Who Hires Drone Pilots

By Hal Simmons •  Updated: 01/08/20 •  11 min read

You spend so much of your time flying your drone that sometimes you wonder, couldn’t you make money doing this? We’ve all heard successful stories online or through friends of how drone pilots are making the big bucks doing what they love. Can you join then? Sure you can once you get your drone license. Are you wondering, “Who hires drone pilots?”

The following types of employers will hire drone pilots:

In this article, we’ll dive much deeper into the above industries that hire drone pilots. We’ll talk about what you might do in these various roles as well as how much money you can make as a drone pilot. Then you can realistically decide if getting paid to fly drones is what you want for your future.

What Kinds of Industries Hire Drone Pilots?

Who hires drone pilots? Scientific Organizations

Drones have many purposes in the realm of science. This 2017 article from Columbia University’s State of the Planet blog discusses some of those duties. For instance, there’s a unique piece of tech known as the drone-deployed micro-drifter. The drifter is a small device, about the size of a can of soda, that gets released from a specialized drone. It will land in water and begin measuring pressure, water vapor, and temperature.

In your new role, you could also use drones to fly over a specific area like a forest and track the elevation there. Some scientific organizations favor UAVs for reviewing shallow corals, the health of mangrove communities, and coastal erosion. Today’s drones even have the capability to monitor animal populations, being outfitted to look like small creatures such as birds so they blend in better.

Your job could be even in the area of energy, where your drone could oversee solar and wind installations and look out for gas and oil production methane leaks. You could also help the environment, using data to assume where flooding may occur in the future. If saltwater or algae begins spreading into other bodies of water, a drone can pick up on that. UAVs can even “see” forest tree disease and classify new plants.

It’s a wild world out there, and with your drone, you can keep it going.


From the Army to the Navy, the Air Force, and everything in between, if you have military background on your resume, then it only makes sense to add a UAV pilot to that list. Besides standard UAVs, you may also fly remotely piloted aerial systems or RPAs.

UAVs or RPAs can save the lives of soldiers, as these devices can fly out onto fields and other wartime areas, assessing threats that no one has to experience firsthand. The soldiers can then make an alternate, safer plan thanks to the drone’s surveillance. That could be your responsibility.

As a military drone pilot, you could also engage in remote attacks via your drone so the troops don’t have to make their way out to a location. Currently, the United States has 91 military drones, says Military Factory. Some of these include the Kratos XQ-58 Valkyrie, the Boeing MQ-25 Stingray, the Zunum Aero ZA10, the Lockheed TR-X, and the Bell V-247 Vigilant.

Who hires drone Pilots? Colleges and Universities

You could also end up getting hired by a college or a university. In this capacity, your job would be to teach college students about drones. Perhaps your role would limit you to staying in a classroom, so you wouldn’t actually get paid to fly a drone, just educate. Hopefully, you’d get the opportunity to get outside with your students and show them the ropes with some hands-on experience. They too could then potentially become paid drone pilots with your guidance.

It’s best to pursue this drone-related job if you already have a teaching degree or a background in education. While a strong knowledge of drones is great to have, that alone may not be enough to get you hired by a college or university.

You could also go a bit off the beaten path and host your own drone classes, such as through online webinars. If you charged for the classes and enough people signed up, you could make money that way. Writing a book about your drone knowledge is another similar way to earn some cash.

News Agencies

Every day, when you turn on the news (or watch it on your phone), the clips you see could come from a drone pilot just like yourself. News agencies always seek out the best footage for the most newsworthy stories, and those could be yours.

Now, if you sold your drone photos and videos to news agencies, this would likely be more of a freelance gig. There’s always a possibility a local news agency could hire you as a videographer or photographer. Otherwise, you’d chase stories, film them from unique and dramatic angles, edit the footage (if necessary), and then pitch what you have to news agencies until someone buys.

This would have to be an everyday gig to make real money off it, but it’s possible. Just like freelance videographers and photographers who don’t use drones make their living from capturing news, you can as well.

Who hires drone pilots? Real Estate Firms

Although you might not immediately think of it, real estate firms could certainly use your drone expertise. How? The next time you have a free minute, go on a real estate website. Look at any house listing. You see aerial shots of the property, right? Have you ever thought of how those shots were taken?

That’s right, by a drone. As a drone photographer for a real estate company, you would take your drone to properties for sale, ascend, and capture some overhead photos and even video. These show a potential homeowner what their property looks like from the street view. If there’s something wrong with the roof or the chimney, the buyer can see that right off the bat.

Again, you might do this job in more of a freelance capacity or you could get hired by a real estate firm outright. Your skills would go to very good use with a job like this.

Insurance Companies

Another industry you can enter as a drone pilot is insurance. These companies deal with claims all the time. Sometimes, the claims come about as the result of a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or a major storm. It’s not always safe or possible for insurance employees to come out and assess the damage. That can stretch the time it takes to complete the claim.

