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Do you want to make money with a drone?
We’ll cover the 13 most profitable ways in this guide, including base profit per hour, which businesses use drones, and which markets intend to use them soon.
So let’s begin!
If you’re only starting in the drone world, you may think there aren’t too many ways to earn money with a drone.
In reality, drones are tools that allow businesses to perform tasks efficiently. With a drone, you increase the quality of the job and decrease the time needed to complete it.
That’s why drones are so unique and used in profitable industries.
1. Stock images and videos #
The first and easiest way to make money with a drone is by selling aerial photographs and videos.
Drones have impressive cameras that can shoot in 4K.
You can upload footage to a website that stocks and sells them. You receive a commission when someone buys your photos or videos.
It’s as simple as that!
Here are the most recognizable marketplaces to stock your images and videos:
- Getty Images
What photos and videos interest users the most? Landscapes, seascapes, and famous places.
If your drone can shoot time lapses, these are very popular too.
Just imagine taking a timelapse video of cars passing by an avenue at night. Breathtaking, for sure!
2. Aerial photography/videography #
You can offer your services as an aerial photographer and videographer on freelance websites.
People post projects or even jobs for aerial drone pilots to perform.
Once you see an offer of interest, you can apply and wait for the potential customer to reach out and hire you.
With this method, you gain knowledge of the niches with high demand for drone photography or videography.
And the best part is that you can start building your portfolio right away with zero experience.
These sites offer jobs for the most experienced pilots to total beginners, so everyone is covered.
The best sites to find jobs or projects for aerial photographers or videographers are Upwork, Fiverr, and Indeed.
Of the three options, the best one for projects is Upwork. However, you need to pass an exam for them to allow you to use the platform.
The good news is that drone services are in demand, so it’s easy to enter now.
Fiverr is the quickest place to start; you only need to sign in. On Indeed, you’ll find companies seeking experienced drone pilots.
3. Influencer or blogger #
Another way to gather clients is by publishing on social media.
With drones like the DJI Mini 3 Pro, you can take pictures or videos in portrait mode.
That way, you don’t need to heavily edit your footage, making it easy to upload daily content.
You’ll grow your audience by continuously posting your content on platforms like TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram.
You can increase your followers to the point where companies and brands contact you to offer you gigs.
Drone manufacturers like Autel and DJI may contact you to advertise their products on your page.
They will ask you to put their links in your bio. Then you earn a commission for every sale, or they’ll pay you for the time their link is on your account.
4. Architectural photography/videography #
Another lucrative way to make money with a drone is by taking photos of architectonic structures.
The pilots specializing in this field work for agencies wanting to sell properties. So you must understand how to use manual mode pretty well.
You can take videos and pictures from angles and distances to show the whole property using your drone. The final shots are very impressive and attractive without too much effort.
But which drone to use? You can check our guide to the best drones for architectural photography.
5. Mapping/Surveying #
You can cover vast areas with a drone thanks to the high altitudes it can get.
With a 1-inch 20MP camera sensor drone, you can recreate complex structures to obtain distances, areas, and volumes with exactitude.
For this kind of job, you need a drone that can use mapping software like Pix4D and DroneDeploy.
With them, you program the drone to follow a specific path that takes lots of photos.
Then it merges those pictures to recreate a 2D or 3D model for the engineers to extract the measurements.
Those measurements serve the construction industry, indicating safe places to build a factory, residence, or any other project.
Drones have revolutionized the surveying industry as their experts now have tools to cover gigantic areas fast and accurately.
The fun part is that you let the drone do most of the job!
6. Agriculture mapping #
In the same vein, agriculture uses drone mapping to determine crop health. Farmers know exactly which action to take on each crop or crop area.
Drones even tell you how to use your agricultural machinery for an improved crop.
What tools are ideal for that crop’s healthy and fast growth? You’ll know with this specialized drone mapping software.
Then you can use drones to spray the fields with fertilizers, pesticides, or any other mixture with accuracy thanks to the drone’s GPS-assisted hovering.
We will always need agriculture for food sourcing, so this is a present and future drone application.
7. Risk analysis mapping #
Another way to use a drone is to understand risk zones.
Using drones is convenient in places like mines, where people constantly work in a specific area.
