How to Make Money with a Drone?

All the necessary steps and tips on how to make money with a drone.
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Last updatedLast updated: April 09, 2024
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Drones are more and more popular in the world today for everything from flying cameras to moving packages. Personal drone use is at an all-time high, too! But have you ever wondered how to make money with a drone? It might be easier than you think!

Everyone these days is looking for a good side hustle, and why not find a way to do so that’s fun, cutting-edge, and up-to-date? In this article, we’re going to look at the best ways to use your drone to bring in some spare cash. Who knows – your drone business might even take off more than you could imagine!

Before you start your potentially lucrative drone business, the important part is learning the basics. Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered.

What Equipment do You Need to Make Money with Your Drone?

How to Make Money with a Drone?

The main equipment that you’ll need to start making money with your drone is, of course, the drone itself. When you’re buying a video-ready drone, it’s very important to make sure that the specification and abilities of the drone are good enough for your money-making endeavors!

If you can, a drone capable of 20MP photographs and 4K videos is the best option. However, as long as your drone camera is capable of 12MP images and 1080p recording, you’ll be able to deliver good quality images and video recordings to your clients. You should also try your best to find something that is capable of RAW photography for the sake of retouching and a bit rate of at least 100Mbps.

As well as inbuilt cameras, GoPro attachments and similar also work. Make sure that any external attachments are compatible with your drone before going ahead.

Wondering how to make money with a camera drone? You can check our article on the best smartphone-controlled drones for some ideas of where to start!

It is also good to have some video and photo editing software at the ready so that you can make the perfect results for your clientele.

What do You Need to do Before Making Money with Your Drone?

So you’re wondering how to (legally) make money with a drone and don’t know where to start. Once you’ve found your perfect drone, then you need to check the local laws where you are. Anywhere in the US, a license is required before you can start using a drone for business purposes. You should secure your Section 107 certificate Trusted Source Become a Drone Pilot | Federal Aviation Administration In order to fly your drone under the FAA’s Small UAS Rule (Part 107), you must obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA. This certificate demonstrates that you understand the regulations, operating requirements, and procedures for safely flying drones. Are you a first time pilot or an existing Part 61 Certificate holder? www.faa.gov from the FAA. There is a process to undergo, and more info is available on the FAA website or at the link above.

If you are wondering how to make money with a drone without a license, you should know that this is not legal anywhere in the US. For readers outside of the US, you should check local laws before proceeding.

Seek drone insurance. You should also secure editing software and start a blog, website, or other methods to reach out to clients. After all, you can’t make money if you don’t have anyone to pay you!

It’s also very important to secure your niche. Whether you’re an established adult or searching for how to make money with a drone as a kid, the only real way to make money is by carving a space out where people want to buy what you’re selling. Make sure you focus on exactly what you’ll be capturing and selling rather than casting too wide a net.

Check out our article on the best long-range drones to help you figure out the area you want to cover for your business.

How Much Does It Cost to Start a Drone Business?

Lots of people ask how to make fast money with a drone, and while this is a great question, you have to walk before you can run! A good drone is a solid investment, but you should be prepared for a potentially steep upfront cost.

An industrial 4k drone can cause over $40k, but these, of course, aren’t the same as those for personal use! These are the kind used on movie sets or for security purposes.

In fact, you can find some decent drones starting at a few hundred dollars. For example, the DJI Mini 2 drone is under $700. If you want something a little more advanced with flight control mechanics and more, a combination like the DJI Air 2S is a good, if slightly pricier, option.

You should also factor in the price of editing software for videos and images or drone mapping software that you might need (around $50 – $400). There may also be further hardware or software that you require, depending on how you use your drone to make money.

Your drone registration with the FAA Trusted Source Become a Drone Pilot | Federal Aviation Administration In order to fly your drone under the FAA’s Small UAS Rule (Part 107), you must obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA. This certificate demonstrates that you understand the regulations, operating requirements, and procedures for safely flying drones. Are you a first time pilot or an existing Part 61 Certificate holder? www.faa.gov plus the exam costs around $200 altogether. Check out the FAA guidelines (or the relevant guidelines for your non-US country) for any further fees.

