How to Make Money with a Drone: Sky is the Limit?

By Christopher Jan Benitez |

Flying drones was a hot trend a few years ago. Now, instead of thinking about their cool factor, it's better to look at how to make money with a drone.

Some people think drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), are just toys. That statement is true to some extent because you can do a lot of fun things with it. For instance, you can create beautiful pictures with your family and friends during your vacations or getaways. You also can create stunning videos and capture events from unique angles.

However, for business-minded folks like yourself, it's all about finding opportunities to make a quick buck. And if you look at drones, they can be more than a plaything that you fly with remote control. When used correctly, you can generate a steady stream of income from operating a commercial drone.

In this post, you will learn how to make money with a drone. Once we've covered that, we'll talk about some of the legal requirements of flying your drone and what your startup costs will be.

How To Make Money With A Drone

Now that we have that stuff out of the way, it's time for us to discuss how you can make the serious dough using a drone.

Most of the ways listed below will require you to make money by taking photos or drone footage. The beauty of drones is that you can take pictures from unique angles and get nearer to your subject without being physically there to capture the shot. If you can master flying a drone and getting comfortable with its features, then the suggestions below will be right up your alley.

Also, some of the suggestions below will require you to possess specific and highly-developed skills to help add value to your existing services. However, you can still make money as long as you know how to capture good photos using a drone.

Without further ado, below are profitable ways to use a drone:

1. Learn aerial photography and surveying

As mentioned, taking photos using a drone is your best bet for making money with it. Make sure that your drone has a gimbal and a hi-res camera to help you take quality photos regardless of the drone's distance is from the subject.

Before considering drone photography, you need to be mindful of who you plan your services in. You can't just market your services to companies and businesses – not all of them with need aerial footage and photography.

Drone mapping

Two industries that need aerial photos as part of their job are real estate agents and architects. The former could use the photos to help give their potential buyers a better view of the property from different angles. The latter can use drones to take pictures of buildings, inspect the quality of construction, and survey sites, to name a few. 

Mapping out a piece of land or property is common with a drone. Here's a video that explains how drone mapping can be applied on real estate to create a 3D representation and model of land and surveying a site to oversee the process of the construction without having to be there, to name a few use cases:

Some agents and architects are already ahead of the curve as they use drones as part of their line of work to do the things mentioned above. However, for those who are in need of high-quality photographs to show their prospects, you must offer your photo- and video footage-capturing skills to them.

Aerial surveying

If you have a profound interest in topography, cartography, archaeology, or any study that deals with surveying physical spaces, then you can offer your drone expertise in these fields.

Back in the day, collecting geographic information such as aerial thermography and the like was done from a balloon, airplane, or helicopter. Nowadays, you can become a drone pilot and get photos from hard impossible and hard-to-reach places, thus providing better geomatics for people in these industries. 

The size and mobility of unmanned aerial systems, as well as your skills in controlling one, are sought-after assets that can help you make good money.

2. Become a wedding photographer

Wedding Photography

Wedding photographers are responsible for capturing the moments of couples celebrating their love for each other. Taking photos before, during, and after the wedding will comprise most of their job. And in the competitive world of wedding photography, they need to do whatever it takes to stand out from the pack.

Therefore, if you're a drone user, you need to consider becoming a wedding photographer. It's no longer enough to take photos using a professional camera. There's only so many types of shots you can take on the field. With the ability to take aerial shots and footages, you help your clients make their special event even more special!

You can use your drone during the prenup pictorial and same-day wedding video to provide more value to their clients. Here's an example of a wedding video that puts commercial drones to good use:

Before starting out, you need to understand that being a wedding photographer is serious business. While the ability to take beautiful photos will help you attract clients, closing them and getting in their good graces is another thing. You also need to learn how to deal with the personalities of clients to do a good job and get paid handsomely.

There are other aspects of being a wedding photographer that you need to learn – most of which you can read in this post at Digital Photography School.

3. Deliver goods

Sending over goods from one place to another can take time. If you're sending over an urgent package, you can't wait before the end of the day to get it. Even then, the traffic can get in the way so you can't be sure to get your courier ahead of time.

To provide potential clients with a seamless way to receive goods on the go, you can go with drone deliveries.

