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6 Jobs that Use Drones

A close look at a drone being flown during sunset.

According to Pitchbook, the drone industry is soaring to new heights, and more and more commercial drone operations are being formed in the drone sector. This is good news if you’re a professional drone pilot, but still, you may be wondering just exactly what the drone technology industry has to offer you. 

To help you out, we’ve done research on the drone job market. The guide below breaks down the top jobs that use drones and includes information, such as potential earnings, experience needed, and the basic details for each job.

Let’s get started!

Drone Journalist

A close look at a Press drone photographer with his equipment.

These days you don’t have to be there to capture breaking news or close coverage of interesting events. As a drone journalist, you’ll be using a drone or unmanned aircraft system that carries a high-resolution camera for journalistic purposes.

Amount of schooling required. Typically, you need a bachelor’s degree in journalism, communications, media, information technology, and other related fields. You may also need some drone-related certification.

  • Earnings. Journalism majors, photojournalists, and news anchors earn between $35,000 and $50,000 per year. Over time, you can earn as much as $400 for a few hours of work.
  • How do you get this job? You can apply online on job sites like Indeed and Zip Recruiter.
  • What type of drone do you need? Unless you only cover breaking news, you’re better off with an expensive drone or unmanned aircraft system that can handle a high-end camera.
  • What other equipment or software is needed? Photo processing software, such as Adobe photoshop.
  • Sectors that advertise this job. Newsroom and media companies that rely on unmanned aerial vehicle coverage.
  • Examples of what you’ll be doing. Take footage of hard-to-reach areas, such as volcanic eruptions, places where war is raging, or where natural disasters have occurred.
  • Other related skillsets. Besides top-notch flying skills, you may need experience in photography and videography.
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Drone farmer/agriculture surveyor

 A farmer controlling the agricultural drone with his tablet.

A drone farmer cuts out most of the legwork of walking up and down farms by surveying the land using drone technology to monitor crop health and discover areas that require more attention.

  • Amount of schooling required. Learning how to handle specialized equipment and manipulate the required software can take about four weeks.
  • Earnings. Some drone farmers make up to $150/hr.
  • How do you get this job? You can apply for drone pilot jobs online by browsing through popular drone pilot marketplaces.
  • What type of drone do you need? A drone made specifically for the agricultural industry. These often come with a multispectral sensor.
  • What other equipment or software is needed? Specialized equipment, such as multispectral sensors and specialized software. 
  • Sectors that advertise this job. The agricultural sector.
  • Examples of what you’ll be doing. Flying a drone with a multispectral sensor over a farm to analyze crop health and identify areas that need more fertilizer and irrigation.
  • Other related skillsets. The ability to create NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) maps.

Power line/energy inspector

A close look at an engineer working on the solar panels.

Before drone technology and unmanned aircraft systems became popular, energy companies spent a lot of resources hiring and training people to inspect assets like power lines and solar panels. As a drone pilot energy inspector, you’ll be able to make these inspections faster and with less risk involved via aerial inspection.

  • Amount of schooling required. A few months.
  • Earnings. You can make anywhere from $100/hr to $300/hr.
  • How do you get this job? Through drone pilot marketplaces or by marketing your services to energy companies.
  • What type of drone do you need? Commercial drones with ferromagnetic protection ensure your drone is not damaged by the electromagnetic interference power given off by power lines.
  • What other equipment or software is needed? Software related to energy inspections and which allows you to map any collected data.
  • Sectors that advertise this job. Energy and utility companies.
  • Examples of what you’ll be doing. Inspecting power lines to identify damaged sections.
  • Other related skillsets. Technical knowledge and familiarity with energy-related infrastructure.
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Search and rescue worker

A group of rescue workers carrying an injured man on a stretcher.

As an emergency responder, you’ll be flying drones to cover a lot of ground quickly and help increase the chances of a successful mission.

  • Amount of schooling required. It may take several weeks to a few months to earn a remote pilot certificate.
  • Earnings. Rescue workers, such as firefighters, earn about $50,000 per year. Earnings for drone pilots who do UAV search and rescue work are probably similar.
  • How do you get this job? You can market your skills to law enforcement agencies or other companies that specialize in search and rescue.
  • What type of drone do you need? A drone with a thermal camera, or which can be outfitted with a spotlight and speaker.
  • What other equipment or software is needed? Drone mapping software that helps you create orthomosiac maps of relevant areas.
  • Sectors that advertise this job. Search and rescue teams.
  • Examples of what you’ll be doing. Provide a bird’s-eye view to help locate missing or lost persons as a remote pilot.
  • Other related skillsets. You may need experience in law enforcement or emergency response services.

