FAA-Certified Drone Pilot Training School

Turn Your Amateur UAV Piloting into a Well-Paid Career

Turn Your Amateur UAV Piloting into a Well-Paid Career

Updated April 2017… If you’re already perfecting your UAV piloting skills, why not make $100.000 a year doing it? Piloting an aerial vehicle from the ground is an exciting hobby and its popularity is rapidly growing. The same hobby you are so enthusiastic about may as well turn into a full time, well-paying job. Some

Updated April 2017…

If you’re already perfecting your UAV piloting skills, why not make $100.000 a year doing it? Piloting an aerial vehicle from the ground is an exciting hobby and its popularity is rapidly growing. The same hobby you are so enthusiastic about may as well turn into a full time, well-paying job. Some companies are already hiring drone pilots and drone engineers, and offering up to $50 per hour. Besides that, you can become a freelance drone pilot and work independently. Sounds attractive, right?

If this idea intrigues you, we’re about to share with you the basics of how to become a professional drone pilot. You’ll discover what skills are required to turn your hobby into a job, the minimum equipment you’ll need to get started, which certifications and licenses you should acquire, and where you can find work. Make no mistake, these are not positions for anyone; only those who have taken the necessary steps to qualify and achieve at the highest level. If you believe you are among the 100,000 or so who will be required, hang on!

Skills and Certificates: What Every UAV Pilot Should Know and Acquire

Flying a drone is simple if you do it for fun, just don’t let it go out of your sight and you will be fine. However, if you do it professionally, you would have to possess advanced skills of drone piloting. We have prepared a list with the skills you have to master in order to earn money as a drone pilot:

  • Know Your Drone: Before even thinking of starting a flight, you must know every aspect of your UAV. Learn everything possible about the controller and the drone.
  • Take Off and Stabilize: Get your drone in the air and stabilize it.
  • Safe landing and crash reactions – Know how to land and what to do if there is a possibility for a crash.
  • Hovering: Keep your drone stable and still in the air. It is extremely important to master if you want to be an aerial photographer.
  • Roll, Pitch and Yaw: There are the basic movement controls of your drone. Roll is rotation around the front-to-back axis, pitch is rotation around the side-to-side axis and yaw is rotation around the vertical axis.
  • Bank Turns: These are the smoothest possible turns you can master, and you should always practice them as they will provide the best results when it comes to speed and avoiding obstacles.
  • Flying in Different Directions: When using yaw to rotate your drone, the controls will change. A clockwise method is the best for learning, where twelve o’clock is when the drone is flying forward, and six o’clock is when the drone is facing you. Note that when turned to twelve o’clock left is left, and when turned to six o’clock left is actually right. This takes time and experience to master.
  • Figure Eight: Knowing how to fly in figure eight shows you have become proficient in flying an UAV. Imagine this as a test for your skills where you have to draw figure eight in the air, and successfully doing this maneuver means your control of the drone is at an advanced level.
  • Control Your Drone in Wind Gusts: Expect this to happen often and know how to react to avoid losing control over your drone and experiencing a crash.
  • Master Flying in Manual Mode: Do not rely on GPS and other high-tech systems. Flying in manual mode is the end-level of a perfect drone pilot.

Even though it is essential that you get the hang of piloting a drone, it is not enough. Without a proper certificate you cannot offer your services and charge for them.

We’ve examined a lot of pilot training courses online and found that one of the best is UAV Coache’s Drone Pilot Ground School. The program takes the hassle out of getting trained – it’s offered entirely online so you can do it on your own time and at home. Plus it gets you FAA-certified and even includes a flight proficiency challenge test to make sure you’re really ready to fly. Train with confidence with these guys – 99 percent of students pass the first time.

Other certifications and licenses you may wish to consider include:

  • Homeland Surveillance & Electronics LLC UAV in Denver offer various courses for UAVs – General video/photography course, commercial flights and police/search and rescue / fire dept courses.
  • SkyOP offers a course in UAVs on several locations in New York.
  • If you are located in Australia, RPAS offer courses with a chance to earn a drone pilot certificate in five different cities.

