The consumer market for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, has exploded over the past three years. Sales of personal drones doubled in the US in 2017, and this trend looks set to continue. The rise of consumer drones has been fuelled by several factors. Improvements in technology and falling prices are part of the story, but changes in regulations controlling the use of UAVs have also contributed to their popularity. The capabilities of drones mean that they are being recognized as valuable tools by many industries, and this is creating thousands of new job opportunities.
It may sound like a dream job to many people, but it really is possible to make money flying drones. It's becoming a competitive market, so you have to be creative and develop your skills if you want to become a professional UAV pilot. In addition to technical knowledge and the ability to fly a drone, photographic skills can give you an edge. There are opportunities in more specialized fields, but most jobs working with drones involve taking photographs or video footage.
The following are some of the most common ways of making money with drones.
One of the easiest ways to make money with a drone is using it for aerial photography. Demand is growing for this as people begin to realize what a difference it makes to have photographs taken from an aerial perspective. Possible customers include golf courses, hotels and wedding venues. Real estate companies are a good source of repeat business.
As well as being able to control a drone and position it for the best shots, aerial photographic work requires good camera skills. Composition and framing are just as important for aerial pictures as for ones taken from the ground. Images often need to be improved in Photoshop or other editing software, so it's worth developing these skills too.
Surveys and inspections
Construction companies quickly realized the potential of drones. Larger companies are beginning to buy their own UAVs, but there's demand for work from small local construction companies. Sending a drone up to inspect a roof or hard to reach part of a building is much quicker than erecting scaffolding. It's also cheaper and safer.
Drones are powerful tools for every stage of a construction project. They can be used to survey new sites and produce accurate maps before work begins. High-resolution 3D modelling software can use the data captured by a UAV to produce design plans. Aerial images of work progressing are a great reference for clients.
Surveillance and security
Some police forces are now using drones for monitoring movements of crowds and road traffic. There are also opportunities for private contractors to get involved. Battery life can be an issue when using drones for this type of work, so you'll need enough spares and a way of charging on the move.
Search and rescue
UAVs are still regarded as weapons by many people, but they are becoming tools for protecting and saving lives rather than taking them. Drones are now used in humanitarian relief efforts and search and rescue missions around the world. In the US, they were used extensively following Hurricane Harvey. Drones can be used to assess the damage after natural disasters, and help to guide emergency workers to the scene. There are reports of drone pilots volunteering their services free of charge at disaster scenes, but there are also paid opportunities to work with local authorities.
As the technology is still relatively new, it's a great time to pursue a career in the drone industry. If you develop the necessary skills now, there will be thousands of opportunities to make money with drones in the future.
And while being one of the best drone pilots in the field requires constant training make sure you don’t need to worry about your professional finances. Make use of online accounting software like Accounteer to keep track of your figures. Automating your accounting ensures you can keep practising your hobby for year to come and make a great living of it.