You’ll also need a business license, which can vary a lot in price, and you should also consider the cost of marketing if you choose to place ads or run a campaign.

How to Make Money with a Drone?

Steps for Starting Drone Business

This section will cover step-by-step how to make money with a drone. We’ll go through every step of the process, from the moment of purchase to the second your money starts rolling in. It might not be easy at first but sticking with it and following our guidance is a great start!

So if you’re ready to find out how to make money with a drone license, read on!

1. Get a Drone

The first step of using a drone to make money is, of course, getting a drone in the first place! It’s important to know exactly what kind of drone you’re looking for. Video drones and delivery drones are the two most common, but when you’re looking for how to make money with a commercial drone, you should make sure you know what industry you’re targeting for the best match.

Drones can get pricey. If you’re looking for high quality at a relatively low price for your initial investment, take a look at our list of the best drones under $1000.

2. Get a License Drone-Flying License

Getting a drone flying license is essential if you’re planning on using your drone for commercial purposes. Within the US, it is illegal to operate a commercial drone without a license.

In the US, you should register with the Federal Aviation Administration Trusted Source Become a Drone Pilot | Federal Aviation Administration In order to fly your drone under the FAA’s Small UAS Rule (Part 107), you must obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA. This certificate demonstrates that you understand the regulations, operating requirements, and procedures for safely flying drones. Are you a first time pilot or an existing Part 61 Certificate holder? www.faa.gov . In Canada, register with Transport Canada Trusted Source Getting a drone pilot certificate How to apply for a drone pilot certificate. tc.canada.ca .

If you are outside of North America, it’s very important that you check the local laws and register with any relevant authorities before operating a drone for commercial purposes.

How to Make Money with a Drone?

3. Get Your Drone Insured

Insurance is an essential part of running any business, and the drone business is no exception. 865,505 drones are registered (as of May 31st, 2022) in the USA, 314,619 of which are commercial. The numbers just keep going up so unsurprisingly, more and more insurance companies are now offering drone-specific insurance. In fact, a few companies have even opened where the entire business model is simply selling drone insurance!

When selecting your insurance, it’s very important to know exactly what you’re using your drone for, as well as several other factors. Find your exact needs and wants, and don’t be afraid to shop around to find out what insurance is best for you. Several comparison sites Trusted Source The 6 Best Drone Insurance Companies of 2022 We researched and reviewed the best drone insurance companies, taking into account transparency, plan options, coverage amounts, and more. www.investopedia.com can help you get started on finding the right insurance, but you should make sure your insurance plan is perfect for you before committing!

4. Buy and Learn to Operate Editing Software

Editing and mapping software are essential for a successful drone business. These programs can have a bit of a steep learning curve, so it’s important to set the time aside to learn. If you’re not experienced, it might also be worthwhile to consider taking a class in the photo and video editing and/or using mapping software, either in person or online.

Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Premiere Pro (between $20 and $50 per month, depending on the package) are probably the most well-known examples of image and video editing software, but they are far from the only options out there. Be sure to shop around to find exactly the software and price that works for you.

How to Make Money with a Drone?

5. Start your Drone Business

Now it’s time to start your business! Remember, before you open the metaphorical doors, you should know exactly what kind of drone business you want to run and have already advertised to some clients by (at least) word of mouth.

Later in the article, we’ll discuss the different ways that you can make money using your drone depending on your chosen industry and more.

Just remember that the opening day of your business is only the first step on an ongoing path. If things don’t rocket upward straight away, don’t be discouraged!

6. Work On your Credibility

To be known, you have to make yourself known. Keep spreading the word and get other people to spread the word too. Post on social media, keep your website, blog, and socials up to date, and use word of mouth as much as you can. You can also place ads and find other methods of advertising.

Once you start getting jobs, do them well! Every good job done is a job you can point to for the next client. Encourage your clients to leave reviews or star ratings, and make sure you display any positive feedback proudly for potential clients to see. The object is to make your name a go-to in your area for your drone industry, and the best way to do that is by building a loyal client base and a great reputation.

How Much Money Can You Make with Your Drone?

