Drone Pilot Salary – How Much Money Drone Pilots Make?

The first thing people ask when deciding whether or not a career switch is inevitable is the following – how much money will I make? It’s only logical to ask this question; after all, we need to pay our bills month in and month out.


Working because you feel like working is a luxury only extremely rich people can afford. We mortal folks are bound by the chains known as salary. So, what is the expected drone pilot salary in 2022? Are there any concrete numbers or is the industry still way too secretive about this sort of stuff?

Well, that’s what we aim to find out in the remainder of this blog, so let’s dive right on in!

What is a Professional Drone Pilot?

First, we need to answer the most basic question – what is a professional drone pilot? What makes an individual able to earn a drone pilot salary the legit, legal way?

If you want to be a professional drone pilot, you need to get your certification! And while the thought of becoming a fully licensed commercial drone pilot definitely sounds appealing, the process isn’t as straightforward as one might think.

The bright side is that the costs of setting everything up aren’t that high. The Part 107 practice test is the first thing you should do to get the certification, and you’ll be happy to know that pricing is the smallest part of the equation. The biggest part is, obviously, finding a proper drone that can serve commercial purposes. You’ll need either a prosumer flagship or an entry-level commercial platform to kick things off.

This will set you back for around $2,000, but you could save some money if you opt for a second-hand device. That’s up for you to decide, though, we can’t help you there.


Drone Pilot Salary 2022 | Best Paid Jobs

Unfortunately, there aren’t that many concrete statistics for the term drone pilot salary. According to Glassdoor salary calculations, the median drone pilot salary is $79,000. However, these numbers might be slightly inflated due to Glassdoor showing not just unmanned but manned drone pilots too.

A more legitimate number ought to be somewhere around $60,000 to $70,000, which is what we got for the term “UAS Pilot”.

If you’re interested in government and military positions, UAV Operator is the official title and the average base salary goes between $33,000 and $40,000.

Then again, you aren’t limited to these positions. Lots of commercial drone pilots work as freelancers. Being a freelancer is no longer frowned upon, no matter the industry we’re talking about. The only downside is the fact that your salary will depend on your ability to continuously find (well-paid) gigs.

As for more concrete examples of industries/niches that require commercial drone pilots, here are the top three:

Real Estate

First and foremost – real estate. It’s one of the industries that helped pave the way for the regulation of commercial drone piloting. Whether we’re talking about interior or exterior footage, drones can take care of everything. The additional value they give to real estate projects is second to none! Plus, this industry is rather lucrative, so it might be a good idea to start going through real estate agencies in your local area and seeing if they need someone to push the numbers up!

Most of the time, though, real estate agencies will look for external contractors. If that’s what you stumble upon too, the logical next step is to start freelancing. More on that later on!

Construction Jobs

What sort of advantage do drones offer to construction businesses? Well, there are several use cases, but the most important one is definitely aerial 3D mapping. With solutions like DroneDeploy, high-end drones can easily map complex areas and help with the planning process prior to massive construction overhauls.

If you’re well-versed not just in terms of DroneDeploy use but 3D mapping in general, this niche ought to be fruitful for you, salary-wise. If you don’t know much about these sorts of things, there’s a lot of tutorials online and it won’t take a lot of time to get everything set up!

Media Production

Last but not least, media production! Lots of AAA and independent media production organizations are always on the lookout for more commercial drone operators. Keep in mind, though, that some of these businesses require drone pilots that can fly without the self-leveling functions of commercial models. We’re talking about proper FPV racing drone controlling here, which is becoming increasingly popular in the music video industry.

The salaries greatly vary from one position to another. Just like with real estate and construction jobs, you can find lots of work in media production as a freelancer too. Since you came here looking for information on drone pilot salaries, freelancing is an obvious way to go!


There’s more to drone pilot jobs than the above-featured ones. Make sure you do plenty of research and you’ll find a plethora of other equally well-paid options.

How to Find a Job as a Drone Pilot?

  • Having years of experience flying drones is a big plus when kicking things off, but it’s not a must. It’s totally optional as high-end drones have all sorts of safety measures that will prevent you from destroying them right away.
  • The first real step you’ll need to make is to study and pass the Part 107 Practice exam. It’s not as easy as some people claim it is. You’ll need to study for it; forget about those who claim you can learn everything in a last-night campaign.
  • Once you get your drone pilot license, there are two paths you can take. A, you can look for job openings for commercial drone pilots. B, you can start your own freelance business and start looking for businesses looking for external contractors.
  • Finding a job as a drone pilot is one thing, keeping it is a whole different pair of shoes. The basics are straightforward: always reply in a timely fashion, do everything according to contracts and due dates, and go out of your way to help your clients get the results they want. At the end of the day, word-of-mouth marketing is of crucial importance in this business!
Larry Haller