Flying drones is more than just a hobby. You can make money with drones as long as you know how to find opportunities. Read on to learn how to make money with a drone and be on your way to make quick bucks.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), more commonly known for the name ‘drones' or ‘quadcopters,' have grown in popularity in recent years.
Initially, UAVs were intended for the military to serve as anti-aircraft target practice, weapons platforms, and intelligence gathering tool.
Through the years, the applications of UAVs have extended to a greater degree.
The use of UAVs outside the military has grown tremendously in recent years that paved the way for commercial UAVs.
Some people fly quadcopters as a hobby while others use these vehicles at a more professional level.
Modern drones are equipped with cameras to allow the pilot to capture pictures and record videos during navigation.
Because of this, people are provided with more possibilities capture images and create stunning videos from unique angles.
There are myriads of personal UAVs that are now available for consumer use.
Most of these models feature HD camera and a real-time image transmission module to allow the pilot to take desired footages.
The application of quadcopters in photography and videography has created numerous opportunities for enterprise use.
Today, UAVs are not just deemed as mere toys.
While you can do a lot of fun things with these quadcopters, you can also use them to make profits.
When used wisely, you can make money with drones and generate a steady stream of income out of them.
So, rather than thinking about their cool features, it’s wiser to look at how to make money with a drone.
This article will teach you the ropes on how to make money with a drone.
Of course, it is understood that you already know how to fly and operate a UAV.
This skill is an essential requirement to make money with drones.
First and foremost, you need to understand how much it takes to invest in high-quality quadcopters, so that you know your baseline budget.
If you intend to use your UAVs for business purposes, you need to know the legal requirements that you need to meet before you can start.
These details, among other things, can guide you in your business venture to make everything smooth sailing (or instead flying).
So, let's begin to find out how to make money with a drone by understanding this relevant information first.
How Much Do Consumer Drones Cost?
Prices of commercial UAV vary depending on the application. Consumer drones used for photography and surveillance cost from $600 to $1,000.
Models with high-resolution cameras tailored for filmmaking can cost from $1,000 to $3,000.
Although there are also those premium cinematic models designed for high-end film projects that can cost around $25,000 to $50,000.
Agriculture drones price can range from $2,000 to $25,000. More advanced UAVs that are used for aerial mapping and topography can cost more than $25,000.
Unless you intend to venture in geometric properties, you don’t need to buy expensive UAVs and should settle with a more affordable model.
How to Register Your Drone
Before you can start using your drone for professional purposes, you’ll need to register it to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) first.
For UAVs that weigh more than 55 pounds, you’re required to fill out necessary paperwork by personally appearing at the governing body.
If your UAV weighs less than 55 pounds, it falls under ‘small unmanned aircraft’ category.
In this case, you can register your small UAV online through the FAA registration site.
After registration, you are required to obtain a foreign pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.
You must be at least 16 years old to qualify for the aeronautical knowledge test.
To apply for this certificate, schedule an appointment with an FAA-approved Knowledge Testing Center.
Check out this link to find the nearest testing center in your location.
Then you’ll need to pass the initial aeronautical knowledge test to obtain the necessary certificate.
Lastly, you are required to pass a background check carried out by the Transportation Security System (TSA).
By stating yourself as the registered owner of a UAV, you also pledge to use the UAV within FAA's regulations. Once registered, you can now use it professional purposes.
14 Ways on How to Make Money with Drones
Learn how to make money with a drone with these 14 helpful tips.
1. Sell aerial photos and footage
How beautiful would it be to view one panoramic landscape from an aerial perspective? With UAVs, capturing breathtaking aerial views is as easy as it gets.
Moreover, the good thing is, people won't hesitate to pay for some spectacular photos of nature.
Taking aerial photos and selling them is probably the easiest way to make money with drones. UAV photography is one of the most popular and profitable business nowadays.
If you want to try this kind of venture, all you need is a quadcopter equipped with a high-resolution camera. For a crystal clear, high-quality photos/videos from the air, choose a camera with a video resolution of at least 12MP.
