Are you curious to know how to become professional drone pilot? Check out this article to learn more about how to become a professional drone pilot. From training to career paths, this article has it all!
Drones have become mainstream gadgets today as professionals and hobbyists pursue them alike to fuel their passions.
If you look forward to becoming a professional drone pilot, you must follow a few steps to qualify and run your business successfully.
Once you achieve this end, you can make a full-time income by flying a drone on commercial missions.
In this write-up, you will learn how to become a drone pilot. I have given every step in this process in detail so that you find all the information you will need to become a drone pilot in one place.
How To Become Professional Drone Pilot?
Get a drone for yourself
While aspiring to become a professional drone pilot, you must first learn to fly a drone. To get the practice required, you do not necessarily need to buy one as there are enough flight simulators to get you through.
However, you can never become perfect without getting the real thing and hence it is good to buy a drone for yourself.
Secondly, when you have decided to become a professional drone pilot, it makes sense to invest in a drone that will support your profession rather than settling with some cheaper options that you will have to upgrade later on.
Also, be specific in choosing the model that will support your career preferences.
For example, if surveying and mapping are the areas you want to focus on, do not go for Mavic Air, which lacks the kind of cameras that will help you with these tasks.
Instead, it is good to buy a drone model like Phantom 4 Pro or Inspire 1, which will add a real purpose to your investment.
Also, this will help you learn the tools of your trade as you learn to operate your fly machine.
Do some real homework to understand which drone model will best address the needs of the industry you want to get into.
For instance, the best drone for professional photography might not be the one that is recommended for inspections. Therefore, the groundwork you do in these lines will really pay you eventually.
Learn How to Fly a Drone
If you are a beginner with no knowledge of how to fly a drone, you must start practicing basic flight skills.
If you are panicked to fly the expensive drone that you have bought newly, you can get started with a few simple drills to gain the necessary confidence.
Moving forward, you can explore the features of your particular drone. If you have invested in an advanced drone model, it must have a lot of features making it easy to fly.
Once you have got the basics rightly, you can move ahead to practice advanced flight skills. You must get through with using all the features of your controller.
You must understand how the different features and settings of your drone make it work and gain a thorough practice till you gain complete mastery and confidence.
Take up drone piloting course
There are different ways to get some good training on drone piloting skills. Some community colleges do offer full-time programs to teach drone piloting skills.
Though this is a good option, this is for you if you are willing to spend a long time and money in the process. Nevertheless, I will not call this the only option to learn how to pilot a drone.
Several online training courses in drone flight training can teach you basic flight skills to advanced skills relevant to some exclusive domains like mapping, inspections, surveying, and cinematography.
Some of these courses sport a professional content and format that will provide you with practical skills development techniques.
Some others could be just tutorial kind of courses that can be of little help to promote your skills.
So, it is necessary that you do the research to pick up an expertly designed course to fuel your journey to become a professional drone pilot.
Get a commercial license for drone pilots
If you want to operate a drone legally for profits, you must get a commercial license for drone pilots from the FAA.
While this is the authority in the US to get the license from, there are similar agencies in other countries.
Getting a commercial license for drone pilots is not a difficult process, but there are different steps to it. The most intriguing part would be passing the Aeronautical Knowledge Test.
You must be not less than 16 years to be able to fly a drone commercially.
Get through the Aeronautical Knowledge Test, also known as the Part 107 test or UAG or Unmanned Aircraft General.
You must personally visit an FAA testing site and appear for the test. The test has 60 multiple-choice questions.
Once you pass this test, you can apply to FAA for a Remote Pilot Certificate. Within a week or two from the date of applying, you will get a temporary certificate.
The permanent certificate will reach you in about 6 to 8 weeks. This license must be renewed periodically.
The next step to becoming a commercial drone pilot is to register your drone. If you have registered the device already under recreational guidelines, you must now register it once again under the commercial guidelines.
The drone registration must be kept in current by renewing it once in every 36 months. Every time you fly, you are expected to keep the registration card with you.
Once in every 24 months, you have to renew your commercial drone pilot’s license. To this end, you must pass the recurrent Aeronautical Knowledge Test.