With a drone, you can effectively monitor these places for erosion, water drainage, and tool management.
Performing a daily mapping mission with a drone increases awareness of what’s happening on the working site. That way, the people in charge can decide to safely maintain the operation.
Also, using drones to track changes in harsh environments like volcanos helps to understand abnormal activities and develop a preventive action plan.
8. Wildlife monitoring and mapping #
Governmental or other entities that protect wildlife use drones to understand animal behavior.
With an eagle eye on the sky, you can easily track population, migrations, and how species interact.
And with constant innovations, you can now equip a drone with UV, infrared, temperature, and other sensors to track essential data for wildlife conservation like ocean currents and temperature.
All of that with a little gadget that can fit in any backpack.
9. Roof inspections #
Drones have also made some jobs safer.
Roof inspections are a daily activity for drone pilots. They can perform a further evaluation after inspection.
The best part is that they complete the inspection without risking their life taking pictures from a roof.
The inspector only needs to program the drone from the ground, and it does most of the job. The drone will always take photos and videos from a safe place in the air.
Drones also gather photos and videos fast, so you can perform several inspections.
That’s why roof inspection companies have invested in drones, increasing their popularity fast.
10. Surveillance #
Drones take crisp photos and videos and transmit FHD live feeds without delays or glitches.
Thanks to their detailed transmissions, drones have become popular in this space.
With drones, you can precisely see several miles away and easily differentiate people, animals, and things.
These features make them perfect for spotting malicious acts even in inaccessible angles for a fixed camera.
Companies with huge parking lots and warehouses use them to track suspicious activities in real time. As you can guess, this is a continuous activity, so there is too much work in this space.
11. Sports performance analyses #
Shooting a game from the ground doesn’t give all the details the coaching staff wants.
With a drone, you can shoot from altitudes, distances, and angles where coaches can understand formations and how the team positions on the ground during the game.
Also, they serve to spot how a single player or team behaves in training and how they perform.
Recording these sport sessions also give valuable information that players can check later so everyone can act according to the needs spotted on the videos the drone took.
12. Drone journalism #
The most common scenario where you need a cameraman is in journalism.
Drones work as a cameraman that can reach difficult-to-access places like mines and volcanos.
Drones can even film with tremendous detail in foggy environments and low light.
You can also make your drone record while following you as you speak through an event scenario.
News agencies can give insights into extraordinary events with spectacular takes from the sky.
Since not too many journalists have the skills to maneuver them, news agencies contract pilots on-demand to work as cameramen or train their staff.
13. Teaching drone flight #
You can give drone classes with an instructor license, work for a training center as a teacher, or post an online course.
You could host it on an online platform like Skillshare and sell it to people who want to improve their drone skills.
Alternatively, become a drone racer. #
If you want a more exciting way to make money with a drone, become a drone racer.
Pilots in a drone racing league can earn juicy contracts with sponsors like Red Bull.
Believe us. If you have the required skills to become a top-not drone pilot, you can travel the world for free and get paid.
» MORE: Make Money with FPV: How to Get Started (From an Expert)
How much to charge for drone services #
Drone services cost $75 to $500 an hour; the average rate will depend on the job.
What specific training and certification do you need? Where do you have to go to perform the job? What does the customer expect you to do?
These are some of the questions you should ask before you charge.
As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t charge less than $75 per job.
Some markets have become cannibalized due to people offering their services for pennies. You should charge a fair amount for your services to prevent the drone market from dropping.
If you’re just starting, it’s wiser to work for free to build a strong portfolio. That way, you guarantee people will pay you the amount you ask for in future work.
Here are some points to consider for a complete idea of the amount to charge.
How much to charge in different industries #
Without any doubt, there are markets with lots of money. Those are the ones that will guarantee you $150 to $500 per hour.
But those markets need you fully trained in specific areas.
The agricultural market pays, on average, $180 an hour. However, you better be an expert in the field, as your customers will surely ask for analyses.
In the oil and gas industry, you need certifications and several hours of visual inspections, for instance. That’s why these companies pay $200 to $500 an hour on average.
Any job that requires mapping, surveillance, or flying your drone with a specific software enters that range.
When starting, providing your services on Upwork and Fiverr will help you gain confidence and knowledge.
