How Much Do Commercial Drone Operators Get Paid?

So, you’ve learnt everything you need to know about becoming a commercial drone operator - including what qualifications and permissions you need from the CAA! But really, you want to know how much money you can earn from becoming a commercial drone operator.

Can I quit my full-time job? 

What hours will I work?

Is it easy money?

All of these questions and more will be answered in this week's blog!

Categories of Money Earning

So, how much does a drone pilot truly earn? Well, it all depends on the variety of services you are prepared to offer… However, it is important to remember that the services you can offer are dependent on the permissions you hold! 

There are hundreds of part-time drone operators who love flying and producing great aerial images, but they cannot find a way to give up the day job as they do not have the contacts, knowledge or consistent partners. The part-time income can range from £2000-£3000 a year to around £12,000-£16,000. This however is dependent on having a good supply of jobs as well as an understanding boss so they can take the time to go out and complete flying jobs. Ideally, if you want to earn within the higher bracket of part-time owners, you will want to work either part-time somewhere else or be self-employed. This would give you the time to network, research and practice in your free time. 

If you are a drone pilot only offering property photography you will be very lucky to earn in excess of £20,000 per year. This is because realistically there are only so many properties in a certain area and the competition in this field. Also, it is important to remember that estate agents can do it themselves - although rarely does it match the quality of Drone Safe Register members.  If you are a drone operator offering budget roof inspections, again you should be earning around £20,000 a year. However, if you are offering high-end roof inspections you could earn up to £100,000 a year. However, don’t forget that these big ticket earners are flying upwards of £20,000 drones in the air to enable them to charge a higher price to their clients. They can charge this price due to the increase in quality the camera can provide. 

The drone operators who earn between £40,000-£60,000 are the pilots who provide additional production services. This would be a company that for example, provides promotional video and imagery for businesses which include a combination of ground footage, aerial footage and talking heads. Using a drone in this type of environment becomes very profitable and is a unique selling point to offer when approached by someone looking for video work to be completed. There is plenty of work out there in this sector and is a great way of getting your name out there. If you produce an excellent piece of content for a firm, they are sure to recommend and endorse you to others. At Drone Safe Register, we allow clients to review directly on our member's profiles.  

If you are a drone pilot with extremely high-end equipment, providing video for TV and film, you are looking at earning way over £100,000 a year very, very easily providing you have the skills, experience and connections to find regular work. It can take a long time to work up this standard, and you'll be sure to connect with hundreds of clients along the way. 

Make Money From Flying a Drone!

Drone Pilot to Production Company:

We offer a workshop for our members, converting them from just a humble drone operator to a fully-fledged content production company. As we’ve mentioned - broadening your services allows you to gain more jobs and charge higher prices. Like anything in life, what you put in is what you get out of it.

If you enjoy networking with people this will make you a more profitable drone operator than an operator who doesn't make the effort to network. One thing for sure it is a very fun and evolving industry once you do get into it - people will like your work and will be more likely to hire you.

Many drone operators entering the drone industry full time having left a paid job very quickly learn that they need to widen their services as a company. This normally fills the gap between when they are not completing drone deployments. If you would like to see what other additional services our drone operators offer, simply visit our members' additional services page here.

Make Money From Flying a Drone!

From 9-5 to Drone in the Sky

For many joining the industry as a commercial drone operator, it can be a shock to discover the times of operation. It would not be uncommon to be off Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and be working all weekend! This is especially true for event filming, where large scale events require footage from across the entire weekend. With event filming, you could end up combining aerial and ground footage together, further increasing the potential income.

Preparing for Winter

There is no doubt you can earn a tremendous amount more money in the summer and spring months when compared to the winter. Therefore, you need to account for the somewhat sudden drop in work. This is because you could be out of drone work for 2-3 months which needs to be budgeted for. Due to the increase in wind and rain as well as the loss of daylight, drone work is few and far between and inconsistent when compared to summer months.

One thing you need to do is be prepared for when the summer comes again. You could be working most days in the week and weekends if you have set up a successful client base.


Give a potential client a reason to hire you! Showreels are an excellent opportunity to showcase your drone work across a variety of industries. You could even create individual showreels for different jobs. It doesn't matter if you're doing inspections, 3D modelling, TV and film, or events,  the amount of drone operators who don’t show off their work and add showreels to their website is unbelievable. Set up social channels, find followers, produce work that is engaging, if there is an event in your local town or city, film it for free! Gain momentum and meet people and they will be sure to be in contact for paid work in the future. 

A Drone Safe Register membership gives you the opportunity to advertise 3 showreel videos. If you are looking for inspiration - take a look on YouTube! 

Stock Footage

As an avid drone enthusiast, you are sure to have built a hefty hard drive of aerial photography and video! Stock footage can be very profitable - on one condition. You have to have footage that is worth buying. Whether it's a famous landmark or a gorgeous sunset it needs to be content that someone would consider using. Uploading stock footage can be a great source of passive income that can help sustain your business throughout the winter months, especially when TV companies cannot capture fresh footage.

Drone Safe Register has it’s very own stock footage hub where members can earn money from uploading their aerial footage. 

If you are a drone pilot looking to take your passion to the next level, the Drone Safe Register needs to be on your radar! Whether you join us for 1 year or the next 10 years, you can be sure we offer the tools and support you need to advance in your drone journey. 

We have built our network significantly since launching 5 years ago, ensuring we endorse the best and safest commercial drone operators in the UK. 

If you are happy to get involved and invest the time and effort into the services we offer, we can without a doubt, help you grow your drone business.


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About the Author: DSR Journalist

Harrison Green