Remember, cameras with higher megapixel (MP) resolution create sharper outputs. So, a 20MP camera can capture photos/videos of higher quality compared to a 12MP camera.
Some models are using different units of measurement to identify the resolution of their built-in cameras.
For example, 4K resolution refers to the horizontal resolution of an image following a 16:9 aspect ratio.
So, a 4K camera is roughly equivalent to 10MP in a 3:2 aspect ratio image.
A 5K resolution camera is equivalent to 16MP and a 6K camera to 24MP.
To succeed in UAV photography, you should know where to find eye-catching and unique places of exceptional beauty.
Famous landmarks, tourist attractions, impressive landscapes, and even mysterious places are the most common subjects.
Then find appropriate places where you can sell these fantastic aerial photos of nature.
You can start from amusement parks, beach resorts, city squares or anywhere where plenty of people can see your works.
To expand your target audience, you can also advertise your photos/videos online.
Better yet, you can launch your own YouTube channel where you can upload the videos recorded by your UAV.
By publishing your aerial footages, you can become a part of the YouTube's partnership program.
Then start earning money online by gaining subscribers and views.
There are ways to drive traffic to your merchandise. You can sell in-video advertising placement, sell via online stores, increase traffic to a particular website, and more.
2. Offer services in aerial surveying
Before small UAVs came into existence, helicopters are mostly used in aerial surveying, which is too costly and time-consuming.
However, with small UAVs now, you can easily take photos from above and measure from the ground. Even the most hard-to-reach terrestrial places can now be surveyed with ease.
Modern quadcopters have impressive flight capabilities that can be remotely controlled, making them suitable for aerial surveying. However, who can benefit from aerial surveys?
A lot of professional organizations need this service. Aerial surveys have several applications in topography, geographic information system, archaeology, digital mapping, feature recognition, and many more.
Organizations that are involved in these fields are considered as your most prospective clientele.
Using your UAV for aerial surveys is an excellent opportunity to set up a private enterprise and offer your services.
If you want to undertake this business, you need to have a grasp about aerial photography. Moreover, you are required to obtain a specific license in surveying to legally offer these services to the public.
3. Aerial wedding videography and photography
A wedding is undoubtedly the most extravagant moment in one's life.
Moreover, how much would it take to have the most beautiful wedding photos and videos?
People will certainly pay as much in exchange for the perfect wedding memories.
If you want to succeed in wedding photography, you have to offer photos and videos taken from a unique perspective.
This is especially true because the competition in this field is fierce.
Wedding photography and videography have dramatically transformed over the years.
Today, wedding photos are not only about couple’s happy faces and romantic poses.
The background setting, the venue itself, and the viewing perspective are significant factors that are strictly observed in modern wedding photography.
Only a camera drone that is capable of hovering in the air can capture all of these things.
Drone videography could surely make any wedding more dramatic with its atmospheric effects.
If you're a beginner in wedding photography, you can learn the ropes by starting as an assistant photographer/videographer.
Once you've mastered the basics, you can offer your services on a beginner's discount to further enhance your skills
Everything would be easy once you get the hang of it.
More importantly, you'll need to have a high-quality UAV with a high-resolution camera in a gimbal to make perfect shots.
Remember, the quality of your output will determine your success in this venture. Satisfied clients will recommend you to their friends, and your circle of customers will undoubtedly expand.
4. Reselling drones
Can you resell drones? Yes, you can. Just like any other goods, you can also do business by reselling small UAVs.
All you need to do is research online to find the most popular models that can sell fast. Of course, Amazon and eBay ring a bell. Then you can sell these in-demand models to your customer at a higher price.
Alternatively, you can also find a direct supplier who sells UAVs at affordable prices then resell them at higher prices.
However, you may need to pay fees and other costs to open and maintain your store. If you have an existing shop for electronic devices, it is wise to also include drones in your merchandise.
Also, take note that UAVs are susceptible to damages caused by frequent crashes and falls. One of the good things about UAVs is that it has replaceable parts that can be easily replaced when damaged.
