How To Make Money With Drones

If  you google for ideas on how to make money with drones you’ll find most of the results relate to opportunities for UAV pilots, and while this is the goal of many who are interested in this branch of aviation there are other business ideas with great potential in this rapidly growing industry.  Obviously, the first choice for anyone with any interest in UAV is going to be flying them in some way or another.  After all, this is the main attraction and the arrival of relatively inexpensive yet feature packed and functionally rich technology has encouraged a growing army of enthusiasts to buy both ready to fly quadcopters and multirotor kits which are then assembled and tested.

Drone Pilots

A small percentage of the current generation of drone enthusiasts will seek out the paths that leads to qualifications that provide evidence of having reached a basic level of professional competency and piloting skill (see my post RPQ-s, BNUC-s, RPCL? for more on this subject).  If this appeals to you then you’ll be entering a market that is growing fast, but also has a lot of new people entering it at the aerial photography level.  In other words, entry level pilots are plentiful so start thinking about your particular unique selling point.

Once qualified you can go freelance and set yourself up as a part or full time operator.  Like any other business in which you are the sole proprietor you will have to take on the responsibilities for marketing your business and driving it forward.  It’s not an easy task and you should write out a business plan before committing to this idea.  You need to know how many clients you’re going to need just to break even after all your capital and ongoing costs.  You’ll also need a longer term plan for growth, further training, and the inevitable costs of new equipment as technology improves or your old kit breaks.  Aerial photography prices reflect the cost of running such a business legally and professionally and there is no point in reducing your prices to the point at which you no longer make a profit.  This can be tempting if you find yourself undercut by a less professional or unqualified and therefore uninsured competitor.

Alternatively, armed with your new qualification you could approach one of the companies looking for pilots to train and mentor into a specific role.  If you’re fortunate to land such a job then you will enjoy all the security of regular pay and the other benefits of full time employment.  However, you may have to make some sacrifices to be successful.  Some of these employers are in the oil, gas, and other industries and working in remote locations is not uncommon.  If you want to find work as a drone pilot it’s probably a good idea to specialise in one or more payload areas e.g. 3D modelling, maps, LiDAR, thermal etc.

Drone Dealer

[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”333″ identifier=”B00WAGS478″ locale=”UK” src=”” tag=”droneuav-21″ width=”500″]Professional or amateur, newcomer or experienced, people want to buy drones, spares, accessories, and new UAV when they come on to the market.  If you have an existing hobby shop (bricks and mortar and/or e-commmerce) then adding a line of drones is the obvious thing to do.  There are plenty of models to choose from now and more are becoming available each season.

The success of companies like DJI Innovations has been noticed by its competitors who are keen to grab a slice of the quadcopter market by designing, building, and promoting their own models.  Some may regard this as inferior imitators of the [easyazon_link identifier=”B00SHUEPBK” locale=”UK” tag=”droneuav-21″]DJI Phantom[/easyazon_link] range, but there are some who have managed to design features features that are innovations of their own and which give them a competitive edge.  As a dealer you can test these features for yourself and explain them in text and videos on your e-commerce website.

Adding quadcopters, backpacks, hard cases, spares, and accessories to your product range, or even starting a new online business selling these is an option that might suit you.  Again, you will need to write a business plan and work out your costs for buying stock and marketing.  There is some capital outlay in this option but the rewards are there for those willing to devote their energies to it.

Drone Instructor

The demand for drone instructors is increasing in proportion to the number of candidates seeking out professional qualifications.  To be an instructor requires more than just a profound knowledge of a subject and advanced skills in in flying UAV.  You also need to be a strong communicator who is able to put people at their ease.  Your candidates will be from a wide variety of backgrounds and educational standards.  One day you might be giving instruction to an airline pilot and the next day your pupil might be someone who has just left school with few qualifications.  You will also need to be strong in the areas of time management, organisational skills, presentation skills, and be prepared to work long hours.

However, the high standards that such a role demands are matched by the rewards.  You will meet a great many people, make new friends, and enjoy the satisfaction of seeing people develop and learn.  You could work freelance, writing your own courses and guides, or work for a company that provides training.  You may not think that you’re cut out for this, but if you knowledge is there and you get along with people easily it’s worth giving it some consideration.

Drone Blogger

[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”361″ identifier=”B00PFVHVXI” locale=”UK” src=”” tag=”droneuav-21″ width=”361″]There are opportunities for making money online for those who build, fly, repair, and experiment with UAV in all their many forms.  If you fit this description you could start a blog and post regularly with updates, tips, advice, and lessons learned with your own UAV.  You could film your flights, rials, and reviews, then create YouTube videos with these films.  As well as sharing them on YouTube you can embed them into your blog with accompanying text.

If the YouTube videos are of sufficient quality you will attract viewers and subscribers.  YouTube videos can be monetised using Google Adense and other advertising, but it only really pays with high volumes of traffic, so make sure you stick to as high a standard as you can.  The YouTube instructional videos are free to watch and will teach you how to make the best of your account and channel so check these first for some really good tips on how to develop a channel and most importantly, how to attract and keep subscribers.

As your blog begins to attract traffic you could add both text and image affiliate links which may start earning you commission.  If you’re a writer of some skill then you could branch out into writing ebooks and perhaps become a [easyazon_link identifier=”B00QJDO0QC” locale=”UK” tag=”droneuav-21″]Kindle publisher[/easyazon_link].  As your blog grows be sure to make full use of social media to build up a following.  Give people a reason to return to your blog and to share its contents. Don’t put off this idea because you think you are not a good enough writer.  As long as you write honestly and provide information that is both relevant and useful to your audience then your readers will remain loyal, and if you are worried about grammar, spelling, and punctuation there are plenty of tools online (many of them free to use) that can help you to spot and correct errors.

Where To Begin?

Start at the beginning – learn to fly at least one type of quadcopter and develop from there.  Get to know every detail about it and all the things it can do.  As you learn your confidence will grow and you’ll soon be able to describe how it works and operates.

Take a look at the courses shown on this page.  These are professionally produced courses that you can follow at your own pace and to which you can refer again and again for reminders and updates.  Each course includes free previews that illustrate what you can expect to learn and which demonstrate the standard to which they have been created.

1. Check out the Stunning Aerial Videography and Photography Using Drones course in which you will learn how to create aerial video & photos that delight your audience: Learn from basic drone handling up to advanced flying & editing.

2.  How about “Drones: Become a Pro Aerial Photographer and Videographer“.  This course teaches you how to safely setup and fly a DJI Phantom and configure it for FPV. Learn how to process aerial photos and video.

3.  Then there is  “PRO Level Drone Aerial Video / Photo using Multirotor Drones” in which the instructors teach you the skills and techniques required to become a confident Drone Pilot and Operator.

4.  Finally, there is “UAV Drones: Precision Agriculture“.  This is an advanced guide on how to use fixed wing UAV for vegetation index and crop analysis.

No online course can be a substitute for practice and learning with your own drone, but the clear, concise, and detailed explanations in the courses listed above will teach you much more that you could learn from reading or experimenting alone.  What’s more, you can go back to each lesson as many times as you like and that’s something you can’t do even if you attend an instructor lead class.  Try one or more and you’ll see what you I mean.  A little cash spent on one of these courses could be the springboard to your success in the fast growing unmanned aviation industry.

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Roy - August 3, 2016 Reply

Fantastic video and article.

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