The use of drones for delivering packages is not a novel concept. Companies like Amazon and AliExpress utilize drones to send the orders of users to their doorsteps. Also, charities and organizations deliver supplies to places inaccessible by land. In fact, the trend of shipping services is going the way of drone deliveries due to its low costs and efficiency. Not to mention, it is also good for the environment.

You can offer your drone delivery services as a third-party service provider to e-commerce sites and local stores. Help them innovate their stores by providing a top-notch delivery system for items with a weight that can be carried by your drones.

It will help if you have lots of drones on standby to help deliver the goods without queuing up a line. Therefore, investing in lots of drones from the onset is crucial if you want your drone delivery service to be a success. You can't offer delivery drone services if you only have a handful of drones available.

Lastly, you need to hire a commercial drone pilot or pilots to help control your drones if requests for deliveries pile up.

Drone delivery may not be ideal for beginners as it may require you a substantial capital to invest in drones. Also, you need to have connections with store owners that deliver goods to their clients. However, if you have the cash and the experience to get this drone business idea off the ground, consider yourself as a possible pioneer in this field.

4. Video surveillance

Drone in flight

Security is a vital aspect of a business. It doesn't matter how much profit it generated – all of the cash it earned can go away in one fell swoop without the proper security measures.

Aside from setting up firewalls to protect your online data, business owners need to protect their infrastructure with video surveillance. Installing cameras on different parts of their property will help them spot intruders and thieves from the harm they will cause. While these cameras are capable enough to keep a watchful eye on your business, there are those that can pass through the cracks.

The problem with security cameras is that they are fixed to their position. They can't roam around at night to check on different parts of their property. Therefore, there's a slim chance that intruders can find a way to bypass the cameras and break their way inside.

With a drone video surveillance, however, they won't have this problem. 

If you open up shop for businesses looking for better video surveillance services, you can definitely drum up a fortune. Drones can move around one's property with ease and can sneak up in hard to reach places to make sure that the land is safe from trespassers. Most importantly, drones are difficult to spot and detect, which is important as to easily stop crafty intruders in their tracks.

To pull this job off, you need a drone that has a 4k camera and thermal imaging. This type of drone doesn't come cheap but is more than a worthy investment if you are serious with video surveillance.

5. Resell drones

Due to your research on drones, you fell in love with them. You became obsessed with the drone culture by knowing the ins and outs of a drone like the back of your hand. You like flying them for a variety of purposes, mostly as a hobby. However, it hasn't stopped you from getting the best drones that money can buy.

While you don't seem too keen on learning how to make money using a drone, you can still make earn off them. Using your knowledge of drones, you need to purchase fixer-upper drones at affordable prices. You then need to fix and tweak the drones to improve its working conditions before reselling them at higher prices. You can also purchase the latest model of drones and sell them later on at increased prices.

You may consider setting up a store where you can sell drones, whether it's a local store or online. Regarding the latter, you need to develop an online store that's dedicated to drones. Providing your target audience with all the information they need to know about drones will help you sell more and earn more.

How Lucrative Is The Drone Business?

You can make some serious cash by using your drone and solving someone's needs. I can imagine that quite a few people would pay you to take aerial pictures since the only other way to get these shots is by helicopter. I can't speak to video surveillance or package delivery, but people charge in the hundreds or thousands for wedding photos.

Maybe you've heard that saying “if it's a wedding, charge double”. It's true in the drone business as well. It will depend on what you're doing, but you could make anywhere from $20/hour to over $100/hour. As your reputation and business increases, you could make much more.

But as with any business, there are startup costs involved.

Here are some costs you'll have to go through:

Drone Costs, Legal Requirements, and Where To Find Them

Consumer drones as a tool to help boost your income is an investment of sorts. But to understand better how drones work, you need to appreciate what they bring to the table for people who are drone operators by trade. At the same time, there are legal hoops that you need to jump through to use UAVs in public legally.

How much do consumer drones cost?

Currently, drones used for photography and real estate cost from $600 to $1,000. Filmmakers will have to shell out more than $1,000 for a drone that suits their needs. Drones used for agricultural purposes cost $10,000 or more due to the demands required in the industry. More expensive drones on the $25,000 range are used for topological reasons.

If you're interested in learning how to make money with a drone, you should settle with one used by photographers. You don't need expensive drones unless you plan on studying geometric properties.