Therefore, you should also consider reselling UAV spare parts such as propellers, camera, motherboard, battery, head/tail LED lights, and more.
How about rental business with UAVs? Let us give you a piece of advice: don’t even attempt it.
As mentioned earlier, UAVs are prone to damage, and you're likely to lose more if you're planning to rent these out.
5. Offer services associated with an aerial inspection
Utility companies have been using manned airplanes and helicopters to inspect electrical lines, pumping stations, remote substations, and similar facilities. However, that was before small UAVs came into existence.
The problem with manned aircraft inspection is that the pilot is gravely exposed to the danger of electrocution or potential crashing. Not to mention, the procedure is too costly.
Here comes the small UAV that can be operated and controlled remotely. Through its powerful camera and real-time video transmitters, utility companies can inspect outlets with precise details.
Aerial inspection can provide excellent assistance during regular checkups because high-quality video footage can help these companies assess existing damage.
Aside from utility companies, other companies involved in construction and insurance are also in need of UAV operators for the same purpose.
Currently, small UAVs are being used by several companies for the inspection of cell towers, bridge, roof, gas pipelines and more.
If you want to land such jobs, a well-equipped UAV with at least 4K camera will make you stand out among other candidates.
Investing in an expensive UAV with a high-resolution camera will pay off eventually. If you're not fortunate to be hired as a UAV operator in one of these utility companies, don't lose hope.
There are other ways to make money with drones. All you need to do is learn how to make money with a drone by using your piloting skills.
6. Advertise real estates, hotels, resorts, and more
Drone advertisements are considered the most effective method of advertising nowadays. Moreover, why is it?
Aerial videos of a particular location present a more comprehensive detail about the place and its surrounding environment.
Home buyers have their preference when it comes to their choice of residential area. By showing them the actual location of the real estate as well as its neighboring establishments, customers are given the best options.
Private estates using aerial videos as advertisement sell more quickly than those that didn't. That is why more and more real estate agents are hiring UAV video companies to create their ads.
Besides real estates, hotels and resorts can also benefit from aerial video footage advertising. A comfortable room is important, but a perfect location is as equally important too.
Advertising a particular hotel or resort that is nestled in an ideal area of a property can attract more visitors.
Furthermore, you can make money with drones by working on low altitude banner advertising. Just mount a high-resolution camera on the bottom of your UAV and hover it inappropriate place.
The camera sends the video feedback to a monitor attached to the controller which can later be used for promotional purposes.
If you want to create an eye-catching ad that will surely catch the attention of people, consider using UAVs.
Drone advertisements are guaranteed to make real estate, hotel or resort stand out from other competitors. So, grab this opportunity to make money with drones.
7. Drone deliveries
How to make money with a drone? Since UAVs are aircraft that can reach places and are capable of carrying items, they can do well in shipments.
The use of UAVs for delivery purposes is not anything new. Online shopping sites such as Amazon, AliExpress, and even local stores are using UAVs to deliver goods to their customers.
Some major restaurants are also deploying UAVs to deliver foods within the limited radius from their location — Domino's, Chipotle Mexican Grill, and 7-Eleven as only a few of the companies that are offering drone deliveries.
Therefore, you can also offer drone delivery services to companies that need it. However, small UAVs typically weigh 10 pounds and not more than 55 pounds. So, it can only carry lightweight items as much as it could handle.
If you're interested in UAV deliveries, choose a more significant and heavyweight UAV that can transport heavy packages and goods.
Postal delivery companies such as DHL, FedEx, and UPS are also expanding their delivery options by using powerful UAVs.
As UAV technology keeps on progressing, more manufacturers are coming up with advanced drones that can haul heavy cargo.
These delivery drones are also utilized by the government to supply medical supplies in hard-to-reach places that are unreachable for ground transport.
8. Private investigation and video surveillance
Are you a fan of investigations and detective operations? Here’s how to make money with a drone while satisfying your inner Sherlock Holmes.
You can offer private investigation and aerial surveillance services to large companies or even individuals who need it.
