How To Make Money With A Drone In 2022 (An Illustrated Guide)
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Owning a drone and getting to fly one regularly is awesome, but I was hearing about people making money with their drone. Get paid to fly? Earn money to buy more drones? Yes and YES. I had to get in on the action. I found every possible way I could to learn how to make money with my drone.
Apart from actual drone specific jobs, there are a number of drone businesses you can start. From real estate photography to agricultural applications, there is a use for a drone in practically every industry. The start up costs for these businesses varies. This cost is mostly based on what kind of drone is needed. High quality cameras and specialized functionality can drive up the cost of your drone and ultimately the cost of starting your business. The upside is that drone related work is usually high paying and you only need a few clients to recoup any costs to start.
How much money can I make flying drones?
Because that’s why you are really here, right? You want to make some money…some REAL money! Well there is a lot of money to be made in the booming drone services industry. It is projected to grow to over $60 billion by 2025. That’s a lot of cheddar!
But just how big of a slice of that $60 billion can you get your hands on? It depends.
I know it sounds like a cop out answer but there are just so many different niches within the drone services industry and so many different price points.
- You could go work in a drone industry job and make anywhere from $40k a year to well over six figures.
- You could start your own real estate photography drone business where you charge $100/hr.
- You could start doing roof inspections with a drone and earn $75 per roof.
These are just ballpark numbers and don’t answer the vital question. What are customers willing to pay for your drone service? Ultimately, the simple equation of how much money you can make with a drone is this: how much you charge per job X how many jobs you do.
I’ll do my best to break down some of the industry averages for all the drone businesses below to help you make your decision of what niche you would like to pursue.
What jobs can I do with a drone?
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of drone related job openings at any given moment. The industry is booming and the need for licensed drone pilots, drone repair technicians, drone photographers, etc is only getting bigger! A quick search on Google shows job openings for:
- Real estate drone photographer
- Aerial wedding photographer
- Certified drone pilot
- Drone technician
- Drone videographer
- Aerial survey drone operator
- …and hundreds more!
They are high paying too! The most valuable thing besides the money you can receive from getting a job in the drone industry is experience. A year or two of experience doing real estate drone photography for a real estate marketing company and you will have full confidence starting your own drone photography business! A lot of these companies provide extra training to their employees which will prove invaluable if you ever start your own drone business.
HUGE DISCLAIMER: You DO NOT have to work a job in the drone industry before starting your own drone business. It may help but the real money is and always will be owning your own business.
How to start a drone business?
So you want to make the big bucks, huh? Well starting your very own drone business is a great way to take your passion and skillset and turn it into a healthy income!
Like starting any business, there are a few things you are going to want to do, but for drone businesses specifically, most countries require some kind of license or certification to fly your drone commercially. And yes, if you are making money with your drone, you are a commercial pilot. In the United States, you are going to need an FAA Part-107 license.
The Part-107 exam costs $150 per attempt and you have to wait a minimum 2 weeks if you fail so make sure you study and pass it the first time. If you want to virtually guarantee you pass the first time, get this Part-107 prep course which boasts a 99.6% student pass rate.
Make sure you do some research for your country to know the legal requirements as far as licenses, insurance, etc. It can be super beneficial to just reach out to someone in your area who already owns a drone business. They will know all the answers to your legal questions as they have already had to navigate that aspect of the business.
As long as you are legal, don’t over complicate things. You can spend days trying to set the perfect prices or build the most amazing website when that stuff really doesn’t matter. Remember, you provide a service and get paid for that service. Focus on getting your first few jobs. Do them free if you have to. You need not only a portfolio of work, but also satisfied customers who are willing to refer you to their friends.
That’s the name of the game in any service business: reputation and referrals!
How much does it cost to start a drone business?
Are we talking dollars or time? Because time is money, right?
All jokes aside, the startup costs of a drone business are actually relatively low compared to a lot of industries. Most of the cost to start come from your equipment and your license.
