May 8, 2023

How to Make Money with Drones: A Comprehensive Guide

How to Make Money with Drones: A Comprehensive Guide


As a drone pilot with your part 107 certification, you've mastered the art of flight. But have you ever wondered how to turn that skill into a profitable side hustle? In this blog post, we'll explore 10 specific and actionable ways to make money with drones. So, buckle up and let's take this journey together!

Why You Should Make Money with Drones

Drones offer an impressive array of aerial capabilities, and as a drone pilot, you can tap into lucrative opportunities across various industries with a significant market demand. There are several key reasons to consider monetizing your hobby:

  1. Growing Market: Drones are becoming increasingly popular, and businesses are rapidly adopting their use in various sectors, creating significant income potential for skilled pilots.
  2. Flexible Schedule: Working as a freelance drone pilot allows you to set your own terms, working hours, and manage work-life balance more effectively.
  3. Professional Development: Making money with your drone is a gateway to improving your skills and staying up-to-date with the latest technology and industry trends.

What You Need to Get Started

Before you jump headfirst into the world of professional drone piloting, there are several important factors to consider and prepare to meet legal requirements and client expectations:

  1. Drone Certification: In many countries, commercial drone pilots must have proper certification or licensing. For example, in the United States, a Part 107 certificate is required for commercial operations.
  2. Quality Equipment: Depending on the niche you target, you may need to invest in a professional-grade drone and additional equipment such as advanced cameras and sensors.
  3. Drone Insurance: Having liability insurance is crucial to protect yourself and your clients in case of accidents or damages during your operations.
  4. Business Plan: Establish a business plan that outlines your target market, services, and pricing strategies to ensure you have a clear direction and focus on your venture.

1. Aerial Photography

make money with drones using aerial photography


Unleashing your creativity from the skies can be a lucrative venture. Stunning aerial photographs can be sold as stock photos on platforms like Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, Storyblocks , or directly to clients who value a unique perspective.

The process of selling stock aerial photos involves identifying specific categories that are selling well and doing more of the same. These include landscapes, cityscapes, infrastructure and industrial sites, seascapes, and agricultural farmland.

You can consider niche markets like golf courses, wedding, resorts, or marketing agencies may need aerial shots for marketing purposes. A single session could net you a few hundred dollars, making it a fantastic way to make money with drones.

2. Aerial Videography

Aerial videography is another exciting avenue to explore. With your drone, you can offer services to film events such as weddings, concerts, and sports games. The bird's eye view provides a unique perspective that can make these events even more memorable.

Wedding Videography

Outdoor and destination weddings are always on the lookout for unique ways to capture the event. Offering aerial videography can make their special day unforgettable. A well-executed wedding video can earn you over a thousand dollars.

Local City Reel

Alternatively, consider creating a series of videos showcasing your local city or area. You can upload these to YouTube and monetize them through ad revenue. City reels on YouTube can be thought of as a lead generation tool. Remember, consistent content and a unique angle on familiar sights can quickly build up a dedicated following. There is a demand for local footage that can be used for anything from real estate, marketing, or other creators.

3. Real Estate Marketing

Drone real estate photography is a great niche to service and a simple way to make money with drones. Startup costs are slim for drone real estate photography. There is a huge demand of real estate agents needing of unique and attractive ways to market their properties. Offering drone services to capture aerial images and videos of properties can help them sell faster and for higher prices. Nearly all consumers browse homes online and use the pictures to determine how interested they are in a house. According to Zillow, homes with aerial images sold 68% faster than homes with standard images.

Types of Drone Real Estate Marketing Services

4. Drone Mapping

drone mapping


Drone mapping is a rapidly growing field with many applications. To create a drone map, the drone flies autonomously over a project site and takes photos at defined intervals. These photos are then uploaded into drone mapping software that will "stitch" them together, creating what is called an orthomosaic image. An orthomosaic image ("ortho" for short) provides numerous types of other outputs such as 3D site models. Drone mapping has a wide variety of use cases and is a very good way to make money with drones!

Best uses for drone mapping:

  • Land Surveying: Drone mapping enables surveyors to easily and efficiently create cadastral and topographical maps. These provide precise measurements and reducing the need for extensive fieldwork.
  • Construction Mapping: Construction companies utilize drone mapping to create 3D site models, monitor progress, and identify potential issues. This results in reduced downtime and better decision-making. Mapping a project site over a consistent period of time (days, weeks, or even months) can showcase how much progress has been made.
  • Mining: Drone mapping is used in the mining industry for volumetric calculations, mine planning, and environmental impact assessments, promoting higher accuracy and safety.
  • Agriculture: Drones provide valuable information on crop health, irrigation levels, and pest infestations, enabling farmers to optimize their farming practices and improve yields.
  • Disaster Response: During disaster recovery, drone mapping helps in assessing the extent of damage, identifying potential hazards, and aiding in rescue and rebuilding efforts.
  • Environmental Monitoring: Drones are used to monitor deforestation, habitat loss, and pollution levels, providing essential data for the protection and management of natural resources.
  • Urban Planning: Municipalities and urban planners use drone mapping to accurately update city maps, study land usage, and make more informed zoning and infrastructure decisions.
  • Archaeology: Drone mapping in archaeology helps in creating detailed 3D models of excavation sites, discovering previously unknown features, and minimizing physical disturbance to the sites.
  • Corridor Mapping: Drones make mapping linear infrastructure (such as roads, railways, and pipelines) more efficient and less labor-intensive, allowing for more frequent updates and inspections. These inspections can identify vegetation or other potential encroachments that could cause issues.
  • Emergency Preparedness: Drones play an important role in creating hazard maps, determining coping strategies, and allowing communities to make better-informed decisions in emergency situations.

