Becoming a Professional Drone Pilot: Your How-to Guide

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Drone tech has generated new jobs in a wide range of industries, for example, entertainment and construction. Commercial drone operators work as professionals in charge of operating drones for enterprises and organizations. 

Having a good idea of this role could assist you in determining whether it is a suitable career for you. Here, we are defining the drone pilot terms, curating a rundown of the steps to becoming a professional drone pilot, and giving the best answers to FAQs (frequently asked questions) related to the role.

Before diving into the guide, please note that we also refer to the term ‘drones’ as UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), crewless aircraft vehicles, flying machines, or flying robots.

Exactly what are drone pilots?

To begin with, what are drone pilots?

For those who are into this career, it is the kind of question you may desire to get the proper answer to.

In simple language, a drone operator or pilot is the one who operates a drone. As mentioned above, this machine has another name of UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle). 

These pilots work to control UAVs leveraging automated software or remote controls. And they might fly the aircraft for work or recreation. 

Speaking of commercial drone pilots, they are professionals responsible for operating drones for businesses, firms, military groups, and government agencies in an appreciable amount of industries. They depend on this flying robot to gather images or data. 

What jobs for a drone pilot?

Becoming a Professional Drone Pilot

Again, professional drone pilots can work in bountiful amounts of sectors. These include:

  • Safety: Flying machines manage to collect thermal imaging data. That is why they are useful for firefighters and other public safety professionals.
  • Excavation: Professional UAV operators can find job opportunities in the mining sector. There, they are responsible for gathering mapping information.
  • Insurance: Several insurance firms work with drone operators to collect information about insurance claims. For case in a point, they get a pilot to fly the drone in the air to obtain data for an evaluation of risks.
  • Entertainment: UAV operators also stand a chance to succeed in the entertainment industry, collecting videos or photos for live sporting events, films, concerts, and then some.
  • Construction and building: Construction firms like to hire a drone operator to make a new project’s 3D images. Plus, there is a good chance that this role involves collaborating with building inspectors to collect information related to a new building.
  • Surveying: UAV operators assist surveyors in collecting information for new maps and undertakings.
  • Marketing: An enterprise can recruit a drone pilot as part of its marketing team. For instance, theme parks may employ drone operators to shoot videos for their TV adverts.
  • Real estate: Every so often, real estate agencies employ drone operators to shoot a property’s videos and pictures. These persons in charge collect the data and images needed to make the realistic 3D geo-visualization of home environments. What is more? They might capture airborne videos or photographs to boost real estate marketing.

While their tasks each day may differ subject to their industry, below are some general duties:

  • Mapping out flight paths and keeping tabs on UAV flights
  • Taking airborne film, pictures, or data
  • Making contact with clients to deliberate data
  • Accounting for regulations and adhering to local drone flight legislation,

Necessary skills to become a professional drone pilot

You need to obtain some skills to pursue this career. 

1. Be an airman to become a UAV operator

That is to say, you should show great airmanship and let your Flight Plan’s Air Traffic Control know when finding out the Operation Area is close to a Flight Restriction Zone. Also, it is significant to check with multiple Aviation websites and verify Hot Air balloons will be all over overhead. 

What is more? Is there a prion or educational institution in the vicinity? You are not permitted to fly there and must not include them in your flight plan. 

Many times, there might be a small private runway around. All of these should be contacted and notified. Further, in case your UAV is close to a village or something, inform the local police.

Moreover, recognize kinds of hazards and dangers, say possible armed operations and trees. Note and assuage them to a reasonable degree.

2. Have a fundamental acquaintance with meteorology

Be sure you have an idea of atmospheric pressure, isobaric line, formations of cloud, as well as the weather. These all impact a footage’s excellence.

3. Have brought the art of operating a drone to perfection

Airborne footages require continuous and seamless movements. If not, things appear choppy, unprofessional, and can do no good to your listing. 

The drone operator need to have the skills and experience to carry out cinematic UAV manoeuvres. At the same time, stay calm and composed. To turned into a pro pilot, you also must know fundamental principles of aerodynamics, life drag, and flight.

4. Think the way a videographer thinks

It is safe to say that becoming a professional drone pilot means you seize the significance of storytelling, composition, color, and cinematography. UAV videos should amaze and fascinate their audience. With an absence of such crucial understandings, your rivals will have an upper hand.

5. Have a photographer’s mindset

It is necessary that you know how to try for the most efficient usage of your camera, the significance of focus, aperture setting, shutter speeds, light, and whatnot. Also, have an idea of when should be the best time to shoot. Aside from looking super-duper professional, decent drone pictures can wow and attract attention that you cannot gain from photos taken from the ground.

6. Hone skills

When awaiting the rain to pass, doing something is necessary. More skills, more things to be proud of.

Undeniably, there are circumstances that you do not need a range of creative skills. For example, when inspecting a land property is all you need to do, the impressive skills like someone such as David Royston Bailey is possibly too much. Yet, on the other hand, there still need a considerable amount of specialist skills in association with specialist gear.