At the moment you receive the certificate, you may consider yourself a professional drone pilot. Congratulations! The next step is to understand the law and regulations concerning drone pilots. Obtaining the FAA approval will remove the largest obstacle on your way to your dream work.

Getting a Handle on FAA Regulations for UAV Pilots

The new law in the US Federal Register concerning UAVs suggests that people who want to fly drones commercially will be required to obtain an approval from the FAA.

At the moment, there are three ways of gaining FAA approval for flying civil UAV:

  • Special Airworthiness Certificates (Experimental Category).
  • Obtain a UAS type and airworthiness certificate in the Restricted Category for a special purpose or a type certificate for production of the UAV.
  • Petition for Exemption with a civil Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) for civil aircraft to perform commercial operations in low-risk, controlled environments.

A special permission by FAA for performing commercial operations is explained in Section 333. There is also a public guidance for petition for exemption to help you with the process. It is important to know that the petition does not cost you anything, the process lasts about 120 days, and it can be done online or in writing. The petition must include:

  • Your name and mailing address, and it is advised that you put in contact information.
  • The specific section(s) for which you ask an exemption.
  • The extent of the relief and the reason for it.
  • Explanation of how it will benefit the public.
  • Reasons why it will not affect safety.
  • Any additional information that may support your petition.

Of course, you could completely simplify being FAA-certified by going through a flying course like the Drone Pilot Ground School. One of the really cool features of this particular program is that it includes the FAA Aeronautical Knowledge Test for a Remote Pilot Certificate and five years of access to keep your license. They help you pass a recurrent FAA knowledge test every 24 months with unlimited access to their online training course for 5 years (enough time for two re-certifications).

Equipment & Software: What Every Freelance Drone Pilot Needs

Being a freelance drone pilot means that all of the equipment and software for the work is provided by you, which means you may need to upgrade in order to serve your clients well. A UAV that offers the best performance, photo and video editing software to complete your work, and a place to show your skills to your future clients are essential. Don’t know what’s best to start with? We’re here to help.

  • Drones: Things develop crazy-fast in this sector, so we’ll provide a quick update on the best drones as of early 2017. DJI’s Phantom 4 Quadcopter is perhaps the most popular around. For a slightly cheaper but still very good quality option, try the Yuneec Typhoon H. It has six rotors, 360 degree gimbal camera, as well as retractable landing gear. And the Hubsan X4 (H107L) is the updated beginner version with great handling, 9 minutes of flight time, and even functionality indoors. A great solution is Phantom 2 Vision often referred to as flying camera, it comes with a high end camera installed on it. Aries BlackBird X10 is another amazing drone, and, for beginners, we recommend Hubsan H107D. Our choice, however, would be AEE’s AP11 that is soon to be launched. This wonder among UAVs ships out of the box with a HD 1080p 60 camera on a 3 axis gimbal at a projected price that saves hundreds of dollars over the Phantom 2 with similar flight characteristics.
  • Software: Once you have taken some amazing videos or photos, you will need the right software to edit them. Our video editor suggestion is Lightswork. Other great video editing programs are Movavi that is completely free, and Powerdirector 15 Powerdirector 13 Deluxe. When it comes to photos, you can never go wrong with Adobe Photoshop, PaintShop Pro X9 is also a great choice, and if you’re looking for a freemium software, the best choice would be Google Picasa Camtasia.
  • Portfolio: The last thing you need is a proof of your skills. Create a website to advertise yourself and add your portfolio so your possible clients may know what to expect from you. Of course, we recommend becoming a member of a platform like Skytango which makes setting up your portfolio a snap and ultra-professional. Plus it gives you a way to accept contracts and get paid with security.

Finding a Job: Become a Well-Paid Drone Pilot Today!

You have the certificate, can pilot a drone with your eyes closed and own a professional drone with some high-end camera devices? The only thing you need now is a place to get freelance gigs. Although Amazon is already looking for drone pilots, and Facebook is actively working on developing a drone network to provide internet access to help them pass 2 billion users mark, the real boom will happen once the Law allows commercial use of UAV’s. But where can you find freelance work as a drone pilot?

