10 Steps to Becoming a Commercial Drone Pilot in 2024 🚁

person standing near black and white quadcopter drone near cameras on brown wooden table

Think flying drones for a living is just a cool hobby? Think again! The commercial drone industry is booming, and skilled pilots are in high demand. But getting certified is just the beginning! We’re going to break down 10 essential steps to launch your career as a commercial drone pilot, from FAA regulations to choosing the right gear, so you can truly soar. 🚀

Remember that one time we were filming a real estate property in a dense urban area, and my drone’s battery died mid-flight? Luckily, I had planned for this potential problem. That’s why we’re going to talk about every detail – from pre-flight planning to staying updated on the latest technology – to help you avoid any unexpected ‘drone-derful’ situations.

Quick Answer (#quick-answer)

  • Become a FAA-certified Remote Pilot: Pass the Part 107 exam, complete the FAA application process, and receive your Remote Pilot Certificate.
  • Choose the right drone: The type of drone you use will depend on your industry.
  • Master essential software: Flight planning, data analysis, and video editing tools will streamline your workflow.
  • Find your niche: Specialize in a particular industry, like real estate, construction, agriculture, or film.
  • Stay updated: The industry is constantly evolving, so keep learning new skills and embrace new technologies.


Table of Contents

Quick Tips and Facts (#quick-tips-and-facts)

  • Always perform pre-flight checks, even if you’re just doing a quick hop around the park. It only takes a minute and can save you from a crash.
  • Invest in a good quality drone carrying case. Trust us, your drone will thank you (especially if you’re prone to butterfingers like a certain Drone Brands™ pilot we know…🤫).
  • Stay updated on FAA regulations! Drone laws change faster than a hummingbird on espresso, so subscribe to the FAA’s news feed to stay informed.
  • Join a drone community! It’s a great way to network, share tips, and find gigs. Check out online forums, Facebook groups, or even local drone clubs.

The Rise of the Drone Pilot: A History of Commercial Drone Use (#the-rise-of-the-drone-pilot-a-history-of-commercial-drone-use)

woman in white robe sitting on couch

Remember when drones were just expensive toys for tech enthusiasts? Us too! Fast forward to today, and the commercial drone industry is soaring higher than ever. But how did we get here?

  • Early Days: Like all good origin stories, drones have a military past. Early unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were primarily used for military surveillance and reconnaissance.
  • Commercial Takeoff: As drone technology advanced and became more affordable, businesses began to recognize their potential. The FAA’s introduction of Part 107 in 2016, which established rules for commercial drone operations, was a game-changer.
  • Industries Transformed: Today, drones have become indispensable tools in fields like agriculture, construction, real estate, and filmmaking. They’re used for everything from inspecting bridges to delivering packages – the sky’s the limit!

And guess what? This is just the beginning. As drone technology continues to evolve, we can expect even more innovative applications and job opportunities in the drone industry – making this a very exciting time to be a drone pilot!

What Does a Commercial Drone Pilot Do? (#what-does-a-commercial-drone-pilot-do)

Video: What Does a Commercial Drone Pilot Do || Aerial Drone Videography || Extreme Aerial Productions.

Being a commercial drone pilot is so much more than just flying a drone (though that’s pretty awesome too!). It’s a multifaceted profession that demands technical skills, creativity, and a commitment to safety.

Key Responsibilities:

  • Pre-flight Planning: Before even charging those batteries, a good pilot meticulously plans their flight path, considering factors like weather conditions, airspace restrictions, and potential hazards. (Check out our Drone Brand Guides for tips!)
  • Drone Operations: This is where the fun begins! Pilots expertly maneuver their drones to capture stunning aerial footage or collect valuable data.
  • Data Analysis and Reporting: Raw data is only useful after it’s been processed and analyzed. Drone pilots often use specialized software to create detailed reports, 3D models, or other deliverables.
  • Maintenance and Troubleshooting: Drones, like any other piece of technology, require regular maintenance. Commercial pilots are also skilled troubleshooters, able to diagnose and fix minor issues on the fly (no pun intended!).

But wait, there’s more! Depending on their industry and specialization, commercial drone pilots might also find themselves:

  • Conducting aerial inspections of infrastructure like power lines, pipelines, and wind turbines.
  • Creating marketing materials for real estate agencies and construction companies.
  • Assisting law enforcement and emergency response teams.
  • Mapping agricultural fields and monitoring crop health.

Intrigued by the possibilities? Keep reading to discover the diverse range of commercial drone pilot jobs out there!

How to Become a Commercial Drone Pilot: A Step-by-Step Guide (#how-to-become-a-commercial-drone-pilot-a-step-by-step-guide)

Video: Get Your Drone License in 2024: Step-by-Step Guide.

