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Flying a Drone

Projected Income $1,000-$6,000+ per month
Costs to Start $1,000-$5,000
Time to Start 1-3 months
Category Freelance Videography

Our Side Hustles Breakdown

Drones have revolutionized how we perceive the world, offering breathtaking aerial views once reserved for birds alone. Flying a drone is more than just a hobby; it’s a skill, intertwining technical knowledge with an artistic eye. The demand for drone footage, whether for real estate showcases or cinematic captures, is on the rise. However, mastering this art also means being mindful of regulations and safety guidelines.

cons-icon Cons

  • Regulatory Hurdles: Many countries have strict regulations around drone flying.
  • Initial Investment: High-quality drones with advanced features can be pricey.
  • Safety Concerns: Mishandling can lead to accidents that harm people or property.

pros-icon Pros

  • Unique Perspective: Drones offer visuals that traditional photography can’t achieve.
  • Growing Market: Aerial footage is in high demand across industries, creating enormous demands for drone pilots.
  • Technological Advancements: Modern drones have advanced features, making flying more accessible.

Drone flying isn’t just for hobbyists—it’s rapidly becoming one of 2023’s most sought-after professions. The best part? There’s a niche for every drone pilot out there, from flying mapping drones to providing drone footage and even specialized deliveries.

Scroll down to discover everything you need to know about how to make money flying drones.

An Overview of Flying a Drone: A Primer

The landscape has changed for drones over the past decade. It went from being a cool, niche hobby to one of the most lucrative side hustles one could possibly invest in.

A proficient drone pilot wielding top-notch equipment can charge $500-$1,000 for a brief 2-minute aerial footage clip. So, why isn’t everyone jumping on this? Well, It’s a hefty commitment.

Licensing, skill, startup cost are the biggest obstacles for most people. There are lots of areas where drones are illegal or require an impractical amount of paperwork. That’s not to mention that a decent photography drone will set you back at least a couple thousand dollars.

How Much Can Flying a Drone Earn You?

On average, a beginner drone pilot starting with simpler tasks might earn anywhere from $50 to $500 a day. However, as you move up the ladder and specialize—whether in real estate drone photography services, event coverage, or even agricultural land assessments—the rates increase substantially. In fact, seasoned professionals who’ve mastered the art of drone videography often bag upwards of $500 for a single shot.

But there’s more than meets the eye. While an aerial photographer for infrastructure, agriculture, or real estate can make anywhere from $100 to $500 per hour, these are things that require serious skill and expensive equipment.

How Much Does It Cost to Start a Drone Flying Side Hustle?

As a beginner looking to dip their toes into the drone business, you’ll probably need an initial investment of around $1,500 to $3,500. Here’s a breakdown of that figure:

  • The Drone Itself: A high-quality drone equipped for professional-grade can range between $600 to $1,500. But if you’re aiming for high-end projects with 4K video or better, expect to shell out upwards of $2,000.
  • Licensing: Before you can legally fly a drone for commercial purposes in many countries, you’ll need a certification or license. This varies a lot from one city and country to another.
  • Learning Material: Controlling drones smoothly is harder than it looks, and there are programs (both in-person and virtual ones) for that. Training courses range from $100 to $500.
  • Insurance: Drone insurance varies based on coverage, but on average, annual policies can run between $600 to $1,200. Alternatively, you could get on-demand insurance for around $10/hr.
  • Editing Software: Software like Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro costs around $20/month.

Where Can You Find Gigs Flying a Drone?

There are two routes you can take to start making money with a drone; starting a full business or using gig platforms to find projects. These two have their pros and cons and you’ll likely end up doing both at one point or another.

Where to Independently Find Drone Work.

Before scouting for drone pilot jobs, make sure to get a remote pilot certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). With your documentation sorted, it’s game time:

  1. Create a portfolio showcasing your best aerial photography. Use platforms like Instagram or even a personal website to showcase your aerial photos and drone photography skills.
  2. Research and engage with local potential clients like real estate agents, construction project managers, and event organizers who often require drone operators for capturing aerial images or videos.
  3. Branch out into areas like aerial surveying, drone deliveries, or even search and rescue operations. The broader your skill set, the more job opportunities you open for yourself.

Gig Economy Companies That Offer Drone Work.

While getting a solo business set up takes a bit of time to really fire up, selling aerial shots of your local hotspots takes virtually no time to make you at least a bit of money every month.

  • Stock Imagery Sites: Websites like Shutterstock, Getty Images, and DroneStock are always in the market for fresh, high-quality drone photos and footage. This is especially important if you’re interested in working as a freelance videographer.
  • Drone-Specific Platforms: Websites such as Droners.io and DroneBase are designed specifically to connect clients seeking aerial footage with the right commercial drone pilot for all sorts of projects.
  • Specialty Platforms: There’s a ton of alternative ways of making money with a drone other than photography and videography, and these often have their own sources and job boards.

Why You Should Consider Flying a Drone As a Side Hustle

With drone photography gaining popularity, now’s the perfect time to leverage this booming market. But why exactly?

  1. Untapped Potential: As technology advances, the demand for skilled drone pilots rises. Brands, realtors, and filmmakers are always on the hunt for unique aerial perspectives.
  2. Lucrative Earnings: A certified drone pilot can charge a premium for their expertise. High-end drone photography, especially in niche segments, can fetch impressive rates.
  3. Creative Outlet: Being a drone pilot isn’t just about the money. It’s a chance for drone photographers to mesh technology with artistry, capturing breathtaking vistas and moments.

Problems With Flying a Drone

While the prospect of becoming a drone photographer is alluring, it’s not without challenges.

  • Steep Learning Curve: Sure, anyone can fly drones, but mastering drone photography requires both technical knowledge and an artistic eye. It’s a blend not everyone can achieve.
  • Regulations and Restrictions: Drone flight, especially in urban areas, is often mired in legal gray areas. Drone pilots can find themselves in sticky situations even with the right permissions.
  • Initial Investment: Okay drone photographers with expensive equipment are likely to get better projects just for the quality of their footage. Starting up requires a significant outlay for a high-end drone and accompanying gear.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Flying a Drone Difficult?

For Consumer drones, not at all. Flying drones becomes second nature for drone enthusiasts over time. That said, specialized drones like unmanned aerial vehicles used for search and rescue missions are more technique sensitive and require more experience.

Do I Need a License to Fly a Drone?

Yes, flying drones commercially requires a drone license. Local laws vary, but drone owners often need certification for services like drone photography or drone delivery. That’s why it’s essential to check regulations in your area.

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