Pathways to flying for hire?
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Answered By AOPA
Hi,  I just obtained my Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate and I am trying to find the best path to making some money operating these drones.  What kind of drone to buy, how to learn to fly that drone, where to find jobs, how much to charge, etc...  Are there trusted online courses out there that will teach you these things, or are there other ways to obtain this knowledge?   Thank you!
3 Replies
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AOPA Staff Answer
Hi Nevin,

That's a huge question/series of questions you've asked there, but you've gotta start somewhere. I'll try to answer them/point you in the right direction in the order you asked them:

On the subject of what drone to buy, the skies the limit. You can get reconditioned units for a couple of hundred dollars from DJI, or you can buy something with all the bells and whistles that costs more than a good used car. I would recommend that you go with the cheaper option until you get your feet wet and find out what you think you might want or need for your purposes. Nothing is worse than crashing a new drone worth thousands of dollars when you are learning. You'll want to make sure that you take a look at drone insurance once you start working, to cover both liability and the drone.

Which brings us to your second question, where to get training. Since there are no practical tests for SUAS or aeronautical experience requirements, there aren't any certifications for instructors or training regimens. There are plenty of resources out there for training courses, but I would be wary of anyone representing themselves as a certified drone instructor, because there is no such thing (as far as the FAA goes). A couple of resources you may want to look at are:
  • DARTdrones- They offer both online and in-person training, and have a lot of courses for the professional operator. I've taken their part 107 prep course and would put it on par with what ASI produces. You also get a discount with them because you're an AOPA member.
  • InstructAIR- If you still wanted hands on training, but didn't want to travel, you may be able to find a "drone instructor" on this website.
  • Youtube- self explanatory, there are plenty of operators out there that share their knowledge on youtube for free. I used them when getting into quad copters to see how others were actually operating them.
  • Manufacturers- Many of the larger manufacturers have online training for new owners, DJI even has a simulator mode for most of their drones, allowing you to get a feel for the controls without putting the drone in danger of crashing.
There are tons of forums out there for particular manufacturers as well, and while they may be manufacturer specific, the information they provide can be invaluable to you if you're running the same equipment.

On the topic of where to find jobs, AOPA does have an recommendation/offer for our members, Droners.io . AOPA members who join Droners.io get an extra 3% payout on missions. There are others offering hiring services out there, I can't recommend any as I have not used them. You also can reach out to drone service consumers in your community as well (contruction, farmers, real estate, etc.), and cut out the middle-man. How much to charge is going to depend on so many variables, kind of like any other service provider, it will depend on your experience, equipment, services provided, and the demand. Like a flight instructor just starting out, you'll have to build your base of customers and knowledge before you can really get a handle on what your time is worth. Others that are actively working part 107 missions may be able to shine some light on what you can expect to charge for a given job.

I wish you good luck as you wade through the ever changing world of part 107 operations. I would encourage you to look through what AOPA has to offer and also sign up for the Drone newsletter through the "my account" section of the website (upper right hand portion once you've logged in).
Thank you Hoss!  That’s a lot of great information which gives me direction and helps me a lot!  I have felt like I’m digging through clay trying to find information on this industry so I can take all the help I can get.
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I'm sure there are many online sources to explore. One that I have found useful is the following: https://dronelife.com/ .