Your income depends on your output, first and foremost. Some industries and specialties are more profitable than others, and obviously, the number of hours and the contracts you accept will make the income vary too. You need to keep an eye on your local market and keep your price competitive.

For an average drone photographer, a job can bring anywhere between $70 and $200. When you start out, you should be prepared for low-end income. Many start out charging around $50 for a job and build from there, but you should do some research to find the right entry point for you.

There are also middleman sites you can use to help get your business off the ground (no pun intended!) Stock photograph websites are often looking for photos, for example. Many of these sites will pay a percentage commission for each photo and video. Again, it’s important to search around and find the best place for you.

Independent drone contractors can make $150 in a day or $15,000 a month, or anywhere in between. It just depends on your methods, your time commitment, and the jobs you accept. Just be prepared to start low and build your way up.

Ways of Making Money with Drones

When you start out making drone money, you might be the best heading to Upwork, Fiverr, or FlexJobs for freelance work. It’s a good way to start building your reputation before you go on to building up your personal business. You can jump right in with your business off the bat, saving yourself from paying commission (though probably requiring more advertising at first!)

Whatever path you choose, you should make sure you’ve chosen a focus for your drone business. There are so many choices, from real estate to map making, weddings to search and rescue training, and more.

So how to find your niche? Here are some of the most popular!

Real Estate Photos and Video

How to Make Money with a Drone?

Real estate is a huge industry right now. After all, people always need somewhere to live or open a business! Wondering how to make money filming real estate with a drone? There are actually a few ways.

Aerial photography is extremely popular for a birds-eye view of the real estate landscape in question. Make sure you have a quality camera and a gimbal on your drone for this!

Using your drone to create pictures and video footage for real estate sales can net you a lot of cash. Private estates advertised through aerial video have been proven to sell more quickly and often for a higher price. As a result, real estate companies are willing to pay big bucks to those willing to help them out in creating these advertisements.

It’s also easy to prepare for this kind of job. You can practice by taking photos and videos of your own house or a friend’s house to figure out the best angles, timings, flight modes, camera settings, and more. Once you feel confident in your skills, gather as many photos and videos as you can from your practice and build a strong portfolio of your work. Just make sure that you’re only recording houses and properties with the owner’s permission!

As well as private residential properties, many commercial property owners and sellers are also looking for aerial shots of their property for sale. These jobs might be harder to get, but they pay more! If you’re skilled with photo and video editing, you can really take this to the next level by helping create overlays of the property in a seamless way to help maximize sales.

Remember, drone work is all about credibility. The more you put in, the more you get back.

Hotel and Resort Ads

Hotel and resort ads work in much the same way as real estate video and photography captures. Think of an ad for a beach resort. An average video from the ground is fine, but a sweeping aerial view of the sand and surf, the facilities of the resort, and the beauty around it… makes all the difference.

Golf courses, theme parks, and even little countryside bed and breakfasts also fall into this category. After all, if a person can see everything on offer, then they’re more likely to part with their money to enjoy the experience. A drone video or drone photography gives a view of the hotel or attraction in a way that no ground image ever could.

As well as working directly with hotels, resorts, and attraction owners, you can also approach travel agencies (both online and in-person) to offer your services. Many travel agencies deal with the bulk of advertising for a particular resort, and so often, they are the best contact for this sort of money-making option.

Just be aware that while the money in this field tends to be very good, there’s a downside. It’s an extremely competitive arena to enter with your drone since many people choose this option for drone work. Be prepared to lose out on some bigger jobs at first, and work hard on building your portfolio. Once you can prove that you’re among the best, then you’ll start securing the best jobs!

Wedding Photos and Video

How to Make Money with a Drone?

Wedding photography and videography are already profitable businesses. People are willing to pay through the nose to capture their special day in a beautiful manner that gives them lasting memories. With the advent of drone recording, there are even more choices available, and many wedding planners and individual couples are hiring drone pilots to record the full wedding experience.

Again, the competition is very tough in this area. It’s extremely important to remember that you must offer something unique: otherwise, why would anyone choose your business over a more established one for their special day?

