A spectacular aerial view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the surrounding Coastline. Or Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. I was enraptured by the video footage as it livestreamed on Facebook. The quality crystal clear. The perspectives unlike what you get from the ground.
An incredible new world has opened up.
And as the Part 107 license process began the regulation of this brave new world, drones began to move both into the mainstream and nicely aligned with the side hustle culture that was evolving in parallel.
Drones took what was once a very challenging hobby (flying RC planes, boats, cars, and helicopters) and added the combination of relatively simple hover flight coupled with an onboard camera to literally take you into the drone’s driver’s seat.
As a guy, and electronics nut (and what guy isn’t), jumping into the fray and learning to fly a drone…and do it well, is a siren song tough for many to resist.
And so you find drone groups popping up all over.
So what about the paid side?
This is cool as well as there are now many opportunities to move your drone hobby into the paid zone (either as a side hustle or full time gig).
The side hustle option is especially cool as it can often help you get over the big hurdle (i.e. significant other who thinks spending big bucks “playing with toys” is a waste of money). But you know better. And if you can earn money to pay for your “hobby” away goes the guilt and justification.
No. Not everyone moves into the paid zone this way. There are many paths to get there. And many insights that go with them.
So if you’re curious, read on as you delve into the real life stories of getting that first drone sale…the first money in their pocket.
I started off with this question,
“Tell your story…how did you move from drone hobbyist to getting your first paid gig?”
The response was amazing. 17 stories on how they moved into paid drone gigs…and 2 at the starting gate who are excited to learn from the others.
I think all I had out was my photography Facebook page and I said I did drone work while I began shooting for fun and for free.
A local real estate photographer saw it and asked me to shoot some homes. We have worked together and he helped me figure out the best ways to shoot DSLR interiors too.
I’ve done a few on my own now, weddings, drone portraits and still a few free and fun things.
I was watching drones for years, but never owned one. My brother-in-law traded some instruments for a P3 Pro and had tons of work offered. I jumped in head first and got my first gig by word of mouth.
Raced drones for the past 3 years and decided I would like to get into the 107 side of things. Purchased my first DJI drone 6 months ago and now my company has taken off where I have more business than I can keep up with!
[Tim’s tips for success] The biggest thing for me was being able to adapt to the needs of the client. When I first launched my small mom and pop company not too long ago we thought we had it all figured out… WRONG lol.
Most companies want a one stop shop so this means stepping out of your comfort zone and going the extra mile to set yourself apart from other pilots. If you go into it thinking you are just going to get to fly around and get paid… well it doesn’t exactly work like that lol.
Definitely stay away from web based companies. They will only slow you down from earning real clients that will pay your bills not just get you some extra gas money. Think long-term and grab this industry by the horns and don’t look back because in the next few years this industry is going to blow up and you definitely want your foot in the door!
Learned of a Photography Rental Company Lumiod in SF, decided to give drones a try, fell in love and bought my own before my rental period was up, joined a bunch of FB groups, learned of a few paying websites and have had 27 successful combined missions for residential & commercial with a grand total earned of $1,620 gross.
Took a field trip to a remote site with a scientist friend and took the drone with me. Ended up taking over five and a half thousand pictures and mapping out around 200+ hectares.
Decided I needed a “side gig”. Thought I would start a little drafting company as it’s something I had strengths in. Started looking at drones to do mapping and capturing existing conditions for landscaping etc. My research started last year right about the time Part 107 came out so there was a wealth of info and excitement online. Research on drone led to purchase and passing of Part 107. For me now drafting is the less often used part of the business. It’s all about the drone.
107 Certified, but my drone business is in another country. Started flying back in January 2017, but first gig was for an Emergency Management Agency where we presented on search and rescue using drones and put together an aerial video for them during an island wide emergency drill that simulated a natural disaster.
First gig I got call for just video their site. I drove from Lake Elsinore CA to Yuma AZ. [They] paid me sum of money just doing aerial of property site.
