As automation and technology continue to advance, drones are at the forefront of innovation, revolutionizing industries such as aerial surveys, cinematography, three-dimensional land mapping, package delivery, and even police and military operations. A drone pilot will learn how to safely operate the drone in different land areas, airspaces, and weather conditions, and how to maintain the drone’s overall safety of flight integrity and functionality of the drone itself.
A drone pilot, who operates drones for private businesses or local and federal government agencies, must be knowledgeable about many aspects of the drone including how to control and maintain an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), how to maintain and repair UAVs used to gather data aerially, and how to navigate the National Airspace System (NAS) before drone pilots are allowed to operate these vehicles for companies in a range of industries.
Once the license is obtained, there is no shortage of opportunities for drone pilots. Some of the most common career, or freelance, opportunities for drone pilots include, but are not limited to, the following industry areas:
The market for professional drone pilots is ever increasing, according to Global Market Insights, the Commercial Drone Market is expected to be valued at $125 Billion by 2032 and should continue to increase without halt (1).
An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operator, or drone pilot, must be at least 16 years old to earn their pilot certificate. The other education requirements set forth from the FAA to operate your own, or a commercially registered drone include proving your knowledge of the regulations, operating a drone requirements, and safety procedures surrounding the FAA’s Small UAS Rule (Part 107) by obtaining a Remote Pilot Certificate.
If you have not already earned a pilot certificate issued under 14 CFR part 61, which includes sport pilot, recreational pilot, private pilot, commercial pilot, or airline transport pilot, you must first earn one of these certificates and meet the additional following requirements:
If you already hold a pilot certificate issued under 14 CFR part 61 and have completed a flight review within the previous 24 months, you meet all the initial required items to get started.
In order to operate Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in the National Airspace System (NAS) under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, the FAA Part 107 Commercial Drone License test must be passed at one of the various testing locations in your area which you may find by clicking here. To prepare you for your test, and ensure you have all the necessary paperwork completed before arriving at the testing center, Santa Monica Flyers offers a preparation course for this test.
Preparing your coursework and studying the relevant materials to become a competent and safe drone pilot usually takes about four to six weeks from start to finish. These drones will be operated in and around the same airspace used by general aviation and airline traffic, so understanding exactly where this drone is operating is always a priority. Along with the knowledge of how and where one may operate these drones, one must learn the required skills necessary to complete the industry specific job requirements.
While experience and industry will always play a role in determining an expected salary for jobs and drone services, salary.com provides a national average the geographic differential salary range to be between $38,000 and $85,000. If you would rather earn your drone license and operate your own freelance or on-demand service, many low-end projects may pay around $200-
$300 per project, with some paying around $50/hour for your services (2).
Let’s discuss in more detail some of the jobs your drone pilot certificate will open.
In the past, capturing stunning aerial footage was only possible with extraordinarily expensive equipment and helicopters, but today this is possible with a UAV and a UAV pilot. Entering this field doesn’t require you to move to Hollywood, or even get a specific job working on a set with a director and team. You could work as a freelancer, filming beautiful footage up and down the western coast or of rural flat land and selling this footage to directors and others alike online. Or you could get a job working with real estate agents, construction companies, and other businesses to capture marketing and promotional footage for their businesses. With the ever- increasing demand for visual content, a drone licenses lands you in a lucrative position in the field of videography.
While many private drones are fixed with various levels of high-quality cameras, many commercial drones are fixed with unique and advanced technologies. Becoming a drone pilot who works as a surveyor, many opportunities include a vehicle fixed with either a camera and specialized software to map an area of land, or infrared cameras to create accurate maps and 3D models of different terrains, construction sites, agricultural fields, or infrastructure. By utilizing drone technology, you can provide detailed, high-resolution images and data that traditional surveying methods cannot capture. Some of these positions have computer automation driven infrastructures which allow the pilot to preprogram the flight itself, never touching the controls of the craft while in flight.
Responsibilities for a security surveillance drone operator is the monitoring and surveying areas of interest such as critical infrastructure, public events, and private properties. Your work would help to enhance the safety and security of various locations and ensure that potential threats are identified and addressed in a timely manner. In this role, you would work closely with security personnel, law enforcement agencies, and other organizations to provide surveillance and monitoring services. Your work could also be used for search and rescue missions or disaster response efforts, providing valuable assistance in emergency situations.
For years, drone piloting and drone technology has been utilized in agricultural work for monitoring crop and livestock conditions to monitor for potential problems and optimize field management. These drone pilots have been working with farmers to monitor their soil, survey land boundaries, monitor irrigation systems, collecting soil samples, and more. These drones have allowed farmers to save time from traditional methods of gathering this data, improve health and safety efforts, and reduce environmental impact by reducing pollution and saving on spray chemicals.
The Army has an entry level, active-duty opportunity titled: Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operator which includes its own training and can provide 22 nationally recognized certificates. According to the Army’s website, you’ll be an intelligence specialist, which is integral to providing Army personnel with information about enemy forces and battle areas. You’ll also train and utilize specialized skills to conduct air reconnaissance, surveillance, targeting missions, and analyze aerial photographs.
While there are many commercial drone pilot opportunities available outside the armed forces, if you’re interested in enlisting in the Army National Guard to continue your drone training, earn additional certificates, and gain additional information and insight into different types of opportunities, this is another route you may be interested in.
Step 1: Contact our team to be arranged a time to meet with one of our Certified Flight Instructors at Santa Monica Flyers. Here, you will spend approximately 15 to 20 hours over the course of two weeks learning the necessary material and completing practice tests in preparation. During this time, your instructor will also walk you through the FAA’s system to register you as a student pilot and ensure all necessary paperwork is completed on schedule for your exam.
Step 2: Schedule and Take Your Drone Pilot Knowledge Test. After arriving at the testing center and being checked-in for your exam, you will two hours to complete the 60-question multiple- choice exam. This exam will cover the following topics:
Step 3: You have earned your FAA Drone Pilot License. You will soon receive a temporary certificate and your hard-copy certificate will arrive in the mail soon. In the meantime, begin exploring opportunities and career jobs which excite you and your passions!
If you have decided becoming a drone pilot is for you, we want to provide you with the best resources available to make your dreams become a career-changing reality! We won’t only make you a safe drone pilot with our expert training, we will provide you with the skills necessary to become a skilled and proficient pilot operating unmanned aerial vehicles and point you in the direction of your next career.
3165 Donald Douglas Loop SouthSanta Monica Municipal Airport (SMO)Santa Monica, CA 90405