5. Aerial Inspections to Make Money with Drones

make money with drones using aerial inspections


Drones offer a safe and efficient way to inspect structures that would be dangerous or difficult for humans to access. These can include bridges, power lines, wind turbines, and more. Offering your services to local government agencies or companies could turn into a steady stream of work.

Drone inspections typically include high resolution imagery or video. They can also include a variety of other sensors. Aerial inspections can be a very lucrative and recurring service and method of how to make money with your drone.

Types of Aerial Inspection Services

  • Roof Inspections: Drones equipped with high-resolution cameras allow for safe and efficient roof inspections, detecting damage, wear, and potential leaks while minimizing the risk of injury to inspectors and eliminating the need for ladders and other equipment.
  • Power Line Inspections: Drones equipped with high-resolution cameras can inspect power lines, pylons, and other electrical infrastructure, helping to identify defects, wear, and potential issues while reducing risks for inspectors.
  • Cell Tower Inspections: Drones allow rapid and safe inspection of cell towers, capturing images of antennas, cables, and structural components, reducing downtime and maintenance costs.
  • Oil and Gas Pipeline Inspections: Drones with thermal and visual cameras can efficiently inspect oil and gas pipelines, detecting leaks, corrosion, and other potential hazards, ultimately improving safety and reliability.
  • Railway Inspections: Drones can perform visual inspections of railway tracks and infrastructure, identifying track defects, vegetation encroachment, and other issues that may compromise safety and efficiency.
  • Building and Facade Inspections: Drones facilitate rapid and safe building exterior inspections, capturing detailed images of facades, roofs, and structural elements, aiding in maintenance planning and compliance with local laws.
  • Wind Turbine Inspections: Drones enable safe and efficient inspection of wind turbines, including blade, tower, and other components, facilitating early detection of damage, wear, and other issues that may affect performance.
  • Solar Panel Inspections: Equipped with thermal cameras, drones can quickly scan large solar panel installations, identifying hotspots, malfunctioning components, and other issues that may hinder energy production.
  • Bridge Inspections: Drones provide a safer and more efficient method for inspecting bridges and their components, assessing structural integrity, corrosion, and other potential concerns.
  • Infrastructure Inspections: Drones can be used to inspect various infrastructure elements such as roads, highways, and water management systems, providing valuable data for maintenance and repair planning.

6. Environmental Monitoring

drones with environmental wildlife counting

As a drone pilot, you have the power to make a significant impact on environmental conservation efforts. Drones can be used to monitor wildlife, track illegal activities like poaching, or assess environmental damage. This information can provide invaluable insights to conservation groups, scientists, or government agencies. While this might not be the most profitable avenue, it's certainly rewarding and contributes to a larger cause.

7. Agricultural Surveys

make money with drones using them for agriculture


The agriculture industry is increasingly turning to drone technology for its efficiency and accuracy. Offering drone services to farmers can be a profitable business. You can help monitor crop health, track livestock, or even distribute seeds. With the right software, you can also provide detailed crop analysis, helping farmers to maximize their yields and minimize losses.

8. Thermal Scans

make money with drones performing thermal drone inspections


With a thermal camera, your drone can provide invaluable data for a variety of industries, and is a great way to earn money. These inspections can identify irregularities in temperature which can identify issues with buildings, solar panels, equipment, and even crops. Drone thermal sensors are becoming more inexpensive but require more training and comfortability for the mapping missions.

These types of inspections generally are quarterly or yearly, so it's a very repeatable process to bring in more income.

Types of Drone Thermal Services

  • Building Inspections: By performing rapid and efficient thermal inspections of buildings, drone pilots help identify heat loss, insulation issues, moisture intrusion, and other structural defects, leading to reduced energy costs and improved building maintenance.
  • Solar Panel Inspections: Drones equipped with thermal cameras can detect malfunctioning solar panels, hotspots, or damaged cells. This enables solar farm owners to address these issues more efficiently, maintain peak energy generation capacity, and reduce downtime.
  • Industrial Equipment Inspections: Thermal drones can inspect various industrial equipment, like machinery, pipelines, and storage tanks, identifying temperature anomalies, overheating components, or leaks, preventing costly downtime and improving operational safety.
  • Agricultural Crop Health Monitoring: Thermal drones can reveal areas with moisture, irrigation, or pest problems across large farmlands. This assists farmers to optimize water and pesticide usage, resulting in increased crop yields and reduced expenses.
  • Wildlife Monitoring and Conservation: By capturing thermal images of wildlife, drones can help researchers and conservationists monitor animal populations and behavior, track movement patterns, and assess habitat health, aiding in the development of effective wildlife management strategies.

9. Search and Rescue Operations

Placeholder for an image: A drone equipped with a thermal camera flying over a forested area for a search and rescue mission.

make money with drones performing search and rescue operations

Search and rescue operations may not be a consistent income source. However, they can lead to contracts with local authorities or rescue organizations. Drones can cover large areas quickly and can be equipped with thermal imaging to find lost or missing persons. It's a way to make money with your drone while providing an essential service to your community.

Conclusion: How To Make Money with Drones

These are just a few of the many ways to make money with drones. The possibilities are as limitless as the sky itself! Whether you're capturing the perfect wedding video, aiding in a rescue mission, or helping a farmer maximize crop yields, your drone is more than a hobby—it's a tool that can provide valuable services to a variety of industries and help make money.

Remember, while these opportunities are exciting, they also come with a responsibility to operate your drone safely and ethically. Always follow local regulations and respect privacy laws.

Ready to take your drone piloting to new heights? Get out there and explore these exciting opportunities!

Placeholder for a call-to-action image: An image encouraging readers to share their drone photos or videos with a particular hashtag on Instagram.

What's your next drone venture going to be? Let us know in the comments section below!

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