I worked in Architecture up until this spring. Decided I was tired of sitting at a desk all day so I quit and started taking architectural pictures around my town until I had enough to put together a portfolio. Started bidding jobs and quickly found myself busy working for commercial property management companies, home builders, and realtors.Had a couple realtors ask if I offered drone pictures, and I told them yes and quoted a price. Finally got someone to bite, borrowed my brother-in-laws phantom 4 after a 5 minute tutorial.First time I flew it on my own was for a paying job. Ha. After that I bought a P4A and have started doing more and more drone work.I just finished editing a video for an investment brokerage (first video clips I took with my drone). Somehow I keep convincing people to hire me for jobs I’ve never done before, and then I just figure it out as I go. I’d guess my story isn’t ‘the norm’. I’ve just happened to catch a number of lucky breaks.
I work for the Board of Real Estate in Buffalo and I wanted to know all I could about drones in Real Estate, so I became a Part 107 pilot, and teach classes and do many shoots for members. Its a great industry and I am in a unique position to help the members as well as educate them. Its been a lot of fun playing with some of the aircraft that are coming out. Here’s his study guide blog post.
Well for me, I just made clear videos of different locations I’ve visited, posted them on FB page and Vimeo and someone just noticed over time and wanted my footage.
I skipped the hobbyist part. It was around this time last year that I fell in love with aerial pics & videos I kept coming across on various internet platforms. Living on a budget with two kids, I couldn’t justify to my family a semi-major purchase, on something I just REALLY WANT. I became obsessed. I started studying for my 107, and passed the test back in January. Then, with the support of my wife, I “invested” a few thousand dollars toward a business. And shortly after being 107 certified, I finally flew my first drone. I still have my day job in concrete & masonry supply sales – which lead to my first paid drone job. Still only part time, I do roof & asphalt inspection, local real estate work, and whatever else finds me.
My wife bought me a drone for my birthday and about a month later a family member asks…
“Josh can you do some aerial shots for this realtor I know she’ll pay you $50 a house?”. I thought..wait, fly my drone and make money? HELL YEA. So I went and did the two houses at what I now realize is a crazy cheap rate.
The next day I went into work and told my team about it, to which they replied..
“You know you just broke the law right?”…”wtf, seriously?” I asked….
I looked it up, sure enough you needed at 333 back then.
But that was also about the time they announced the part 107 test. I started studying like crazy and was one of the first in my area to have passed it. Have been running around like a madman doing aerial photography since.
Spent two years being a terrible security guard while researching precision ag, agronomy, and biology, and how to use drones to “fix” current farming practices. During that time I was building my network and reputation as a competent pilot, doing free photo and ag scouting jobs to build my portfolio. I’m incredibly lucky, and many dominoes are falling, almost daily it seems. Reputation and professionalism generates repeat business.
I bought my P4 because my son, a wedding videographer, told me I could help him in his business. While learning to fly the drone and waiting for his first call, a real estate agent who happened to be the mother of one of my piano students found out I had a drone and immediately asked me to fly for some video footage of a farm she was listing. I didn’t know much of anything at that point, but I flew the mission anyway. She was stoked with the video, and if memory serves she paid me $50.
Started flying R/C planes in 74/75 and Heli in 90’s. Put cameras on them in 2000’s and then someone called them Drones and all of a sudden we needed a FSmAA medical, a pilot’ license and an FAA Section 333. We followed all rules/regs and got them all while making $$ and volunteering for Search n Rescue.
Now a Part 107, insurance and we are good to go.
We currently have thousands of hours flying and teaching UAS.
At The Starting Gate
And for those getting started, here’s some inspiration from others in the same boat…
Just finished my RePL and AROC today (Aus) so looking to make the step into Commercial work over the next couple of months. I am going to a lot of free work to start off with to build a portfolio up and see where that takes me from there.. I’ll be preparing a SOP manual, job assessment form and risk assessment form to help prepare for each job, paid or unpaid, over the coming month.
Started flying in March this year I bought a Typhoon H Intel real sense drone. Passed my drone 107 about a month ago. Been doing some filming for friends and family. Haven’t landed any paid jobs yet.