Depending on what sort of drone business you are starting, your drone could be extremely expensive. High quality cameras for a drone photography business. Specialty drones for an agricultural drone business. The good news is that you can recoup these costs rather quickly with just a few jobs, but the initial cost can be frightening.
Like most service businesses, the majority of “cost” is your time. You are going to have to go get your first clients. Whether it is cold calling, door knocking or trade shows, you are going to have to get your name out there. Most of your focus should be on getting your first few clients. Don’t waste your time buying a website or getting a bunch of extra equipment that you “may need”.
Go get clients so you can pay off that drone and get to profit!
How profitable is a drone business?
So just how profitable is a drone business? How much money can you make with a drone? If there is no money to be made, then there is no point in starting, right?
Well, the good news is that starting a drone business can be extremely lucrative. The biggest reason for this is that most of the drone businesses listed below are service businesses. Service businesses almost always have higher profit margins than retail businesses.
This is because you are trading time and expertise for money instead of physical products. For example, a drone reseller would buy a drone for $100 and sell it for $200 and would profit $100. A drone photographer would do a 2 hour photo shoot for $200 and would profit the entire $200 minus whatever they spent in gas to get to the photo shoot.
Service businesses can also charge a wider range for their services. By providing more value and more expertise, you can demand higher prices. Why does one wedding photographer cost $2,000 for a wedding and another cost $20,000? Easy. The $20,000 wedding photographer has a higher perceived value. Whether it is their high skill level, their high quality equipment or even their product packages such as leather bound wedding picture books, they can charge a higher price than their competitors.
When you are just starting out in your drone business, you will be taking home 100% of the money. But don’t go spending all that money just yet… Reinvest it into your business. Pay for marketing. Hire help. Buy better equipment.
Think long term instead of quick cash. You may be surprised at just how profitable a drone business can be.
What are the best drone business ideas for 2022?
There are so many good drone business ideas that it would be impossible to list them all here. And the list is continuing to grow as people find more and more unique ways to use drone technology in their industry.
I have compiled a list of some of the best ways to make money with a drone in 2020 and these should get your creative juices flowing as you try to nail down your niche.
Drone photography and videography is probably the most obvious of all the ways to make money with a drone because it’s one of the coolest uses of a drone!
Drones are coming equipped with crazy high quality cameras, gimbals to stabilize the image and all sorts of automatic flying functionality like active object tracking and GPS flight path. The possibilities are endless for some unique shots that have never been available before to photographers and videographers alike.
But you aren’t going to have very much luck starting a drone business if you just label yourself as a drone photographer…
You need to pick a specific niche and use for drone photos or videos and sell your services. Check out some of these industries.
Real estate agencies are in the business of selling homes. And year after year, the amount of people researching homes to buy online is growing. Real estate agents are having to adapt and really focus on marketing their homes online. The biggest challenge for them? High quality photos and videos that make their houses stand out from the millions of homes listed online.
One of the ways to stand out is to provide a video fly over of the house and property. And you guessed it, you need a drone to do that! Unfortunately, these real estate agents know nothing about drones, or how to fly them, or how to even take good videos with them. That is where you come in!
Reach out to individual real estate agents or even entire agencies and offer to film drone flyovers of their properties. Take some amazing angles, add some cool editing and these real estate agents will pay you good money to get their hands on that video!
How much money can you make? Most real estate photographers charge by the package but hourly rates can be anywhere from $25/hr to $200+/hr.
My recommendation: create packages to sell.
Instead of just selling a flyover video for one house, sell a bundle deal for all the houses that agent has listed. Add flyover shots of the neighborhood amenities. Even better, learn how to use a high quality camera and offer an entire photo marketing package with all the interior and exterior still shots, a video walkthrough of the house AND your drone flyover video.
Don’t limit yourself to just residential real estate either. Commercial properties like hotels and golf courses would love drone videos of their property.
It is unbelievable how much money you can make with a drone in the real estate photography industry.
