How Much Do Drone Operators Get Paid

How Much Do Drone Operators Get Paid?

If you’re looking for a new job, it often means comparing what you currently have with what you could have. There are tons of options that you could be weighing up, like commute, flexibility, and perks. Each job type can offer you different pros, but there is one factor that every person will be thinking about – Salary!

There is a new type of job flying around the market, and that’s a Drone Pilot! What is a drone pilot? I hear you ask. They are certified professionals who can safely control a drone. Doesn’t that sound like a job of a lifetime!

Before you quit your current job and rush to take the drone pilot exams, there are a couple of questions you should ask yourself. How much will I get paid? What companies hire drone pilots? Is it better to be self-employed?

I will help you answer these questions so you can decide the best course of action for you.

Do Drone Pilots Make Good Money?

There is no point looking at the other details without learning how much you could make as a drone pilot. If the price is too low, then you might not want to take the plunge. But I have a feeling that for most of us, the wage of a drone pilot is better than expected.

I should start off by saying that drone pilots’ jobs are relatively new, so there isn’t a consistent standard pricing yet. This means that depending on where you are, you could earn more or less than expected.

If you hope to get a drone pilot job with the government or military, then your average pay will be around $33k to $40k. The average government employee salary is $63K so the title of “UAV Operator” you will be given isn’t worth a lot.

If you hope to be both a drone pilot and a manned pilot, then you can earn around $79k. This figure is only an average, so that you could earn more or less than $79k depending on your skill level and location.

The most likely pay range for a drone pilot or “UAS Pilot” is $62k to $70k, and that is accurate as of 2021. 

Drone Pilots are still in their novelty stage, and there isn’t any accurate tracking of wages being carried out yet. In the future, these figures could rise or fall as the technology needs more skilled people or as the technology becomes easier to handle.

The average American salary is $31k, so you can safely say that being a drone operator will give you a good wage no matter where you fit on the data above.

What Companies Hire Drone Pilots?

As the potential for aerial photography and film grows, more and more employers are dabbling in hiring drone operators, but there are a few industries that fly above the others.

Before we touch on the salary-paying industries, you should consider self-employment industries first. I will talk in more detail about self-employed drone pilots in a moment, but let’s focus on who would hire them.

There is a long list of people who may hire a one-time drone pilot. These include wedding hires, hotel photographers, events managers. These types of people may want to hire you for the day to capture a unique moment for them or to film an area that only needs to be video-ed once.

These types of jobs may seem like one-type payments, but if you build up a reputation, you could be making money for decades!

One-time payments aren’t the only way to make money as a drone operator. There are industries that would be happy to employ you full time. The industries are not limited to the list I’m about to show you, but these ones below are currently dominating the market:

  • Construction Companies 
    • For aerial surveying
  • Government Operations
  • Transport Companies
    • To locate track or road damages
  • Warehouse Companies
    • For security
  • Television Companies
    • For long or wide aerial shots
    • For wildlife documentaries

As I said, the list goes on, but these 5 industries are currently taking the lead in Drone Pilot hiring.

Is It Better To Be A Self-Employed Drone Operator?

As more and more people are becoming employed drone pilots, you might find getting a job difficult. That is why so many operators have converted to being self-employed.

Before you decide to become self-employed, there are a couple of things you need to do. There are a handful of licenses you need to apply for, which are commercial drone pilot licenses and business licenses.

Then you want to get insurance on your drone. Lastly, you’ll need a client base – do you want to do weddings and stately homes, or do you want to film documentaries and artistic landscapes? 

Next, you’ll have to buy your own drone and get certified. All of this should cost you less than $2,000.

With this small start-up price and an entirely-managed-by-you client base, the only thing that should stop you from becoming self-employed is the security of money flow.

If you are employed, and the work dries up for a couple of months, your employer will still have to pay you. If you are self-employed and the work dries up for a couple of months, you might not have any money to pay yourself with. 

The choice should come down to client size and security. Do you think you have it?