One option is to start out by finding an experienced wedding photographer/videographer to work with as a secondary. You should also start at a discounted price from where you want to end up. The profits will be lower, but you’ll be able to build up a portfolio quickly. Not only that, but word of mouth spreads fast. If you do well at one wedding, a guest might want to hire you for theirs!

When recording a wedding, there are some very important points to remember. Outdoor weddings at picturesque locations are your best choice because not only can you create a great video for the couple, you have something more impressive for your portfolio.

Though your drone must be close to the venue, make sure you avoid flying near the guests! After all, it’s too easy to scare or even hurt someone accidentally, and apart from that, it might get annoying. You don’t want to put people off.

You should also practice in the area, assuming you can get permission, before the wedding actually starts. Find the best angles and perspectives, where to avoid darkness or too much brightness, and methods to avoid blurriness.

Finally, at weddings, make sure you offer both video and photographs. After all, people want to remember their wedding in as many ways as possible.

Structural or Building Inspection

Helicopter videos and photography have traditionally been the method of inspection for electrical lines, pumping stations, remote stations, condemned buildings, and other utility and industrial businesses. However, these videos are very expensive, not least because they put the pilots of the helicopters at risk. Enter drones, a pilot-free and cheaper alternative that is racing upward in popularity in this area.

Drones can fit into spaces that helicopters can’t, both quickly and efficiently, recording great-quality videos, whether for a checkup of the building or an assessment of damages. Utility companies, construction companies, gas and oil businesses, bridge builders, and insurance companies: the number of options in this area is almost endless.

This type of drone business has a higher upfront cost than other options, as you must invest in a solid commercial drone built for this purpose. However, this also results in higher and faster profits once you establish names and start bringing in the money.

Advertising and networking are absolutely essential to break into this field. You should also not be afraid to approach local businesses that might need an inspection drone and introduce yourself and your services. You don’t need to push the hard sell – just make yourself known!

Selling Stock Photos or Videos

Individual prints and contracts are great, but there’s another way to profit from scenic photography: selling to the stock photo and video companies who are always looking to expand their galleries. Do some research online before you select the companies you intend to work with. Some offer better royalties than others, and you should also go for quality over quantity to maximize your profits. For beginners and experts alike, sites like iStock, Shutterstock, and Getty Images are a good place to start.

Make sure your photos are at the highest possible quality before you even start to submit them, and make sure you have a solid portfolio behind you. Don’t submit shots you’ve created on commission, but it’s totally fine to take some extra photos and videos on location for yourself aside from the commissioned photos!

Your photos and videos will usually have to undergo a review process before the stock company decides to use them. Once they’re approved, you’ll earn a commission for every download of your image or video.

This isn’t the kind of field that you can make a whole business around or really make a lot of money. However, if you keep your stock photo accounts up to date, it’s a great way to make some passive, quick money with fairly low effort.

Drone Deliveries

How to Make Money with a Drone?

Delivery services via drone are the new investment by companies everywhere! Amazon is the most famous, but several large businesses, including medical and pharmaceutical companies, are looking into using drones to transport their products. For example, Alec Momont, a Dutch graduate student, recently created an Ambulance Drone Trusted Source Gadget Report: Rise of the Medical Drones In life-threatening situations and in places cars can’t reach, inventors are saying, ‘drones away!’ www.healthline.com to help speed up response times for heart attacks and heart failure – a lifesaving invention for sure. Meanwhile, courier companies like DHL in Europe are already trying out package delivery by drone all over the world.

Why are companies turning to drones? There are a few reasons. They’re quicker and safer than normal deliveries: they aren’t restricted by road speed laws, and they’re much less likely to be stolen while traveling. That’s not to say that there’s no danger to what drones are carrying. Some people make a habit of shooting down drones to get their packages. Just be sure that, if you choose to do deliveries, you’re an excellent pilot and ready to avoid obstacles.

You’ll need to invest in using a drone that is specially designed for carrying products and approved by the company you’re working for. Since this is a new industry, more and more drone pilots are being hired either as private contractors or as employees of big businesses. If you can prove your skills, this can quickly become a great way to make some money.

Filmmaking

This one is fairly obvious. From small passion projects to big Hollywood movies, a sweeping aerial view of the setting of a movie or an overhead of an action scene is a staple of an exciting film. Like with deliveries and inspections, drones make this much easier than traditional helicopter filming, both in terms of safety and regarding ease of access, as well as the price for the filmmaker in question.