Wedding photographers make big money! Because for half of us, you only have one wedding (The other half could be repeat customers, just saying). That means people are willing to pay a premium for a good photographer to capture all the memories of that special day!
The growing trend in weddings is to film everything that goes into them. From the groomsmen and bridesmaids getting ready to the ceremony and the reception, more couples want a high quality video of their big day.
And nothing adds more to a video than some tasteful drone shots of the event! More and more wedding photographers are jumping on this trend and adding drone work to their list of services but there is still a huge gap for you to fill in this industry!
The easiest way to break into this market would be to contact wedding photography businesses in your area and offer your drone services to them. They get the clients and do all the hard work of editing the video and putting together the package. You just show up on the wedding day and do your thing taking awesome drone shots!
You have less control over how much you can charge but the amount of steady work you can get is fantastic!
Small to large businesses are in the habit of holding company retreats and events where they bring the whole company together at a resort or other place to have a week full of fun, lectures, award ceremonies and other experiences outside the confines of the office.
And from experience, I can tell you that these events are not cheap!
What you may not know is that at almost all of these events, there will be a photographer and videographer capturing all the moments. The company will use these photos and videos to market themselves. Not just to build their brand but to attract new talent to work for them.
You probably already thought of this as you were reading above, but I am going to say it out loud: drone video would be awesome at one of these events!
From fly-by videos to just still pictures of the entire company, there are a bunch of uses for drone photography.
Have you ever been in a corporate photo with a 100+ employees? Short people in the front please. It’s a nightmare! You solve that problem with your drone by being able to take a photo way up in the air so that every employee’s smiling face is visible in the final shot!
The three specific niches above are just scratching the service. Anything that is currently being filmed or photographed could benefit from you and your drone.
- Family photography
- Pet photography
- Action sports
- …and many more!
I bet that if you spent 30 minutes searching on the internet, you could find plenty of different niches to make money with your drone photography and video skills!
Surveying and Inspection
Drones have proven themselves as invaluable tool in monitoring large construction projects, surveying land and even inspecting roofs. In addition to specialty drones built specifically for these different applications, there are a bunch of different pieces of software dedicated to taking drone images/videos and creating 3D maps, measuring roofs, etc.
While a lot of these companies hire in-house drone pilots (ahem.. this could be you), they will also hire freelancers to do the dirty work of flying the drone.
If you want to pursue this path, your best bet is to find out what industries are using drones in their business. Then find out local businesses within that industry and reach out to them.
Ask them if they have ever considered using a drone? Show them what drones can do. Show them what kind of money can be saved.
For example, approach roofing companies in your area and talk to them about how they do their roof inspections and measurements. Show them how much time and money they can save by using a drone. No one has to climb on the roof and risk their safety just to conduct an inspection. Using a drone, you can provide all the measurements needed to make sure project materials, scope and cost are accurately estimated.
It’s not only roofing companies that would be interested in this service but also insurance companies that want to inspect roof damage to assess an insurance claim.
So how much money can you make? You can charge an hourly rate or a fixed per job rate where rates vary from $50/hr to $250+/hr.
There are multiple ways to make money with a drone in survey and inspection work. The big selling point for your services is saving your clients time and money.
Surveillance and Security
How many cameras can you count when you walk into a gas station? At least a few right?
Security cameras and CCTV are a top priority in efforts to protect your business and home. If something happens in your store, you want it on camera. Even if it isn’t theft. If someone slips and falls, you need that video evidence in case someone tries to sue you.
While using a drone for security might not be of much use in a gas station, they can be a great asset for larger operations such as construction, mining, prisons, etc.
These sorts of businesses are usually covered up in cameras in order to monitor the worksite for not only intruders but potential hazards and emergencies. There are a couple of problems with fixed cameras though.
The big issue is response time. While security personnel can see a potential issue on camera, it may take a while to get someone down there to look at it. And obviously that pulls someone away from what they were working on.
