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One Drone Can Earn Up to 6 Figures Per Year

Tech jobs are known for offering above-average salaries, and yet there’s a misconception that every role in this sector is sedate, desk-bound and limited in scope to the digital realm.

The reality is that there are well-paid positions involving IT and engineering skills which also give you the opportunity to engage with the wider world, and also fulfill creative urges in new and unique ways.

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are an example of this, as there are roles for pilots and engineers of these craft with appealing earning potential attached. So what are the career options to consider, and what type of person might this route suit best?

Drone pilot jobs explored

Drones come in all shapes and sizes, from small and nimble quadcopters to large-scale UAVs the size of light aircraft. While automation and AI are encroaching on this industry, as they are elsewhere, pilots are still needed for many different drone-related jobs, including:


Drones have replaced helicopters as a means of capturing aerial footage for feature films, commercials, stock media libraries, and many other creative contexts.

You’ll have the opportunity to be both a pilot and a camera operator combined, as well as often being expected to carry out maintenance on the equipment that you control.


Last-mile delivery is changing, and as organizations seek to limit the impact of road vehicles on congestion, drones are being pitched as the perfect solution.


The process of overseeing large areas of agricultural land used to be labor-intensive and almost impossible to achieve at scale. Now, drones can fly out to analyze crops, pinpoint livestock, distribute pesticides, put out wildfires, and much more besides.


From providing passive surveillance to taking on active combat roles, drones are perhaps most commonly associated with the military, at least from a mainstream perspective. There are more ethical issues to contend with when considering the option to become a drone pilot in a military context, but it’s an avenue worth considering nevertheless.

Search and rescue

From hills and mountains to rivers, forests and lakes, search and rescue teams are required to save people who get into dire straits.

Drones are capable of covering large areas faster than people on foot, and can make use of things like heat-sensing cameras to spot missing individuals and groups, even in the dark. Pilots need to be cool, calm and collected under pressure, and able to cope with adverse weather conditions as well.


Operating a drone doesn’t have to be a skill set that you apply to just one industry or profession. Your piloting abilities are saleable in their own right, and you can hire them out to the highest bidder, since they are generally transferrable.

If you’re happier handling the camera movements on a movie set one day, then carrying out surveys on farmland the next, then setting yourself up as a freelance drone operator makes sense. The main caveat is that you may be expected to bring the equipment with you, so you’ll have to invest in drone hardware, as well as learning to pilot it effectively in a variety of scenarios and environments.

Drone engineering options considered

If you’re more interested in the technical side of the drone trend, then there are ample opportunities to get into this industry as an engineer.

There are various well regarded drone manufacturers that are frequently seeking experienced, innovative people to add to their teams as they develop the next generation of drone technology.

Then on the software side of the coin, there are jobs for people who’d rather be creating the code that goes into things like the aforementioned automated operation of UAVs.

What drone pilots and engineers could earn

It’s been possible to earn more than $100,000 annually by piloting a drone for a living for some time now.

While more people are now trained up as drone operators, there’s still strong demand in this segment, hence why the professionals are able to continue commanding six figure salaries.

For drone engineers, salaries can be even higher, with the top ten percent of earners in this category bringing home a little over $140,000 according to ZipRecruiter.

There will be more variability in the earnings of freelance operators and engineers than those who have permanent positions. However, even entry level specialists can expect to be paid well above the national average.

Final thoughts

One thing we’ve not mentioned is that being a drone pilot isn’t a job that suits everyone. Unless you’ve got excellent coordination and quick reactions, all the training in the world won’t make you a good fit to be a UAV operations professional.

Even so, it’s nice to know that you can get a fresh and exciting career today, rather than having to follow the herd.

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