Don’t expect to be hired in Hollywood right away. Instead, focus your attention on small indie projects that want to get started. It’s a reality that you’re unlikely to break into the big bucks with this method – it’s unlikely that you and your drone will be heading for La-La Land any time soon – but this can be a fascinating and semi-lucrative way to use your skills to make a profit.

Search and Rescue Training

Police and fire departments are just as eager to invest in drones as their medical cousins, and the Coast Guard and mountain rescue teams aren’t far behind. Drones can get into places that people can’t and help to locate missing people or monitor crime and fire scenes, as just a few examples.

Public safety agencies are investing more and more in drone operations, but don’t expect a lot of money if you live in a rural area, if any at all. After all, if the local fire department is mostly made of volunteers, then it’s unlikely to be able to shell out for a drone operator!

If you’re in a suburban or urban area, though, check in with your local safety departments to find out if they are interested in drone operations. Some might be willing to outsource, and there may even be openings within the company for someone with the right skills and talent.

Be aware that this is a highly regulated industry, and you’ll need quite a few certifications and a lot of experience before you can break into it. Make sure you have lots of flight hours and probably some courses under your belt. It’s also a good idea to be willing to volunteer with the agency for some time while you make a name for yourself.

How to Make Money with a Drone?

Precision Agriculture

Wondering how to make money with a drone in the agriculture industry? Harvest surveillance is extremely important in modern farming, and it can be a challenge to many farmers. Drones make this simple by making the process quicker and less expensive for the agriculturist in question.

Think how large modern farmland is. Now think how fast a drone can go and how easily it can reach places that traditional methods of travel can’t capture. It’s clear that drones make access much easier for farmers than any other method of precision agriculture, and that’s why more and more agriculturalists are turning to drone observation and interaction for their farms.

Your drone must be equipped with an infrared camera as there are specific things that must be captured when filming for precision agriculture. Contrasting colors and different layers are used to check on the health of the plants in each location that your drone sweeps. On top of this, they can be used to look for particular problems in fields with particular crop diseases or even thieves or pest control.

Occasionally, spot therapy requires quick access, and farmers can use drones to get what they need where they need quickly and effectively.

For farmers, drone work keeps their plants safer and healthier, lowers the chance of damage, catch early signs of pest issues, and increases their profits while lowering expenses. In return, a good drone pilot can make quite a significant amount of cash working in the agriculture industry.

Aerial Mapping

One of the most common searches when looking to start up drone businesses is how to make money mapping with a drone. The need for interactive and up-to-date maps is more and more important both in the public and private sectors. Drones can be used to map hard-to-access places and film without disturbing the surroundings, including archaeological dig sites, which would be disturbed by other methods.

In addition, using the proper software, a drone can feed back real-time topography and an electronic map of a given area. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) need to constantly be gathering data in order to fully perform analyses and create maps with all sorts of data, and drone pilots can make this possible.

Of course, if you hope to get into this field, you must show your expertise. Not only do you need a good commercial drone and a solid portfolio showing your piloting chops, but you also require the right knowledge and certifications in the particular industry you’re entering to make you stand out above the rest.

Advertise as much as you can! Word of mouth and ads are a good start, but make sure to showcase your referrals, keep your social media pages up to date, and try to get some online articles in blogs or newspapers to really get your name out there. When you contact a private company to offer mapping services, you want to have something to point at to say, look at me: I’m an expert.

Surveillance, Private Investigations, Video Monitoring

How to Make Money with a Drone?

Drone surveillance has been a military staple in recent years, but surveillance isn’t all about black ops missions. Private investigation is a profitable business in the US and other countries, and so long as you have the proper licenses, it can also be a lucrative option for a contracted drone operator.

While many companies can and do hire people specifically to run drone operations for them, it’s actually much cheaper to hire an individual contractor to perform the work. In addition, a small PI business is unlikely to be able to hire someone specifically to run drone surveillance, but paying for an outside contractor is a different story.