With a drone, you can get out there as soon as the storm abates and see what the damage is. The drones can provide an aerial view, feeding the data back to the insurance employees. They can then proceed with the claim much faster.

Who hires drone pilots? Movies Makers

Do you have Hollywood dreams and finally want them realized? As a UAV pilot, you could be involved in the next big Hollywood blockbuster. Many major movies have used drones. Those films include:

Yes, that’s two James Bond films on this list. So what kinds of roles did drones have in these well-known films? For Spectre, in the scene when Bond frees himself from an engulfing fire, that footage was mostly brought to you by drones. That memorable part of Chappie where a robot flies through a window when pursuing a human also came together thanks to drones.

You too could film the next great action or drama movie, getting the kinds of distance shots that no human can.


Although not as star-studded, another field you might consider as an aspiring UAV pilot is construction. DroneDeploy found that drones in construction have increased a whopping 239 percent between 2017 and 2018. From C-level companies to general managers, project executives, project managers, technology managers, and superintendents, they all have a need for drone technology on construction sites.

What would your job encompass exactly? You’d fly your drone over project sites to give the above parties information about how well the construction project is going. This way, these managers don’t have to personally venture out to the site to oversee work.

If an issue arises that slows down progress, your drone could catch that. The problem could then be dealt with early before the project goes long over the projected timeline and budget.

Who hires drone pilots? Farming

If you use your UAV in a farming capacity, that’s known as agricultural droning. This form of drone piloting involves digital imaging and sensors via drone so farmers can understand every last square inch of their fields. If there are matters such as fungal and pest infestations, soil variations, or irrigation issues, the farmer can get a quick jump on these.

Some of the most well-known agricultural drones of today include the XAG P Series, Applied Aeronautics’ Albatross UAV, the AgEagle RX60, Phoenix 2’s Sentera, PrecisionHawk’s Lancaster 5, senseFly’s eBee, and AeroVironment’s Quantix.

Sporting Events

If sports have always been your biggest passion, you can chase that passion and make money doing so by capturing footage of sporting events with your drone. Now, you’re not allowed into most sports arenas and venues per FAA rules, but you can still film a lot of cool stuff. For instance, there’s golf, soccer games, high school-level football and baseball, motocross, swimming, and so much more.

Drones can “chase” the athlete, getting very close to them without being disruptive. These incredible shots let you get a great glimpse of the action impossible for a human with a camera. They’d be too much of a distraction, so they’re relegated to the sidelines. Drones get right up in the action, providing sports lovers the kind of heart-pounding footage they crave.

How Much Money Can You Make as a Drone Pilot?

The salary you can bring in as a drone pilot absolutely varies depending on the field you enter, your experience, and whether you’re a freelancer or an employee. As we’ve insinuated, you might not make as much money doing freelance drone photography or videography as you would if you worked for a company like a real estate firm or insurance provider.

That’s not always true, though. This 2018 article in MarketWatch mentions a man named Vic Moss, who works with real estate agents in a freelance capacity, selling his work to them. He says it’s possible to bring in $500 to $600 weekly by flying a drone part-time. According to Moss, if you work with a bigger company, you could rake in as much as $3,500 daily.

Another drone pilot mentioned in the article named Andrew Dean became a full-time drone pilot a few years ago. He makes about $200,000 a year. However, he said that all the equipment he had to buy, such as thermal cameras, a computer, a drone, and other gear set him back a lot financially. He mentioned that through insurance claim footage, he brought in roughly $80,000 and through drone-related real estate jobs, $30,000. That’s not the same year he earned the $200k, but it shows the money certainly is there.

If you work as a UAV pilot in the military, your salary might be somewhere in the ballpark of $33,000 to $40,000 a year. General drone pilots, even as a vague descriptor, may earn anywhere from $62,000 to $79,000, notes Glassdoor.

Who hires drone pilots Conclusion

If you’re interested in getting paid for your drone piloting abilities, there are many companies out here that could want to hire you. These include such industries as science, environmental, military, insurance, real estate, news, movies, construction, farming, and education.

Drones are catching on in a big way as more and more industries have realized what UAVs can do for their business objectives. It’s never been a better time to become a drone pilot. The pay is good and your options plentiful. While you would have to get a commercial drone piloting license to begin making money, once you do that, you’re ready to explore all your options. Good luck!

Hal Simmons

When I first started flying drones I was always afraid of damaging my drone. I would always be thinking what if. I questioned myself often and as a result it made me question various aspects of flying drones. In the process I learned a lot. This is why I feel I have a lot of information that will be helpful to beginners and intermediate drone enthusiasts. Of course I still have a lot to learn so join me on this journey and I am sure you will enjoy the adventure ahead of us.