today.

The field is vast and the work involved can be all the way from taking short real estate photography sets and video to full fledged hour long cinematography works, each requiring its own specialized skill sets.

Note that it is not be enough to be a UAV pilot for these jobs. You need to have a solid base in photography. You might even have to work in tandem with others to copilot a drone along with the camera gimbals for the best possible shots.

Become a drone instructor

Amount of drone piloting involved – 8/10

With the increase in demand for piloting instructions, becoming a drone instructor is an excellent path to take if you have the necessary skills, certifications and reputation.

If you go the independent route, you can either choose to instruct your clients in a one on one basis or setup an online course or start a blog of your own. Online course platforms like Udemy are a great way to market your course materials.

You can also choose to work full time as a drone instructor for a drone institution, provided you have built the necessary portfolio. Companies that manufacture drones for different fields like agriculture, search and rescue operations and military look for drone pilots capable of instructing their clients on how to fly their crafts safely.

The opportunity spectrum is vast, considering that the field is new and growing rapidly!

Become an engineer

Amount of drone piloting involved – 6/10

If you have a background in electrical and electronics, software or aviation engineering and have the necessary qualifications, (a degree and in most instances, a masters degree) becoming a UAV engineer is a highly lucrative, highly paid path. With engineering qualifications, you can work in product development, technical support, UAV maintenance technician or QA. Research is another option.

This is not a “drone” job in that it may not involve flying the craft as much as some other jobs, but you may have to fly the craft, especially if you work for the QA department!

Precision agriculture

Amount of drone piloting involved– 5/10

Precision agriculture is used to manage farms more effectively, so as to improve productivity and hence profitability.

Note that “precision agriculture” is not “precision agriculture” just by virtue of the application of “drones”, GPS or other unmanned systems. The term is used to define a more complex process of observing, evaluating and managing by using a wide variety of tools and technologies.

If you are interested in UAVs and own a farm, you have hit the sweet spot. You can now use your piloting skills to improve yields from your crops by using them for observing, evaluating and managing crops!

Search and rescue

Amount of drone piloting involved – 6/10

If you work for the fire department or police for instance, search and rescue has a good application for drones in your forte. If not, you can still volunteer your drone skills for search and rescue operations. Though this may not make you money, it is a fine application of your skill and time. It is also a great way to build your portfolio and relationships with others in the industry. Check out SARDRONES for more info.

Using drones for searching makes the process a whole lot easier and fast – something critically important and potentially life saving. Covering large areas as quickly as possible is one of the primary strengths that drones possess. Another advantage is the ability to access and quickly scan and cover areas that are otherwise dangerous for humans. A house that is on fire is an example.

Here is a video on how drones are used for search and rescue:

Fire fighting drone:

Infrastructure inspection, maintenance and security

Amount of drone piloting involved – 7/10

Today, drones are used for inspecting, surveying and maintaining infrastructure like cell phone towers, building roof tops, large areas with infrastructure like solar fields and electrical infrastructure (pole locations, distance between them and wire health). Another major application involve aerial mapping of construction sites.

Many companies that sprang up with the rise of drones offer such services and have jobs for skilled drone pilots capable of doing data collection using aerial UAVs. Other skills you might want to have are the ability conduct mission planning, pre-flight analysis and risk measurement.

Military and surveillance

Amount of drone piloting involved – 9/10

Going into the military and or state side services, you are looking at piloting larger UAVs. Note that in order to be qualified for such a position and to get a drone job in this arena, you will have to obtain additional certifications (FAA class 2 medical certificates), skill sets and DOD security clearance. You will have to be a citizen of the country you are applying for the position in.

Your role, other than piloting will range from mission pre-flight planning, noticing airmen, giving special instructions and assisting with airspace requirements. You will also have to complete post mission logs and reports. Remember that you may be deployed overseas.

Package delivery

Amount of drone piloting involved– 7/10

Though still in its infancy, package delivery is a huge, up coming application of drones. Companies like Amazon (Amazon prime air) and Flirtley are testing out their operations in different countries. New Zealand and Australia seem to be the leaders as of today. Flirtley has already started putting up job opportunities for UAV pilots (No affiliation).

Start a drone business

Amount of drone piloting involved – 5/10

Not interested in working for someone else or piloting a drone for money? Then starting a drone business is a viable option right now! The industry is in its budding stages and the low hanging fruit is still up for the grabs. Following are some business ideas involving drones:

  • Aerial photography and videography business
  • Start a commercial inspection services business (Cell phone towers, power lines, solar fields etc) or a resident home inspection service (chimneys, roof tops etc)
  • Aerial mapping and surveying
  • Delivery service
  • Software for drones
  • Drone hardware and/or manufacturing
  • Training and technical support

What are the required skills and qualifications you need?

Jobs working with drones: Qualifications

The skills and qualifications you will need will vary depending on what you specialize in. If you decide to go for drone photography/video, you will obviously need a strong photography base. On the other hand, if you plan on going the military route, the skill set and qualifications you would require are completely different.

In either case, you need to have the following to get a drone job or to make money with a drone:

  • Good piloting skills (Learn how to fly a quadcopter from scratch here) and working with various software and hardware tools related to your specialization.

  • Good team work capabilities

  • FAA certifications (Part 107 and/or class 2 medical certificates, depending on the job profile)

  • Security clearance (depending on the job profile)

However, if you want to become a drone engineer, going the technology degree route may be the way for you.

How much can you expect to get paid?

The pay depends on the type of the job and your experience/qualifications. Drone pilots typically reel in about USD $50000 – $70000. With experience, your potential to earn is much higher.

With engineering and instructor jobs, your pay rate would typically be higher than that of a drone pilot or a technician/maintenance man.

Where can you find these jobs?

There are many online websites you can check out for finding “drone jobs”. Here are some:

Join online forums and local meetups. If you want to make money independently in the sUAS world, you will need to build your reputation!

Conclusion

There are plenty of opportunities, provided you have the necessary skill, certifications and qualifications. Ask your self what is it that you want to do in the world of drones and go from there. Remember – specialize!

If you have any questions/comments/suggestions, please don’t hesitate to contact us or drop a comment below!

How to get a drone job – A guide to UAV pilot jobs was last modified: August 2nd, 2017 by V Kadamatt

About the Author

Artificial Intelligence , UAV and RC enthusiast. Software professional, part time philosopher and star gazer. Also loves physics, mathematics, economics, psychology, fantasy, Sci-Fi and futurology.

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