Drone surveillance offers real-time grade options and can cover areas that even constant camera recordings can’t reach. Drones also offer access to hard-to-reach places and prevent danger to a live person trying to perform the same tasks.

Compared with other devices used for surveillance, drones are less conspicuous and may reach virtually every location. While cameras are occasionally restricted because they have to be put in 1 place, drones can ensure that every part of the premises could be under surveillance.

For surveillance purposes and PI or monitoring work, high-quality cameras with additions like thermal imaging will definitely give you an edge. Think of it as your own real-life spy movie!

Profits in

This may be an extremely profitable company. For instance, professional surveillance operators in the USA earn around $50,000 each year.

Reselling Drones

This is a simple but potentially very lucrative endeavor, though naturally, it’s one with some of the higher upfront costs. You must do a lot of research into what kind of drones are popular at the time and then locate a store or stores (usually online) which sell them at a reasonable price, preferably a little lower than the recommended retail price. It’s also a good idea to scour the internet to see if you can find a place that will give you a discount for bulk buys of the most popular drone products.

The next step is opening your shop. A brick-and-mortar shop is a possibility, but the most likely and easy way to make money is to open an online store of your own. You can either create your own website and shop specifically focused on drone selling, or you can open your own store page on an internet marketplace. Some common examples are Amazon, eBay, and Etsy. There’s also the possibility of adding personalization or aesthetic additions to the drones to give them that extra boost and increase sales.

Another option is to include drones in an already-existing electronics or gadget store. If you already run one of these or plan to open one for yourself, drones can make a great addition!

Whatever method you take, research and marketing are the most important tools in your arsenal. You must continually stay on top of the market and networking and pay attention to what is popular.

Another tip: we would advise against a drone leasing company. Drones can be fragile, especially as they’re often targeted by thieves who specifically try to shoot them down to take whatever they’re carrying. Even the best insurance is unlikely to cover the potential damages and losses that can come through leasing.

Teaching Drone Flight

How to Make Money with a Drone?

If you’ve got the expertise, another way to make money is to pass on that knowledge. You can offer one-to-one tutoring, an online course through Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or other video options, or even a series of video tutorials. You also might be able to approach youth groups to offer drone lessons to up-and-coming tech-savvy kids.

Just be aware that curriculum work can be difficult, and you need to spend a lot of time perfecting your teaching method. However, this can be one of the most rewarding ways to make money with drone pilot skills.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are a lot of ways to make money with your drone. These are only some of the options in a constantly expanding market. No matter what path you choose, working with a drone is an investment and requires dedication and input, but it can be a fast way to make some money once your skills have developed and your portfolio is built.

Now that you know how to make money with a drone, the next step is research, research, and more research! Find the businesses near you that might need your drone services and prepare for a rewarding boost to your career. Whether it’s a side job or you want to make a living, there are plenty of options out there for drone enthusiasts everywhere.

References

1.
Become a Drone Pilot | Federal Aviation Administration
In order to fly your drone under the FAA’s Small UAS Rule (Part 107), you must obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA. This certificate demonstrates that you understand the regulations, operating requirements, and procedures for safely flying drones. Are you a first time pilot or an existing Part 61 Certificate holder?
2.
Become a Drone Pilot | Federal Aviation Administration
In order to fly your drone under the FAA’s Small UAS Rule (Part 107), you must obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA. This certificate demonstrates that you understand the regulations, operating requirements, and procedures for safely flying drones. Are you a first time pilot or an existing Part 61 Certificate holder?
3.
Become a Drone Pilot | Federal Aviation Administration
In order to fly your drone under the FAA’s Small UAS Rule (Part 107), you must obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA. This certificate demonstrates that you understand the regulations, operating requirements, and procedures for safely flying drones. Are you a first time pilot or an existing Part 61 Certificate holder?
4.
Getting a drone pilot certificate
How to apply for a drone pilot certificate.
5.
The 6 Best Drone Insurance Companies of 2022
We researched and reviewed the best drone insurance companies, taking into account transparency, plan options, coverage amounts, and more.
6.
Gadget Report: Rise of the Medical Drones
In life-threatening situations and in places cars can’t reach, inventors are saying, ‘drones away!’
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