  • Skytango is one of the best sources these days as it lets you advertise your services world-wide
  • Localdrones is a website that allows drone pilots to bid on projects.
  • Batcam.tv is hiring drone pilots.
  • Workmode lists certified drone pilots in the requested area.
  • Indeed.com has dozens of job offers for drone pilots.
  • SimplyHired will connect you with people who look offer jobs for drone operators.
  • Air-Vid is a directory of drone pilots around the world – get listed!
  • Websites for freelancer like freelancer or Upwork are also a great place to look for a gig.

All in all, the drone industry is expanding, so are your chances to work as a drone pilot. With the right skills, certifications and equipment you are not far from achieving this goal. By following our guidance and having a great amount of determination you may be able to turn your hobby into a futuristic job that becomes your source of income and joy.

While a job is a great way to go, many will want to identify entrepreneurial opportunities with the newly acquired skills you have developed. Sign-up for free to Dronefutures.org to make sure you have access to our monthly updates on entrepreneurial opportunities worldwide.

If you’ve already made the switch, tell us about it! Are there any other training options you could suggest? Certifications recommended? Equipment needed? Places to find freelance or permanent work? We want to know!

Image via Flickr: Doctor Popular

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Aleksandar
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13 Comments

  • Robert Armstrong
    May 28, 2015, 10:53 pm

    I have a drone called Blade 350 qx3 it is fun to play with but I wish I could earn money with but I am in a wheelchair but I get around ok. right now my drone is for my enterainment.

    Best regards
    Robert Armstrong

    REPLY
    • Aleksandar@Robert Armstrong
      May 29, 2015, 5:11 pm

      Hello Robert,
      Blade 350 qx3 is an amazing drone, I believe you have already acquired set of skills needed for flying it. Being in a wheelchair is no obstacle for this kind of job, and I wish you the best of luck with it.

      Best regards,
      Aleksandar

      REPLY
    • John c@Robert Armstrong
      November 25, 2015, 11:28 am

      I’m hoping that the Feds can extract their heads from their posteriors on the pilot license requirement on the final rule, if not I foresee an ADA challenge brewing. The current rule violates the American Disabilities act blatantly.

      REPLY
    • John c@Robert Armstrong
      November 25, 2015, 11:28 am

      I’m hoping that the Feds can extract their heads from their posteriors on the pilot license requirement on the final rule, if not I foresee an ADA challenge brewing. The current rule violates the American Disabilities act blatantly.

      REPLY
  • Connor
    July 21, 2015, 9:15 pm

    Dronecast is currently looking for partner pilots to fly for our clients. They can make up to $500/hr which is awesome. You can learn more here: http://www.dronecast.com/dronecast-partner-program/

    REPLY
  • Joe
    July 21, 2015, 11:30 pm

    You fail to mention that you need at minimum a sport pilot certificate to fly for hire. Even if you get the section 333 exemption, you can’t fly it without a real FAA pilot certificate.

    REPLY
  • Sam Estrin
    September 22, 2015, 4:58 pm

    Drone Universities, based in La Jolla, California, offers drone a variety of drone training courses. Our goal was to create a school that could take a novice all the way to a commercially ready drone operator. As Joe mentioned, commercial drone pilots who want to qualify for the Section 333 Exemption will need their SPL (Sport Pilot License) to qualify. That’s why in addition to our drone courses, we also offer SPL training. For qualifying graduates, Drone Universities also provides free Section 333 Exemption petitions.

    For more information on our school, you can checkout: http://www.droneuniversities.com/

    REPLY
  • Sam Estrin
    September 22, 2015, 4:58 pm

    Drone Universities, based in La Jolla, California, offers drone a variety of drone training courses. Our goal was to create a school that could take a novice all the way to a commercially ready drone operator. As Joe mentioned, commercial drone pilots who want to qualify for the Section 333 Exemption will need their SPL (Sport Pilot License) to qualify. That’s why in addition to our drone courses, we also offer SPL training. For qualifying graduates, Drone Universities also provides free Section 333 Exemption petitions.

    For more information on our school, you can checkout: http://www.droneuniversities.com/

    REPLY