Police drone pilot

A police office prepares to fly the police drone.

A UAV police pilot generally helps ensure public safety by mapping out areas that need resources, like extra security and human resources.

  • Amount of schooling required. Training in public safety and drone pilot certification can take anywhere from a few weeks to months.
  • Earnings. This depends on the agency that hires you. For instance, if you’re looking to work with a fire department, the best thing is to find out what other people in similar roles are getting.
  • How do you get this job? Applying with job agencies that recruit drone operators for public safety agencies.
  • What type of drone do you need? A mid-range UAV like Phantom 4. Some jobs provide a drone, so you won’t have to buy one.
  • What other equipment or software is needed? You may need drone mapping software.
  • Sectors that advertise this job. Public safety agencies such as police departments, fire departments, etc.
  • Examples of what you’ll be doing. Using a drone to provide information about a building that needs to be evacuated or locating areas where resources should be directed.
  • Other related skillsets. You may need expertise in the area of public safety.
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Real Estate Marketer

A real estate marketer in a suit controlling the drone on his tablet.

Here you’ll be helping prospective home buyers make a more informed decision by providing aerial footage of properties they are interested in.

  • Amount of schooling required. You can be a self-taught drone operator, but certification helps you leverage a higher salary. You can become a certified drone pilot with as little as three weeks of study and training.
  • Earnings. This depends on location and skill. Generally, a UAV operator in this field can earn up to $40/hr or $300 per job.
  • How do you get this job? You can apply online or pitch your skills to clients who require your services.
  • What type of drone do you need? You can get by fine with a mid-range drone, such as a Mavic.
  • What other equipment or software is needed? Video and image processing software, such as Adobe premium software.
  • Sectors that advertise this job. Real estate and hospitality companies, like resorts.
  • Examples of what you’ll be doing. Taking videos to showcase a property’s aesthetics from all angles and creating a 3D model of a property.
  • Other related skillsets. Drone flying skills and knowledge of videography and photography.

Drone pilot for the mining and construction industry

A drone being operated at a mining site.

Your drone operator services may be in demand in construction and mining industries that need to survey sites. These industries then use the information you collect to know which areas are suitable for conducting operations. 

  • Amount of schooling required. Several weeks or a few months.
  • Earnings. Range from $50/hr to $500/hr depending on skill and location.
  • How do you get this job? Marketing your services to relevant companies or applying on relevant job marketplaces.
  • What type of drone do you need? A heavy-duty drone made for industrial purposes.
  • What other equipment or software is needed? Software to process the drone data you collect and create 3D maps or orthomosaics.
  • Sectors that advertise this job. Mining and construction companies.
  • Examples of what you’ll be doing. Flying a drone to carry out a pre-building inspection.
  • Other related skillsets. Job site surveying experience.
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Drone Pilot Instructor

A drone pilot instructor teaching people to pilot drone.

You can also use your skills and expertise to introduce other drone pilots into the industry by teaching them the necessary skills.

  • Amount of schooling required. A few years of experience and enough flight hours to train people adequately.
  • Earnings. It depends since you’ll be setting your own rates.
  • What type of drone or software is needed? Basic drone flight equipment and software. You may need specialized equipment if you’re teaching specialized skills.
  • Sectors that advertise this job. People who want to learn how to become drone pilots and work in drone delivery.
  • Examples of what you’ll be doing. Teaching newbies how to master the art of flying drones.
  • Other related skillsets. Besides drone piloting skills, you need great communication and marketing skills.

Drone Photographer and Filmmaker

A close look at a desk with photography and filmmaking equipment.

You can start as a drone pilot freelancer and expand your business from there. The good news is, drone aerial photography and filmmaking have a large market, and it’s possible to have a wide client base, especially with drone filmmaking.

  • Amount of schooling required. Online commercial drone pilot courses typically take several weeks to complete.
  • Earnings. This varies with location and skill, but you can start charging more as you build your portfolio.
  • How do you get this job? By marketing your drone photography and filmmaking services as aggressively as possible. Sooner or later, you’ll get noticed by real estate agencies, film producers, documentary producers, or potential clients. You can also join a drone pilot network to access more clients.
  • What type of drone equipment or software do you need? This depends on the type of services you’re offering. It’s best to familiarize yourself with the different types of drones and related software out there.
  • Examples of what you’ll be doing. Taking a newsworthy aerial shot and selling it online or providing coverage of events, such as weddings.
  • Other related skillsets. Knowledge of business planning, drone insurance, filmmaking, photography, and marketing your drone pilot services.
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