There you can find jobs in real estate or as an aerial photographer, where the payment rounds $100. You can increase that bid to $300 or more, depending on the client.
if you want an in-depth article about pricing your drone services, check out this link.
What drone do you need? #
The wonderful thing about aerial photography is that you don’t need a $10,000 drone. You can start taking amazing shots with an $800 drone like the Autel EVO Nano Plus or DJI Mini 3 Pro.
Then you can upgrade to a $1,000 to 2,000 drone, such as the DJI Air 2S and Mavic 3 Pro, which guarantees more advanced photography and videography.
» MORE: How Much Do Aerial Photographers Make?
What software do you need? #
Enterprise solutions like oil and gas and wildlife conservation need specialized monitoring software. These software solutions are expensive, so you must charge for them accordingly.
If the companies grant you their unique licenses to use the software, you can make a discount on your service.
You will need photo and video editing software like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom.
These tools have a monthly charge of around $20, so that’s another reason to avoid going below $75 for your drone services.
What type of training do you need? #
On top of that, you need specific experience in a market to achieve the desired outcome.
Clients will contract you for beginner jobs to provide crisp videos and photos.
Then you can hire someone to edit these photos on Fiverr while you learn. And believe me, the learning process is relatively fast.
There isn’t a shortcut for jobs requiring a posterior analysis like mapping. You need weeks or even months of training to get a mapping right, and you must charge for that knowledge.
» MORE: How To Make Money With A Drone
Do you need insurance? #
Let’s say you’re performing a photo session of a house for sale. Suddenly, your drone hits the window and breaks the glass. The agency will charge you that.
You should always insure your drone for these scenarios.
The amount you pay depends on the market, as a first-story window isn’t as expensive as a mansion window, just as you can’t compare the damage of an oil pipe to a roof.
So for beginner jobs, the insurance charge will be about $80 for aerial photography projects.
Other expenses #
Finally, we have the costs we don’t think about regularly, like food, commuting, hotels, etc.
We usually neglect these costs, and most companies do too.
If you don’t care for yourself, why would other people do it? Always make this point clear, as other people won’t value your time as you do.
What do I need to start making money with a drone? #
You need a camera drone for the job you want to perform and a license.
The great news is that you must only be 16 to get a license. No college, no MBA required. Only a license and proof that you can fly a drone.
Depending on the market, you will need a specific certification.
Let’s say you want to work for a maritime wildlife conservation organization.
They will need you to perform thermography analyses with your drone. They will surely ask you for the number of hours on that specific task.
But it ends up being high-end corporate applications only.
You can still make decent money with aerial photography or selling your content through Shutterstock or DroneStock.
We have the following examples to understand the dimension of drone services nowadays.
Making money with drones in NFL #
The NFL uses drones to capture cinematics for commercials, documentaries, and post-match replays.
In the past, they needed to use airplanes, but it was expensive and required too much preparation.
With drones, the NFL has decreased its investment in producing these campaigns. Drones are very cheap to operate, and you can set them to fly in minutes.
The NFL even uses drones to disinfect stadiums. Partnering with drone cleaning services, they can clean faster than a worker with a sprayer.
If you find this interesting, we invite you to read our NFL drone application article at this link.
Cleaning windows with drones #
Speaking of cleaning services, some companies already use drones that way.
Drones can access hard-to-reach areas without equipment or tedious preparation. Also, they prevent employees from getting into hazardous situations.
Fishing with drones #
Fishing with a drone is now a reality.
Companies like SwellPro and Gannet manufacture waterproof heavyweight drones to catch fish. These drones have incredible cameras for you to spot fish and release bait.
Although no big companies currently use them, hobbyists have made fishing drones very popular.
Delivery with drones #
Finally, the most awaited use for drones.
Drone delivery started as a dream in 2009 with Amazon, and now companies like UPS are testing them for release soon.
Why aren’t delivery companies using them right now?
Drones operate in airspace strictly regulated by agencies in every country. In the US, the FAA controls drones flying by FAR 107.
Companies that want to use them must comply with these regulations too.
Delivery companies haven’t been able to provide a safe solution that meets all the civil aviation regulations.
» MORE: The Fastest Way to Make Money with a Mavic