Many companies and organizations usually hire UAV pilots to conduct aerial surveillance rather than to pay for constant camera monitoring.
For this kind of services, you’ll need an advanced UAV equipped with at least 4K resolution camera. These types of camera drones are capable of capturing sharp photos and recording HD videos.
Using small UAVs for private investigation and aerial monitoring have several practical advantages.
They make surveillance easier because these aircraft can reach almost any places. In other words, nothing can escape this impressive ‘private eye.'
When used for these purposes, it is advisable to attach thermal imaging cameras to the UAVs. These special cameras allow the operator to see areas of heat through darkness or heavy smoke.
In the United States, professional UAV surveillance operators are reported to earn up to $50,000 per year. This is something to consider if you're thinking on how to make money with a drone.
9. Search and rescue operations in disaster relief
UAVs, when used appropriately, can save lives. In case of catastrophe and disaster, these small aircraft can be of great help to search and rescue operations.
Search methods using helicopter and dogs are sometimes unsuccessful because they often can’t find the missing persons. Furthermore, deploying pilot and dogs in severely devastated areas can be a bit risky.
With drones, people in distress can be easily spotted through the lens of a high-resolution camera. Plus, these small aircraft are remotely controlled and can reach places that are impossible to achieve by land.
This is why public safety officials prefer to hire UAV operators to provide them with real-time video footages of affected areas.
If you’re thinking about the possible ways on how to make money with a drone, why not consider saving lives as well? You get to earn money while providing disaster relief for those in need.
10. Precision agriculture
Crop surveillance in agriculture can significantly reduce the costs and time in farming. Moreover, using UAVs for this job can greatly help farmers have a higher yield, cut costs and minimize plant damages.
Agricultural drones are not your typical small UAVs. These special aerial vehicles are designed for farming applications to monitor crop growth and increase crop production.
Infrared imaging capabilities and sensors are integrated into the UAV to give farmers a more comprehensive bird’s eye view of their fields.
However, that's not all. The specialized camera produces specific contrasting colors to let the operators see the overall health of the crops.
Multispectral images can reveal many issues such as pest infections, soil variation, and irrigation problems.
The combination of infrared and visual spectrum views allows the farmer to distinguish healthy crops from weak ones. Of course, the difference is almost impossible to detect by the naked eye.
Hence, farmers need to hire skilled operators who can pilot an agricultural UAV for problem diagnosis and spot treatment.
11. Feature film making
Traditional filmmakers make use of a camera mounted on helicopters to get the perfect aerial shot of the location. Aside from helicopters, filmmakers also use dollies, jibs, and cranes to get the desired tracking shot.
With a camera drone, you won’t need to use helicopters to get breathtaking aerial shots. Moreover, you won’t also need to use jibs or cranes to move the camera in every direction and angle.
UAVs with a cinematic camera can do all of these things and more. For high budget film production, a powerful UAV equipped with 5K (or better yet 6K) camera is the first requirement.
UAV cameras with higher resolution come at a heftier price, but you need one of these if you're planning to make it big in filmmaking.
Movie and TV producers are seriously considering aerial cinematography with UAVs. Currently, the U.S. government is considering about requiring filmmakers to make official request to let them use UAV legally to shoot aerial videos.
Although we’ve already seen some Hollywood movies using camera drones, the legality of its application is still in the process.
12. News footage
How to make money with a drone in journalism application? It’s quite simple. All you have to do is fly your UAV in high profile instances to cover the event.
News agencies are willing to pay any price for rare photos and video footages that can spark the interest of the public.
Additionally, it keeps the public well-informed about the latest happenings from areas of conflict, disaster, accident, civil upheaval, or war. By using UAVs, journalists will no longer have to risk their lives by infiltrating into the scene of a report.
Indeed, using UAVs to document areas under dangerous situations is the safest way for journalists to get the job done.
Even paparazzi can significantly benefit from these small UAVs. True enough, even the most heavily guarded celebrity can never escape a drone's coverage.
