Drones, as we recognize them today, were initially manufactured for military purposes. But advanced technology has seen them become a staple of the consumer electronics industry.
This is particularly true of quadcopters and octocopters which perform a diverse range of functions including photography, filmmaking, search and rescue, fire monitoring, goods delivery, and insurance claim assessments.
Below is a list of some of the ways individuals are making money from their drones.
Aerial photography and videography
Let’s start with the most obvious way to make money: aerial photography and videography. While this method is undoubtedly more competitive than it once was, drone pilots can make decent money selling footage provided their drones are equipped with a stabilizing gimbal and high-resolution device such as a GoPro.
Many photographers use drones to capture aerial perspectives of famous tourist attractions – though airspace can be restricted in many locations. Content is then posted to social media and websites where it can be perused and purchased by tourist operators, governments, and private business owners. Some real estate companies also employ drone pilots to capture shots of houses that will be listed for sale.
Drones have also taken the place of helicopters in aerial surveying in the fields of digital mapping, feature recognition, various geographical information systems (GIS) applications, and are even used at archaeological sites.
Making money from aerial surveying is much the same as any other business. It is important to be able to market one’s services and attract clients, but drone surveying also requires certain skills, expertise, and certifications. For example, pilots needs to fly over a specified area in a deliberate way and stitch together images using mapping software.
Event and wedding photography
Event and wedding photography is an extension of aerial photography but one way of making money that deserves its own section. Wedding photography in particular has traditionally been a difficult industry to enter with competition and the high cost of equipment, but it also tends to be the most profitable.
Using a drone to capture wedding or event shots will require scouting the location beforehand and ensuring the drone is a safe and unobtrusive distance from guests.
Some drone operators also make a living by performing building inspections for construction companies, insurance companies, or utility providers. Each client in this space is likely to have different requirements, so it is important to discuss the job beforehand and ensure the drone captures the necessary shots.
This is another way to make money from drones that may require a significant outlay of capital. Drones that assess insurance claims resulting from water damage or insulation quality, for example, may require cameras with thermal imaging sensors that can cost around $3,500.
As the planet warms and natural disasters become more frequent, emergency first responders are turning to drones to capture images of fire and flood damage, among other applications. Some departments will have their own equipment, while others may outsource this work to private contractors.
The best money to be earned here is from city departments with larger budgets. Small, rural, or volunteer departments tend to have less money to spend on drone services.
- The most obvious way to make money from drones is via aerial photography and videography. While this method is undoubtedly more competitive than it once was, drone pilots can make decent money selling content in a multitude of contexts.
- Aerial surveying is another, more specialized way of earning revenue from a drone that may require specialist knowledge or expertise in other applications or software. Wedding photographers can also add drone shots to their portfolio to upsell clients.
- Building inspections and emergency response are two more areas where drones can be used to make money. In the former scenario, there may be a significant outlay of capital for specialized camera equipment.