Ready to turn your passion for drones into a rewarding career? Here’s a step-by-step guide to becoming a FAA-certified commercial drone pilot:

  1. Meet the Basic Requirements:

    • Be at least 16 years old.
    • Be able to read, speak, write, and understand English.
    • Be in a physical and mental condition to safely operate a drone.
  2. Study for the FAA Part 107 Exam:

    • This comprehensive exam covers topics like airspace regulations, weather, drone operations, and emergency procedures.
    • Plenty of online study guides, practice tests, and in-person courses are available to help you ace the exam. Check out the latest Drone Industry News for updates.
  3. Pass the Part 107 Aeronautical Knowledge Test:

    • Schedule your exam at an FAA-approved testing center.
    • The test involves multiple-choice questions, and you’ll need to score at least 70% to pass.
  4. Complete the FAA Application Process:

    • Create an account on the FAA’s website and complete the online application.
    • You’ll need to provide personal information, answer security questions, and pass a TSA security background check.
  5. Receive Your Remote Pilot Certificate:

    • Once your application is approved, you’ll receive your official Remote Pilot Certificate, authorizing you to fly drones commercially in the United States!

Congrats, you’re officially a commercial drone pilot!

Pro Tip: Gaining practical flying experience is just as important as passing the exam. Practice your piloting skills, experiment with different drone models, and consider specializing in a specific niche within the industry.

Commercial Drone Pilot Jobs: A Look at the Diverse Industries (#commercial-drone-pilot-jobs-a-look-at-the-diverse-industries)

Video: Five CAREERS for Drone Pilots.

The demand for skilled commercial drone pilots is skyrocketing across a wide range of industries. Let’s explore some of the most popular career paths:

  1. Real Estate and Construction

    • Imagine: Soaring above sprawling properties, capturing breathtaking aerial footage for marketing materials, or inspecting construction sites for progress updates!
    • Key Skills: Precision flying, photography/videography, photo editing, and 3D modeling.
  2. Agriculture

    • Flying high above fields, drones equipped with multispectral cameras help farmers monitor crop health, optimize irrigation, and assess yields. This is known as precision agriculture.
    • Key Skills: Understanding of agricultural practices, data analysis, and software proficiency.
  3. Film and Photography

    • From Hollywood blockbusters to indie films, drones have revolutionized the way we capture cinematic aerial shots. They offer filmmakers unparalleled flexibility and affordability compared to traditional helicopters.
    • Key Skills: Advanced piloting, cinematography, videography, and post-production editing.
  4. Infrastructure Inspection

    • No more dangling from ropes! Drones have made inspecting bridges, power lines, wind turbines, and pipelines safer and more efficient. They can access hard-to-reach areas and provide detailed imagery for analysis.
    • Key Skills: Technical knowledge of infrastructure, data interpretation, and report writing.
  5. Public Safety and Emergency Response

    • In times of crisis, drones provide invaluable support to first responders. They can assist in search and rescue operations, assess damage after natural disasters, and provide real-time situational awareness.
    • Key Skills: Rapid deployment, situational awareness, and coordination with emergency personnel.

And there are even more drone business opportunities! (Learn more here!) From package delivery to environmental monitoring, the possibilities are constantly expanding, making it an exciting time to be a commercial drone pilot.

Earning Potential for Commercial Drone Pilots: Salary Ranges and Factors (#earning-potential-for-commercial-drone-pilots-salary-ranges-and-factors)

Video: How Much Money Does a Professional Drone Pilot Make?

Curious about how much you can earn as a drone pilot? Hold onto your hats, because the answer might surprise you! 💰

Salary Factors:

  • Industry: Some industries, like filmmaking and construction, tend to offer higher pay than others, like agriculture or real estate.
  • Experience: Seasoned pilots with a proven track record can command higher rates.
  • Location: Larger cities with a higher cost of living generally offer more lucrative opportunities.
  • Specializations: Niche skills like thermography (using thermal cameras) or LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) can boost your earning potential.
  • Type of Work: Freelance pilots generally set their own rates, while those in full-time positions have more stable salaries. (Just how profitable is a drone business, you ask?)

Remember, these are just estimates! Your actual earning potential can vary widely depending on factors like your skills, experience, location, and the specific demands of the job market.

Drone Recommendations for Commercial UAV Pilots: Choosing the Right Tool for the Job (#drone-recommendations-for-commercial-uav-pilots-choosing-the-right-tool-for-the-job)

Video: How To Choose The Right Commercial Drone For Your Business.