A drone can quickly go assess the situation remotely without having to waste resources.
In addition to remote inspection and risk assessment, drones can be used for perimeter control, overall security and more.
How about making money with a drone without having to go fly it anywhere?
Did you know there are companies out there that rent out drones to individuals and businesses?
As you are aware, drones are expensive. Really good drones are super expensive. There are a ton of businesses that need a drone for a specific project. There are ton of individuals that want to try one out to even see if they like it.
That is where you come in. If you have the drone, a rental agreement and some insurance, you can start renting out your drone for hourly or daily rates.
And the best part is, when those businesses realize that they should have just hired someone to do their drone work, you will be there graciously waiting to do it for them.
And scaling the business is as easy as reinvesting your earnings into buying more drones.
Instead of spending your Saturday shooting a wedding all day with your drone, you have one drone rented to a wedding, another rented to a family event and another rented to a kid’s birthday party. You just have to drop the drone off and pick them back up along with a big check!
The number of drones being built and purchased every year is exploding. There are a lot of new drone pilots being born every day which means one thing: a lot of broken drones.
Drones crash. Drones malfunction like every other piece of technology.
With a little know how and some basic mechanical ability, you could start a drone repair business. In fact, drone repair businesses now are already struggling to keep up with the demand.
Consumer drone repair is an obvious avenue because there may be a lot more volume of repair work and because you will get into a groove of fixing the same things over and over much like a cell phone repair business.
But if you want to make some big money, learn how to troubleshoot and fix some specialty drones like those used in agriculture. These drones cost a ton more than your typical household drone and require specialized knowledge to repair.
Companies are investing big money into their drones and having a trusted drone repair technician is a must!
You can pretty much resell anything now a days. Buy low, sell high!
Easier said than done, right? Well here a just a few ideas of how you could start making money by reselling drones:
- Find good deals on used drones and resell them for a profit.
- TIP: Find people who bought a drone (especially nice ones like the DJI Mavic Pro) on a whim, and they never really used it or got into it. These people usually don’t know the value of what they own and will sell it at garage sale prices.
- Buy damaged drones, fix them and flip them for a profit.
- Buy base drones, upgrade them and sell “custom” drones
These are just a few ideas to make money with a drone reselling business.
Agriculture is one of the industries looking to benefit greatly from drones.
From mapping properties to monitoring crop growth to even spraying pesticides, drones can save a lot of time and guess work for farmers.
There are a bunch of different uses for a drone in the farming business, so you would have to do your research to find out which one you should focus on and provide for your clients.
Some of the uses require specialized drones so you would have to factor that in to your decision.
My suggestion would be to find a job like mapping or crop inspection that you can do with the drone you currently own before going to buy a specialized agricultural drone. This will not only save you money, but it will also let you build up a list of customers you can sell a more specialized service to in the future.
What is the best drone for making money?
It all depends on what industry you are targeting. For most of the drone businesses listed above, a high quality camera is an absolute must.
So if I was recommending one drone to get you started with any drone business, it would have to be the DJI Phantom 4.
From the 4K camera capable of shooting incredible videos and photos to all the automated flying functionality like draw a flight path and active track, the Phantom 4 is the ultimate photographer’s dream!
And with just a few jobs under your belt, you will pay off the Phantom 4 in no time!
If you are serious about starting a drone business, take your drone selection seriously. Companies do not pay for crappy quality and your reputation for high quality work will be your greatest asset moving forward!
Start making money with your drone today!
So there you have it! A bunch of different ways to make money with a drone!
Let me know in the comments which drone business you are going to start or if you know of a drone related business not listed above, let me know, and I’ll add it to the article!
If you want a more in-depth video course on starting a drone business, grab this limited time course bundle from Pilot Institute. It includes both the Part-107 Made Easy course (remember that license is required to fly commercially in the United States) and the Drone Business Made Easy course.
With the drone industry booming like it is, now is the time to take your drone, your passion and your skillset and start making some money!