Though this is similar to the test you took initially, the recurrent versions will have 40 questions to complete with a slightly different kind of focus. These tests must be taken in a physical location.
You are required to produce your drone and all the connected documents to the FAA if required, for testing or inspection.
Any accident causing an injury or property damage worth $500 must be reported to the FAA. Be ready with a preflight inspection protocol to make sure that your drone is safe to fly before every flight.
Get some industry-specific training
Getting the right kind of training is the key to success when you start out to become a professional drone pilot. There are a lot of training options available at a throw-away price.
Once you get the professional drone pilot’s license and the required drone flight skills, you must now focus on getting the industry-specific training that will make your knowledge relevant to your field of work.
Some such special focuses include getting trained with mapping, surveying, inspections, and cinematography depending on which kind of vocation you will want to take up.
Since the kind of skills you need to cultivate differs with these industries, you cannot compromise with such specialized training.
Also, interacting with experts in these domains can give you some very valuable inputs that will help you when you actually work in your domain as a professional.
Buy a drone insurance cover
Before getting started as a professional drone pilot, the most crucial thing is to equip yourself with the right kind of insurance that adequately covers the risks you might face.
For instance, when you want to become a professional photographer shooting real estate or weddings, or if you want to conduct aerial inspections of commercial buildings and bridges.
You must have liability insurance that is awarded specifically to the kind of drone operations you will do.
In most cases, a regular business policy will not cover you. Therefore, when you want to get started, you must look for a flexible drone insurance policy to cover your actual drone flights.
As you grow, you will have to go for more comprehensive kind of policies to stay covered adequately.
A suitable drone insurance cover will make sure that you are financially protected in case of an accident requiring you to pay out to cover the damages.
In fact, while landing some lucrative assignments, most clients might ask you to produce the proof of insurance to be able to hire you.
Launch your business
Starting a business is a real tough job in any domain. Especially this will bring you a host of challenges when you are just trying to get the ball rolling.
Some of the issues you will need to address will include the initial setup costs, getting customers, developing your products, building your reputation, and developing your skill sets in line with the latest developments.
Adding to all this, you will also have to take care of the paperwork you need to do as a freelancer or contractor.
There are literally several things to manage. While we have adequately covered the training you need to undergo, we will discuss some other important issues here.
Once you have got the different things to work, the sky is the limit to what you can achieve and all of it will depend on your hard work and ingenuity.
Getting the first client or project will make your day one of the most memorable ones in your life.
Hand in hand, you must also give enough focus to building your industry expertise and professional image.
After getting your drone, skills, license, and training, you are ready to use your drone to make money in the field you have chosen.
You will need to find good projects and clients. The ability to build your customer base will depend on the specific industry skills you have acquired and the regional location you are based in.
It is a good idea to create a website for your business and market your skills. You can get some projects by registering on DroneBase.com.
You can place ads in some publications or industry-specific journals. One other way to get clients is cold calling.
You may also ask your clients to share your information with their contacts. Get ready with a brochure and business card. To build your reputation and network, attend some conferences and events.
Getting customers during the initial stage of developing your business is a hard thing to achieve and hence you must not depend on one single method to do this.
Implement all of the above ideas and check what works for you the most. Be as creative as you can to develop your customer base.
In course of developing your business, you will also discover that you need to update your technical expertise. Therefore you must always continue your training as a drone pilot both formally and informally.
Unless you keep advancing your technology and skills in the domain you have chosen to work with, you will find yourself left out amidst the tough competition.
Being a professional drone pilot is an ongoing effort that will need a continuous investment of resources, efforts, and time to stay relevant in your field and grow with your passion.
Jon is a passionate photographer and videographer who has been flying DJI drones for over 5 years. He loves the freedom and creativity that comes with capturing aerial footage and the unique perspective it provides. Jon is always on the lookout for new locations to explore and capture with his DJI drones. His favorite DJI drone is the Mavic 2 Pro, which he uses to capture stunning 4K footage with its Hasselblad camera. Jon is always eager to share his knowledge and experience with other drone enthusiasts and is a member of several online drone communities. When he’s not flying his DJI drone, Jon enjoys hiking, camping, and spending time with his family.