What to look for in a drone?

Price is just one of the many factors that you need to consider when getting a drone. Below are other parameters that you should factor in when choosing the drone for you:

Place where you will be buying your drone

Ideally, you can buy consumer drones from Amazon and Best Buy, among other prominent brands. However, there are specialty stores where you can buy drones not available in most stores. Hobby King is one of those places where you can choose from trust brands as well as drones manufactured and designed by the shop. If you've gotten comfortable with using and building consumer drones, you can purchase parts from the classified section at Just like any classified ad, there's a particular risk involved when buying a drone here. At the same time, you can potentially get great deals on the cheap.

Are they ready to fly or not?

Surprisingly, not all drones are ready to fly upon purchase. Some require additional set-up to make the drones work. Below are different types of drones based on their flight capabilities:

For beginners, RTF drones are your safest bet. It requires little setup, and you can get your drone up in the air sooner than later. The other types of drones are ideal for people who are already knowledgeable about drones and need a custom setup that meets their requirements and needs. Once you have acquired specific tastes for the type of drone you want to use, you can eventually move away from your basic setup to a more specialized one.

Flying a drone

Commercial Drone Pilot

Controlling a drone to fly off the ground and maintain airtime seems simple enough. However, it's much easier to break your drone than anything else. Imagine the hundreds of dollars you spent on your drone to come crashing down it because you don't know how to make it fly correctly.

One of the major causes of drones crashing down is compass interference. The compass informs you which direction it is facing so you can control it accurately using your GPS. If your drone comes in contact with anything made of metal, there's a high chance that your drone will keep moving in circles in the air. Known as the “toilet bowl effect,” the drone will crash if you don't do anything about it soon enough. 

As a failsafe feature, most drones will let you know you via remote control to recalibrate it. To do this, you need to land your drone in a spot where no metals are found so you can troubleshoot the problem from there.

Also, control range specs tell you how far your drones can go while still in control. However, the distance shown in the box is only applicable to places with no radio interference. In most urban areas where signal interference is rampant, the specs can only be around half of the advertised range. The distance can even go shorter if you're using the drone near a radio network. Therefore, you need to be aware of your location first before using the data.

Even then, it's best not to stretch your drone to its maximum distance. For example, a drone with a 1-mile radius control range specs will be running at 5x less than optimum level when at 1 mile away from you. Therefore, any interference that may come your drone's way can cause a crash landing due to the weak connection between your controller and drone.

Registering your drone

Once you have a drone, you need to state yourself as the registered owner of the drone. Drones are referred to as “unmanned aircraft systems” by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). If you're not covered by the FAA, you must find the governing body where you can register your drone and use it for professional purposes in your state or country. 

If your drone weighs more than 55 pounds, you need to fill out the necessary paperwork for this. If it weighs less than 55 pounds, you can register online here.

At the same time, you need to apply for a drone license to fly them legally. To profit from drones, you need to be at least 16 years of age to get a license. Also, you need to take and pass a written test that asks questions about the rules and regulations of flying a drone. Click here to check out which states offer the written test and where you can take it and earn your remote pilot certificate. Lastly, you need to pass a background check conducted by TSA or Transportation Security System.

The fact that you need to register your drones mean that you can't recklessly use drones for reasons outside its rules and regulations. It keeps all drone owners responsible and creates a safe environment for people when around drones.

What's the best drone to purchase?

As far as recommending which drone brand to purchase, you can hop onto Amazon and do your research using the parameters mentioned above. I don't want to be responsible for referring you to a drone that may be great for some but isn't for you.

Did you learn how to make money with a drone?

Drone technology is one of the latest innovations that have practical use-cases across different professional fields and industries. While flying them and taking photos with your family and friends using it is fun, implementing the tips on how to make money with a drone in this post is much more satisfying. The drone industry is rife is potential in making money, and it's up to you to ride on the wave should you want to.

Again, while drones are fun to use in general, you need to be responsible as its owner and pilot. You need to observe the guidelines that govern the use of drones in your area, 

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By Christopher Jan Benitez

Christopher Jan Benitez is a professional freelance writer who provides small businesses and startups with content that aims to grow their engagement and conversion with their audience. To learn more about Christopher, you can follow him on Twitter.

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