Have you been considering becoming a drone pilot but are unsure if it’s the best career path for you? Well, we highly recommend that you don’t reconsider. Numerous findings have continuously pointed to a steady increase in the demand for drone pilots.
Not only does this career path offer immense opportunities for growth. It’s also one of the highest paying in the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) sector.
This article uncovers drone pilot salaries. We’ll explore what these professionals earn in selected countries worldwide. The post shall also highlight the key duties of a drone pilot and how to become one.
Who Are Drone Pilots, And What Are Their Key Responsibilities?
Drone pilots earn tens of thousands of dollars annually. That’s unsurprising considering the technical requirements of the job and the ever-increasing demand for these professionals. As an aspiring drone pilot, one of the best ways to keep abreast of drone pilot salary is by subscribing to Drone Flyer or other drone-related news outlets.
But even before we delve deeper into drone pilot earnings, it would help to start by introducing what these professionals are and what their job description entails.
A drone pilot is a person trained to operate a drone, also known technically as an unmanned aerial system (UAS). Drone pilots are also called remote pilots. That’s for the simple reason that drones are typically operated remotely.
The key responsibilities of a drone pilot entail controlling the aerial system. Control aspects include causing the UAS to take off, stay on course, change direction, hover over a subject, and land back on the ground.
There may be additional responsibilities depending on the intention of flying the drone. For instance, a military drone controller would ensure the system accurately carries out targeted attacks or successfully completes recon visits by capturing crucial footage of the expected challenges on the front line.
Additional responsibilities may include mechanical servicing and software upgrades.
What Do You Need To Become A Drone Pilot?
Drone control is a technical job that requires several qualifications and training. Some assignments, such as military drone flying, may require additional specialized training.
For civilian drone pilots, the basic qualification is a drone flying license and compliance with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) drone flying regulations. You may also need to meet the following academic requirements;
- Possess a high school diploma or GED certificate
- Be a bachelor’s degree holder in aviation, engineering, or a related field
- Hold a Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA (UAS Part 107 license)
In addition to these academic qualifications, certain soft skills may also be necessary to excel as a drone pilot. Notable ones include;
- Excellent hand-eye coordination
- Superior eyesight to navigate the drone in poor weather and low visibility
- Excellent communication skills
- Ability to multitask in a fast-paced environment
- Familiarity with Google apps, Google Earth, and UAV piloting apps
How Much Do Drone Pilots Earn
According to ZipRecruiter, drone pilots earn an average annual salary of $64,535 in the United States. That’s roughly $5,380 per month. Salary.com provides a rather more conservative estimate at between $61,090 and $100,225.
But as you might expect, drone pilot salary depends on several factors. Some drone controllers may earn significantly higher than the annual averages, while others may make much lower.
Below are the top factors that influence a drone pilot’s average salary;
- Nature of Engagement
Drone pilot jobs can either be full-time or part-time/freelance. Salaries vary considerably depending on the nature of your engagement.
Freelance drone pilots earn significantly lower than their full-time counterparts. That’s because they’re typically engaged only when required.
- Experience Level
The hourly rate for drone pilots in the United States ranges from $41.21 to $74.04, with a median of $61.50. However, your experience level will play a huge role in influencing your paycheck.
Entry-level drone pilots typically gross an hourly rate of $41.21. Intermediate-to-experienced pilots bring in $53.91, while senior-level pilots attract an hourly average of $74.04.
- Scope of Work
We’ve already highlighted certain key responsibilities that a drone pilot can perform. While the primary duty of a drone pilot is to fly a drone safely, job descriptions can vary from one employer to another. The conventional wisdom is that more demanding jobs attract higher paychecks.
Drone pilots earn an average of $64,535 annually in the United States, according to findings by ZipRecruiter. Expectedly, this amount will vary across several countries worldwide.
The following are the average salaries of drone pilots in selected countries;
- Canada – $90,639/year and $44/hour
- The United Kingdom – £47,623/year and £23/hour
- France – €49,193/year and €24/hour
- Germany – €51,387/year and €25/hour
- China – ¥192052/year and ¥92/hour
- Australia – AUD112,059/year and AUD54/hour
- Malaysia – MYR 79,499/year and MYR 38/hour
- India – ₹ 3.0 Lakhs/year
- South Africa – ZAR 402,808/year and ZAR 194/hour
It’s also worth noting that drone pilot salaries may differ across multiple locations within the same country. The table below shows the average drone pilot earnings in selected cities in the United States, according to salary.com;
|City||Average Drone Pilot Earnings|
|Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland||$83,392|
|Baton Rouge, Louisiana||$78,377|
|Battle Creek, Michigan||$81,077|
|Charleston, South Carolina||$77,693|
|Huntington, West Virginia||$73,076|
|Little Rock, Arkansas||$75,453|
|Los Angeles, California||$91,386|
|New York City, New York||$98,422|
|Paramus, New Jersey||$94,413|
|Raleigh, North Carolina||$79,171|
|West Hartford, Connecticut||$87,933|
Drones have become commonplace in many industries. From automotive manufacturing to real estate and construction, it’s not unusual to stumble upon these UAS systems carrying out tasks that previously required human personnel.
The specific industry in which you work as a drone pilot can significantly affect your paychecks. Below are the average drone pilot salaries across various industries;
- Aerospace and Defense – $84,295
- Construction – $79,368
- Film and Video – $69,107
- Real Estate – $77,247
- Environmental Services – 83,856
- Mapping and Surveying – $88,196
- Transportation – $85,715
- Most Other Industries – $89,264
Drone flying is not only one of the most fulfilling jobs. It also attracts pretty decent paychecks. Just be sure to meet the minimum qualifications before applying for a drone pilot job.
It’s also important to note that drone flying is a progressive career that calls for continuous learning. Therefore, endeavor to update yourself on emerging drone technologies as a way of keeping ahead of the competition.