How much can a drone operator earn?

Many may dream of making money flying drones for a living, but is it really a viable business? And how much can a drone operator earn? It depends on a number of factors, but don’t assume it’s going to be easy money! Like anything in life, you’ll get out what you put in. As a small business operator, you’ll be responsible for everything - marketing your drone business, turning enquiries into sales, dealing with customers and managing finances as well as the actual flying. With hard work and a little luck on your side you will make money, but you must be realistic.

A typical day rate for a drone operator is £500 a day, or £250 for a half-day. This varies depending on your experience, the type of equipment you have and the customer segment you work in. An experienced operator shooting for film and television productions using high-end equipment can earn far more. A drone operator starting out shooting property inspections with a mid-range drone will be limited to a few hundred pounds a day.

How do you start as a Drone Operator?

Many professional drone operators start out as hobbyists and turn their passion into a business. In this case, you have a head start and may already have a drone of suitable quality for paid deployments. However, you’ll need a Certificate of Competency - A2CofC - to be able to operate as a commercial pilot legally in the UK. This is obtained by following online tuition and passing an exam. The focus is on flight safety, and subjects covered include flight planning, risk assessment and emergency procedures.

If you’re serious about making money as a drone operator you should also obtain an Operational Authorisation (OA) by doing a General Visual Line Of Sight Course. This is widely recognised as evidence that you are a competent, safe and legal drone pilot. Having the OA under your belt can put you in the running for work from businesses looking to hire a pilot, so it’s a sound investment.

Commercial drone operators also need appropriate insurance, both to protect their valuable equipment and to cover against the liabilities of flying. Finally, it’s worth considering joining Drone Safe Register to help get your business off the ground. We can give you access to industry leaders, experts who have been flying drones for years and pilots willing to share work across the UK. 

How do you maximise your chances of success?

The basics of starting any new business are just as relevant to a commercial drone operator. Customers will expect you to have an online presence so they can find out about you and check out examples of your work. A website is key to this. The visual nature of a drone business means you should only display work you’re proud of and that has a ‘wow effect’ with customers interested in booking your service.

A social media presence - Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn - can also boost your chances of success as a drone operator. Although we live in a digital age and it’s perfectly possible to generate work online, building a network is still key to success in business. As well as building relationships with other drone operators and networking with other local businesses that may need your services. Examples include roofers, builders, architects, wedding photographers, estate agents and hotel owners. 

Building a good reputation and a strong brand can set you heads above the competition. This comes from delivering quality services and the basics of answering enquiries promptly and professionally. Being a member of Drone Safe Register also gives you an edge as you can offer customers peace of mind that you’re serious about your chosen profession and belong to the UK’s largest network.


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About the Author: DSR Journalist

Harrison Green

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