How to Become a Professional Drone Pilot

How to Become a Professional Drone Pilot

From surveying construction sites to shooting Hollywood movies, drones are changing how work is done in a variety of applications, and it’s no wonder the commercial drone sector is rapidly on the rise.

For pilots looking to be part of this thriving industry, the journey begins with a clear understanding of the rules for being a compliant, responsible operator, and ultimately – getting the necessary training to help you become a qualified drone pilot. In the U.S. alone, there are more than 100,000 certified commercial drone pilots — and as more enterprises and organizations continue to adopt drone technology, the need for skilled drone operators will continue to rise.

Today’s commercial drone jobs

With drone adoption accelerating at a rapid pace — and expected to only increase — now is the time to enter the field. According to Business Insider, the drone services industry is projected to rise to $63.6 billion by 2025. None of this can be possible without drone pilots.

Drone pilots have to do everything from collecting visual, LiDAR, and thermal data to shooting striking photographs and films. Drones also help keep workers safe by allowing them to explore dangerous parts of a worksite, like underground mines, without actually setting foot there.

The list of industries that rely on drones to get the job done is long. Relevant sectors include:
  • Surveying and site mapping: Drones and other UAVs have revolutionized the surveying industry by making it easy to cover large sites in short time frames and create detailed photogrammetric models.
  • Construction: In addition to surveying sites, drones are being used by construction companies to collect data and construct 3D models of projects.
  • Real estate: Drones are making virtual home and apartment tours possible, with everything from room-by-room videos to assist with interactive 3D models.
  • Building inspection: UAVs help inspectors check up on the safety of a building without ever setting foot in it.
  • Mining: Mines and quarries are simplifying tedious tasks like surveying and stockpile volume measurement, allowing workers to focus on extraction.
  • Insurance: Some of the top insurance companies have begun using UAVs to gather information both pre-loss and post-loss. According to Deloitte, common examples include natural disaster monitoring, aerial site assessments that can identify risk to a property, and inspecting a claim site for fraud.
  • Archeology: Much like construction, mining, or surveying in general, drones are used to visualize the full scope of a site and possibly identify artifacts that can’t be seen from a ground view.
  • Entertainment: Did you know that 1 in 5 commercial drone licenses in the United States secured for the entertainment industry? The most common use of drones in this sector is filming live events, such as sporting events, according to AOPA.
  • Public safety: Police and fire departments use drones to scout out an area before sending personnel in. UAVs can be equipped with thermal sensors that track where a fire is strongest. Drones have also been used effectively in search and rescue missions.

Do I need to obtain a commercial drone license?

In almost every case, no matter where you are in the world, the answer to this question will be an emphatic yes — unless you’re flying in very specific conditions, like indoors while conducting warehouse inventory inspection. Commercial drone use is typically defined to include any time you stand to profit from operating your drone. While not every country clarifies a difference between commercial and recreational drone use, registration of some kind is usually necessary to join the global drone pilot community.

The path from certification to a fledgling career in drones, however, may look different depending on your goals. For potential pilots looking for an entrepreneurial route, you can become a drone solution provider with RMUS, which not only supplies industrial drone equipment across the agriculture, energy, public safety sectors, and more, but the company also offers a variety of training services that are specific to the customer’s drone program needs.

If you are looking for a more part-time approach, you can turn to a company like DroneBase, which helps pilots find jobs in their local area. To achieve this, you will need to have a commercial drone license, called the Part 107 License in the U.S., then create and upload your profile to their database so they can find you a suitable placement.

In other avenues, you can find jobs online via a simple search on a regular job site. Typical vacancies include aerial photography, real estate, property insurance, as well as more technical vacancies like construction, where drones are commonly used for the design and planning of new projects.

Commercial drone licenses around the world

Before you can join this global community of commercial drone operators, however, you need to know the rules of the game and follow the safety regulations designed to help pilots fly safely within their national airspace. Each nation has its own set of regulations regarding who can fly a drone commercially.
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