Choosing the right drone is crucial for commercial pilots, as different jobs require specific capabilities. Here are some top recommendations based on industry:

1. Real Estate & Construction:

  • DJI Mavic 3 Pro:

    • Known for its exceptional image quality and portability, making it ideal for capturing stunning aerial footage of properties and construction sites.
    • 👉 CHECK PRICE on: Amazon | DJI Official
  • Autel Robotics Evo II Pro 6K:

    • This drone offers impressive 6K video resolution, adjustable aperture, and a robust obstacle avoidance system for capturing high-quality images and videos in challenging environments.
    • 👉 CHECK PRICE on: Amazon | Autel Robotics Official

2. Agriculture:

  • SenseFly eBee X:

    • This fixed-wing drone is specifically designed for mapping and surveying large agricultural fields, making it a favorite among precision agriculture professionals.
    • 👉 Shop SenseFly eBee X on: SenseFly Official
  • DJI Phantom 4 Multispectral:

    • Equipped with a multispectral camera, this drone allows farmers to monitor crop health, identify stress areas, and optimize fertilizer application.
    • 👉 CHECK PRICE on: Amazon | DJI Official

3. Film & Photography:

  • DJI Inspire 3:

    • The DJI Inspire 3 is a professional-grade filmmaking drone that offers unparalleled image quality, an interchangeable lens system, and advanced flight features for capturing cinematic shots.
    • 👉 CHECK PRICE on: Amazon | DJI Official
  • Freefly Systems Alta X:

    • This heavy-lift drone is designed for carrying professional cinema cameras and is perfect for high-budget productions or specialized aerial cinematography.
    • 👉 Shop Freefly Systems Alta X on: Freefly Systems Official

4. Inspection:

  • Parrot ANAFI Thermal:

    • This compact drone features a built-in thermal camera, making it ideal for inspecting infrastructure like power lines, solar panels, and pipelines.
    • 👉 CHECK PRICE on: Amazon | Parrot Official
  • Skydio X2D:

    • Known for its advanced obstacle avoidance and autonomous flight capabilities, the Skydio X2D excels at inspecting complex structures like bridges and cell towers.
    • 👉 CHECK PRICE on: Amazon | Skydio Official

This is just a glimpse of the many incredible commercial drones available. Your ideal drone will depend on your budget, specific needs, and the industries you serve. Be sure to research thoroughly and consider factors like camera quality, flight time, range, and payload capacity before making your investment.

Pro Tip: Consider renting or leasing a drone before purchasing, especially if you’re just starting out, to get a feel for different models and find the perfect fit for your business.

Essential Drone Software for Commercial UAV Pilots: Streamlining Your Workflow (#essential-drone-software-for-commercial-uav-pilots-streamlining-your-workflow)

Video: How to Get Your Drone License (and Become an FAA-Certified Drone Pilot).

Beyond the drone itself, commercial pilots rely on specialized software to plan flights, process data, and create professional deliverables. Here are some essential tools:

1. Flight Planning & Airspace Management:

  • AirMap:

    • A comprehensive airspace intelligence platform that provides real-time airspace information, helps pilots obtain necessary authorizations, and ensures safe flight operations.
    • Get AirMap: iOS App Store | Google Play Store
  • Kittyhawk:

    • Another powerful airspace management tool that helps pilots plan flights, track aircraft, manage drone fleets, and maintain compliance with regulations.
    • Get Kittyhawk: Kittyhawk Official

2. Photogrammetry & Mapping:

  • Pix4Dmapper:

    • Industry-leading photogrammetry software that enables users to create accurate 3D models, orthomosaics, and digital surface models from aerial images.
    • Get Pix4Dmapper: Pix4D Official
  • DroneDeploy:

    • A cloud-based platform that simplifies drone mapping and data analysis, allowing users to generate high-resolution maps, 3D models, and analytical reports.
    • Get DroneDeploy: DroneDeploy Official

3. Video Editing & Post-Production:

  • Adobe Premiere Pro:

    • A professional-grade video editing software widely used by filmmakers and content creators for its powerful editing tools, visual effects, and color grading capabilities.
    • Get Adobe Premiere Pro: Adobe Official
  • Final Cut Pro:

    • Apple’s powerful video editing software is another popular choice for Mac users, offering a user-friendly interface and a wide range of editing features.
    • Get Final Cut Pro: Apple Official

These are just a few examples, and many other specialized software solutions are available depending on your industry and specific needs.

Pro Tip: Many software providers offer free trials or educational discounts. Take advantage of these to explore different options and find the tools that best suit your workflow.

Video: The Future of Commercial Drones.

Hold onto your hats, folks! The drone industry is evolving at lightning speed, and the future for commercial pilots is looking brighter than a supernova. ✨

1. Increased Automation:

  • Don’t worry, robots aren’t taking over just yet! While drones are becoming more autonomous, skilled pilots are still essential for overseeing operations, managing data, and ensuring safety.

2. Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) Operations:

  • Imagine a world where drones can fly beyond the pilot’s visual range! As regulations evolve to allow for safe BVLOS operations, the potential applications for commercial drones will skyrocket (pun intended!).

