How to get employed as a Drone Pilot - COPTRZ

How to get employed as a Drone Pilot

Beth Jackson

9:06 am GMT •

October 20, 2021

You’ve completed your Drone Training, now what?

The unprecedented growth of the drone industry is fuelling an enormous expansion in related careers. It’s a really exciting time to join the industry, with new drone related jobs emerging every day. And the stats back it up, with PwC recently predicting that over 628,000 people will be employed in the ‘drone economy’ by 2030 in the UK. But what happens when you’ve finished your drone training? What do you do next?

The job jackpot looks a little bit different for each of us—for some, it’s self-employment and flexible hours, while others prefer the security of a full-time position and a guaranteed salary. Self-employment seems to be the career path of choice for most drone pilots, with 62% of drone services providers working for themselves according to a 2018 study from Skylogic Research. However, this may have more to do with job availability than job preference.

We know it can be overwhelming knowing where to start in the industry, and we’ve done many blogs covering how to start your own drone business, but what about those who want to work within a company running their drone operations? Well, this one is for you! From UAV pilot to engineer, there are many career paths you could choose to follow once you have completed your drone training.

So you’ve completed your drone training, you’ve got your kit, now you need to get hired! Let’s get stuck in.

In this blog we will cover:

  1. What does a commercial drone pilot do?
  2. How to pick your speciality?
  3. Do you need insurance?
  4. What does the typical day look like for a commercial drone pilot?
  5. How much money will you make?

What does a commercial drone pilot do?

At the most basic and broad level, commercial drone pilots fly drones for companies in a range of industries and for varying purposes. Some companies use drones to take aerial photos and videos for marketing purposes, while other companies use drones for aerial surveillance. There are several uses for drones, and commercial drone pilots execute different drone needs for businesses.

Pick your speciality 

As we’ve already mentioned, the drone industry is growing fast and there are a tonne of opportunities out there. Make sure you know what you want to bring to the market. Are you a photographer? Do you want to specialise in surveillance? Are you interested in 3D mapping?

If you’ve completed your GVC or A2 CofC and are still looking to specialise in a sector, we have a range of courses available. From our commercial surveying course, to aerial thermography. You can browse our full range of training here.

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Until recently, there weren’t many companies hiring full-time drone pilots. However, with the growing adoption of drones and evolving regulations, more full-time and salaried positions are becoming available.

The demand for drone services is largely influenced by an escalating demand of surveying, mapping & inspection. Industries such as real estate and infrastructure and media & entertainment have adopted the technology heavily. Plus, there is a significant demand for drone services from several other industries such as law enforcement, agriculture, and industrial among others.

Many larger companies are now investing in internal drone teams for inspection and surveying. One such business ahead of the curve is Severn Trent Water, a regional, state-owned water authority based in the Midlands and responsible for water supply management, and waste water treatment and disposal. We spoke to the UAV team leader Duncan Turner recently to find out what the operations of the UAV team are. Check on sites such as Indeed to see which companies are have current availability for pilots.

At Coptrz we also get contacted by businesses who are looking for freelance pilots to fill jobs. If we are ever contacted by clients, we post the opportunity in our closed Facebook group Coptrz Pilots, a group where you can network with other likeminded individuals. You can join below.

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Get Insurance for your Drone

Insurance is a legal requirement for some pilots and a great-to-have for others. The Drone Code states:

“If you fly a drone or model aircraft that weighs less than 20kg for fun, recreation, sport, or as a hobby, you can choose whether or not to have insurance. If you fly for any other reason, you must have third party liability insurance…If your drone or model aircraft is 20kg or more, you must always have third party insurance, no matter what you use your aircraft for.”

To keep it really simple: If you are a recreational drone pilot, or hobbyist, you probably don’t need insurance. If you are a commercial pilot, you need insurance. So if you are planning on using your drone for work, we would recommend taking out third party liability insurance. Check out the likes of Coverdrone, Flock and MoonRock. Having insurance for your drone will be cover most types of damage and usually offering hassle-free pay-outs, as long as the pilot has been flying safely and legally.

What’s the typical day of a drone pilot?

One of the best things about being a commercial drone pilot is that no two days are the same. Most commercial drone work is carried out by freelance contractors, who can be working for a multinational corporation one day and a small business owner the next.

Project lengths can also vary, you could end up working on a single job for many weeks or you might only be there for a few hours. The length of jobs you get will typically depend on the type of drone work you carry out.

Take construction, for example, you may get a contract to survey a construction site as work progresses. This will involve you visiting the site regularly to carry out inspection work. You may only be onsite for a few hours each time but this is regular work which will last for many months.

At the other end of the spectrum, you may get a contract with a commercial property broker who wants you to create a promotional video for a new office development. This job will only take you a day or so to carry out. But if you do a good job, will likely lead to more work in the future.

One thing is for sure, being a drone pilot will involve a lot of travelling between jobs. So you’ll need your own transport. The distance you travel will again depend on the work you choose to specialise in. But there is work out there for everyone, no matter where you live. People in the rural areas could choose to specialize in agricultural work, while people in large metropolitan areas could specialize in construction and surveying work.

How much money will I make? 

How much money will I make—isn’t this the question that we all ask when courting a new job opportunity?  Salary shouldn’t be our only motivating factor, but we all need to put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads. Jobs that pay in excess of £100,000, are few and far between. You’ll either have to go to medical school for five years or land a job in the city. But with a little hard work and endeavour, you could join the six-figure a year club by becoming a freelance professional drone pilot.

Take Andrew Dean for example, after leaving his job in the U.S. Air Force he wasn’t sure what he was going to do. However, drones were something new, and Andrew always loved technology. So he took the plunge and invested in a Mavic Pro and some drone training. Today, the Colorado-based pilot is set to bring in around $200,000.

And Andrew is far from an isolated case, drone pilots across the world are building successful businesses by providing much-needed services to the construction, media and utility industries.

One of the best things about this business is that you don’t have to leave your job. You can start carrying out small jobs in your spare time. This will not only allow you to build up a list of valuable contacts, it will also allow you to build experience in an industry or sector. You could start by contacting local estate agents to advertise your services.

Another avenue you could explore is training other people to use their drones. With drones becoming ever more popular, this could prove to be a lucrative sideline. Many pilots have found success advertising their services on Airbnb Experiences.

Airbnb Experiences allows people to offer up their services to customers of the platform. You can offer any legal activity, from photography and surfing to flower arranging and drone lessons. Airbnb takes 20% of the fee, but hosts are able to set their own pricing. New York drone pilot Elena Buenrostro charges $100 for an hours lesson and can have up to 10 students a week during the busy tourist season.

If you would like more information about becoming a professional drone pilot, contact us on the form provided. We look forward to hearing from you and starting you on your drone training journey.

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