13. Sports Videography
Calling all sports enthusiasts! Here’s how to make money with a drone while fulfilling your love for sports.
You can be a sports videographer and use your UAV to broadcast sporting events from the air. The good thing is, we have more than enough sports events to cover throughout the year.
Local, regional and international sports events provide endless opportunities for sports videographers to earn money. Especially now that UAVs are mainly deployed to cover all sorts of activities.
You’ve probably seen some prominent sports events that are using UAVs for their live coverage. There’s the Olympic Games, Tour de France, ESPN’s X Games, Boston Marathon, and more.
14. Drone racing
UAV racing is a fun and exciting game but don’t you know that you can also make money out of it? So, how to make money with a drone in a racing game?
Some people are not even aware of these racing events. This is because drone racing has been an underground event in the past years.
However, the popularity of UAVs made this race become a mainstream sport that ESPN launched an official Drone Racing League.
Moreover, here's the catch. You can walk away with $100,000 prize money if you win the championship race.
Important Factor to Keep in Mind About Pricing
Now that you already know some several ways on how to make money with a drone, you’re probably considering giving it a try.
However, how much can you practically charge for your services? Pricing will depend on the type of UAV you’ll be using and the type of service that you’re providing.
Of course, more expensive UAVs are more powerful and more versatile than the cheaper ones.
High-end cinematic UAVs with higher video resolution are required for high-budget filmmaking.
Less expensive UAV with 720p or 1080p camera can do well to cover the wedding, sports events, private investigations, and video surveillance.
Drone advertisements are the most common types of service being offered by UAV operators today.
When it comes to drone advertisements, the quality of the image is essential to keep up with the competition.
However, there are also other things that can influence your success.
You must have the skill to choose the best angle or perspective that can pique the interest of the public.
In addition to this skill, you must also possess the ability to identify the most robust features of a particular establishment.
This can help you point out specific areas where to emphasize on.
Regardless of the type of service, you're offering, keep in mind that the type of drone, your skill level, and your abilities will determine your success.
As a beginner, you can attract customers by offering a beginner's discount.
However, it would help if you never provided the lowest price.
Remember that you aim to deliver more value than your competitors without compromising your real worth.
Show your potential customers that your service is better than other competitors by showing them actual proofs.
Present some of your competitor's outputs then show your output capturing the same location.
Discuss the improvements you’ve made to the output and show them how your skill is better than your competition.
Keep in mind that the only way to stand on top of the competition is to attract more customers as possible.
Moreover, customers certainly put their trust on actual proofs, not just empty promises.
Gaining more experience will enhance your skills in UAV operations.
Eventually, more experience and more customers will bring you to a professional level wherein you can charge more for your services.
As for agricultural, delivery, and inspection purposes, you’ll need to purchase more advanced UAVs that are intended for these particular tasks.
To offer these services, you can opt to put up your own private office or be employed by a company.
If you prefer to work for a company as a UAV operator, it is highly likely that you'll get paid on a fixed salary rate.
However, if you choose to run your own business, you have the option to charge on an hourly basis or a fixed price for your services.
With a high-quality UAV, you also have plenty of opportunities to make a considerable profit out of it.
This complete guide on how to make money with a drone can help you get started with your venture.
UAV technology has come a long way. From private military uses to recreational applications, latest innovations have opened more practical uses across different industries.
Hence, it only fits to apply UAV technology for a sufficient cause. To succeed in this field of business, you need to choose the most suitable type of drone for your business.
Then the next thing is to lay your groundwork by getting required certification to operate your enterprise legally.
To become a responsible operator and owner, you should observe the guidelines set by the governing body. Compliance with these rules can benefit all UAV operators as well as ensuring a safe environment for everyone.
Picking a niche, getting clients, providing services, and scaling your financial system are the necessary steps in starting a drone business.
As you can see, there are several ways on how to make money with a drone and the possibilities are endless.
Flying a drone is a fun hobby but utilizing it to make a profit is much more satisfying. Opportunities in the UAV industry are ample, and it's up to you to choose your path towards a good fortune.