Since the industry has full-grown, you see UAV operators extend to site surveying and other specialist areas. Such an expanding sector fits pilots maybe with more technical competencies than creative ones.

Steps to learning to become a drone pilot

Think about following these steps to transform your drone piloting:

1. Buy a drone

First things first, buy a UAV. While a few firms may provide a flying machine, a lot of commercial UAV operators buy their own to work on technical know-how. Plus, buying a flying robot can be useful in case you determine to chase a career as an independent UAV operator.

See: Best drones for beginners.

2. Learn and prepare

Professional drone operators need to get certification via the FAA (the U.S Federal Aviation Administration). 

Before you attain a certificate, you are better off looking into the most current eligibility requirements and regulations for your area.

Overcoming the FAA exam is necessary as well. For those who are not in the know, it is a test of UAV operator knowledge. You have the choice to study via an online learning group or on your own. Account for discovering study options close to you – for instance, online preparation courses to assist you in gearing up for your test.

3. Successfully complete the FAA examination

Following your exam preparation, you can register to accomplish the knowledge exam at a local FAA examination site. You have 120 minutes to finish the test. It comprises sixty multiple-choice questions that involve a variety of topics. These include:

  • UAV maintenance tasks
  • Airport operations
  • Aviation weather plans
  • Drone operation restrictions
  • FAA UAV regulations and rules

4. Get a remote pilot certificate

Following your successful completion of the FAA test, you can apply online for your remote pilot certificate. After checking the application, doing a background check, and validating the entire information, FAA professionals will send you a UAV operator certificate.

5. Register the aircraft

Have you got the certificate? If so, you are eligible for operating your aircraft vehicle. But do not forget to register your drones. It is one of the FAA requirements. Completing the registration online is alright, and its validity will be three years.

6. Work on your drone operating skills

As soon as you gain the certification, you can start your career as a professional drone operator. A lot of companies ask for UAV experience when recruiting new pilots. So think about working on your flying competencies so that you will have more chances to land on jobs. 

Further, based on your interests, you might desire to enhance the skills mentioned earlier in this post – for instance, shooting photos or videos. This likely assists you in getting a particular position in marketing and whatnot.

See: Checklist: How to fly a drone.

7. Discover employment opportunities

Professional UAV operators have the chance to work part-time or full-time in various sectors. It is nice to work directly in an enterprise. Else, be a freelance drone operator. In case you freelance, firms can employ you to work on a particular project or for a particular amount of time. For instance, a freelance operator can work for some real estate agencies, capturing footage that helps with their website development.

A few UAV pilots start their careers by accomplishing projects as a second job. For case in a point, they have another job and spend their spare time finishing part-time UAV projects. This is highly likely a useful approach to honing your technical expertise, developing client connections, acquire practical experience, and at the same time earn extra money.

8. Be kept up-to-date

A significant part of becoming a professional drone pilot is being up-to-date with the latest rules and regulations. UAV operators need to renew their certificates by successfully completing a recurrent knowledge exam. Moreover, register your flying robots tri-annual. 

What to consider before take-off

Before you allow your crewless aircraft vehicle to be airborne, do plan. This is particularly significant as a newbie to the UAV family. Make sure to spend a reasonable amount of time planning before flying the drone in the sky.

More often than not, the pilot needs a morning or more learning about some maps and evaluating if the flight can be legitimate and safe at the location.

It is necessary to check out the maps with care, define dangers, as well as curate a rundown of control measures. Remember, your own safety and others’ are always the no.1 priority. In case of any doubts, delay or stop the flight until you manage to take remedial measures. 

But that is not all. Consider privacy when you kick-start your UAV operator career. Take it with great care. A lot of people are still worried about getting UAVs operating around their neighborhood. A drone operator shall have the task of contacting the affected residents and diminish their concerns.

Some of the most FAQs related

Below are a couple of common questions about pursuing a commercial drone pilot career.

1. How much time do I need to become a certified UAV pilot?

How long it takes to be a certified drone operator can differ based on your own learning process. A few professionals decide to study for several weeks before they take the FAA test. Meanwhile, it takes some months for others to study. 

As mentioned above, the FAA exam takes 120 minutes to finish, and you can get your certificate a couple of days after your successful completion of the test.

2. The income of a drone operator?

The median pay for a UAV operator is $56,215 each year. This indeed differs subject to your sector, experience, and geographic location.

3. The pilot’s working hours?

You can work full-time or part-time based on your sector. For instance, there is a good chance that your daytime hours are the standard ones when you are hired by a public safety firm. In case you work as an independent UAV operator, feel free to make your own working hours. A few people freelance part-time, accomplishing assignments in several hours daily.

In a nutshell

More and more people are interested in becoming a professional drone pilot these days. Considering an increasing number of enterprises and sectors acknowledging the importance of UAVs, a decent UAV operator today has a high chance to get paid handsomely. 

What we have put together above are the key things you had better consider when you decide to enter this career and dream of generous pay. Be sure you read through them and all the best to your pilot role.

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