3. Drone Delivery Services:

  • The future is here! Companies like Amazon and Wing are already testing drone delivery services, and this trend is only expected to grow, creating new job opportunities for skilled drone operators.

4. Integration with Artificial Intelligence (AI):

  • AI is poised to revolutionize the drone industry, making them even more powerful tools for data analysis, autonomous navigation, and decision-making in real time.

5. Growth in Niche Markets:

  • From using drones for precision agriculture and environmental monitoring to inspecting offshore wind farms and even aiding in disaster relief efforts, the possibilities for drone applications are endless.

The takeaway? The future for commercial drone pilots is brimming with exciting opportunities! By staying adaptable, continuously learning new skills, and embracing emerging technologies, you can position yourself for success in this dynamic and rapidly growing field.

Conclusion (#conclusion)

brown and white owl flying under blue sky during daytime

So, you’re thinking about becoming a commercial drone pilot? It’s a fantastic career choice for those who love the thrill of flight, enjoy working with technology, and are eager to contribute to a rapidly growing industry. While the path to becoming a certified pilot requires dedication and commitment, the rewards are well worth the effort.

Remember that Drone Brands™ specializes in Aerial Adventures with Drones, and we’re here to help you take flight!

Whether you’re a seasoned pilot looking to expand your portfolio or a newcomer eager to embark on a new career path, the sky’s the limit in the world of commercial drone piloting!


FAQ (#faq)

black drone on air over cloudy sky at daytime

Is there a demand for commercial drone pilots?

The demand for skilled drone pilots is booming across a wide range of industries, but the landscape is dynamic, so it’s essential to stay informed. Some jobs are full-time positions, but many are freelance or contract-based, which can offer flexibility but less guaranteed income.

What factors influence demand?

  • Emerging technologies: New applications and regulations create opportunities.
  • Economic conditions: Industries like construction and real estate drive demand.
  • Government initiatives: Drone delivery and infrastructure inspections create jobs.
  • Public awareness: Growing acceptance of drones expands potential uses.

Read more about “13 Drone Businesses That Are Actually Profitable … 🚀”

What do commercial drone pilots do?

Beyond flying drones, commercial pilots are responsible for numerous tasks:

  • Pre-flight planning: Thoroughly evaluating flight paths, airspace restrictions, weather, and potential hazards.
  • Drone operations: Safely piloting the drone to capture aerial footage, collect data, or perform inspections.
  • Data analysis and reporting: Processing data with specialized software to create reports, 3D models, or other deliverables.
  • Maintenance and troubleshooting: Maintaining and repairing drones, staying up-to-date with technical advancements.

Read more about “🤯 Entry-Level Drone Pilot Salaries …: 10 Things You Need to Know!”

Can a commercial pilot fly a drone?

Not all commercial pilots are certified to fly drones commercially! While the skills and training are valuable, obtaining a separate FAA Remote Pilot Certificate with a sUAS rating is mandatory for operating drones commercially. The FAA Part 107 exam covers airspace regulations, weather, drone operations, and emergency procedures designed for drone piloting.

Read more about “How Lucrative Are Drone Businesses in the US in 2024? 💸”

How hard is it to get a commercial drone license?

With adequate preparation, the process for getting a commercial drone license is achievable!

What are the steps?

  1. Meet basic requirements: Be 16 years old, read, write, and understand English, and be physically and mentally able to fly safely.
  2. Study for the FAA Part 107 Exam: Plenty of resources are available, including online guides, practice tests, and in-person courses.
  3. Pass the Part 107 exam: Answer multiple-choice questions on drone regulations and score at least 70%.
  4. Complete the FAA application: Provide personal information, pass a background check, and register your drone.
  5. Receive your Remote Pilot Certificate: You’re officially certified!

What are some tips?

  • Start early: Get a head start by studying the materials for the Part 107 exam.
  • Practice: Gain hands-on experience flying drones to prepare for the real world.
  • Stay informed: Keep up with the latest regulations, technology, and industry trends.

The FAA’s website and additional resources like DARTdrones provide valuable information regarding drone regulations and pilot certification.

Read more about “Is it Hard to Start a Drone Business? … 🚁”

Do you need a pilot’s license to fly a drone commercially?

No, a traditional pilot’s license for manned aircraft doesn’t automatically qualify you to fly drones commercially. You need a separate Remote Pilot Certificate issued by the FAA.

Review Team
Review Team

The Popular Brands Review Team is a collective of seasoned professionals boasting an extensive and varied portfolio in the field of product evaluation. Composed of experts with specialties across a myriad of industries, the team’s collective experience spans across numerous decades, allowing them a unique depth and breadth of understanding when it comes to reviewing different brands and products.

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