Many people ask me, “Amy, how do I get drone pilot jobs?”
Great question! So, where are the jobs and how do you get them? First, you have to put in some work. Drone jobs aren’t passive undertakings, moreover serious aerial data, and image service options that institute new terminology, distinct equipment, unfamiliar technology, rules, regulations and policies and a community that is finding its footing. If you want to take your drone business from amateur to a self-supporting business you have to understand and keep up with these seven factors to get and keep your drone jobs. Doing what it takes is your key to success.
Knowing the terminology of the industry in which you want to be hired for a job is paramount. When new remote pilot certificate holders ask me about getting jobs in the industry, I can immediately tell their tenure simply by listening to their drone lingo. And, what immediately separates the recent certificate holders from the experienced pilots is just that – their lingo. As with any other industry or career, when you want to be hired for a job with specific skills, you must be able to speak to it. Reading drone blogs and news articles are the best ways to self-enhance your drone lingo. While reading, if you see a term you don’t understand, look it up. Plus, it keeps you current on drone community news. Stay current.
Understand Your Niche
With the wide-spread use of drones emerging in various industries globally, you have some questions to ask yourself and choices to make. The list of vertical markets for professional drone jobs is becoming endless. However, that doesn’t mean you should prepare to service them all. Most take skills with equipment and technology that require keen knowledge. And, what’s more, you must be able to understand the protocol of the industries you seek to gain clientele. Once you determine your niche, familiarize yourself with everything your customer finds essential. How do you advertise to your niche? How do you sell to your niche? What is their bidding process? What is their payment process? What is their insurance coverage? What are their job site rules? And, and what types of fees does the market bear for this niche? The more you know about your niche, the more successful you will be gaining their business and servicing them. Understand your market.
Understand Your Interest Level
Are you really excited about flying a drone and learning about photography and learning about videography and learning new terminology and learning new equipment and learning new software and understanding global laws and staying on top of local and regional rules, regulations and policies and standing outside in the heat or the cold and, and, and…? If you answered, “Yes,” to a majority of these questions, keep reading. If not, sell your drone and look for another source of income. The aforementioned isn’t one job. It’s five, plus. So, you have to ask yourself – “Am I interested in being a responsible drone operator, an active part of this business endeavor, and am I able to compete and maintain a professional example in the drone industry?” This business takes a special interest, certain skill, and steadfast determination and endurance. And, it’s important to like what you’re doing.
What drones and assets do you need for the jobs you want? Research is the key to understanding what equipment will service your short-term and long term needs to secure the drone jobs you seek. If you are just starting out and want to acclimate, do not spend a fortune on a drone outfitted to do more than your skill-set. Start with drones for beginners and ease your way into it. Can you fly it? Can you fly and take pictures with it? Can you fly it and take videos with it? Can you download the data? Can you edit the data? Start there. If you can answer, “Yes”, to these questions with proficiency, then you may be ready for an upgrade based on the niche or vertical you seek to gain jobs. The drone you need for real estate imaging may be different than the drone you will need for mining or a gas line inspection. There are many professional drones on the market. Research the ones that suit the drone jobs you want to acquire.
Are you ready and willing to learn new software, new apps, new data collection options, etc? Not only will you have to learn photo and video editing software, but you will also need to understand what other software will be required to use for the niche jobs you want in the various vertical markets you seek work. This is probably the most important part of gaining viable drone jobs, as these technologies assist you in performing the job and providing the client with exceptional deliverables. As you research your niche, investigate what types of software you will need and the cost associated. In addition, what apps are needed to perform the job and what data collection providers interface with your clients’ expectations. Then, get proficient and stay in constant continuing-education mode to perfect your use of the technology needed to get the drone jobs you want. Practice and practice some more.
Do you understand the federal, state or regional and local laws, regulations, rules, and policies regarding commercial drone operations not only at your place of business but where your clients hire you to work for them? One region may have different laws than the next. Do you have the accurate authorizations and waivers? Do you need special permits? Do not negate lax regulators who can’t keep up with an emerging industry. Abide by the laws for your safety and the safety of others. If you can’t do that, and you’re caught, say goodbye to future drone jobs or suffer the consequences of an unrelenting drone industry who will never forgive mistakes made in haste, ignorance or from ego. Know the rules and follow the rules.
Everyone in the drone industry is learning, so you are not alone. If you are new to it or less experienced than the next person – so what! You are pioneering an emerging industry that will change the course of how we operate and conduct our lives and businesses daily. Jump into and participate in forums and social media groups, search MeetUps or community drone organizations, and sign-up for newsletters and industry information you can use to help you prospect. Search drone job postings on LinkedIn, CraigsList and create profiles in drone pilot networks. All can assist you in not only gaining field experience but they will help increase your network and knowledge. I do caution you. There are very few experts out there right now. Many are grappling with their own learning and understanding. Even the most advanced drone industry leaders are researching every aspect of the industry. That is why it is called an emerging industry. It’s all in development. Question everything and seek multiple sources for understanding information.
There is a lot that goes into securing drone jobs. And, I can hear some of you say, “Well gee, Amy, how I’m supposed to do all of this?” It’s true, the drone business is a multi-faceted, complicated industry, but the answer is simple – you must stay immersed, practice, and then practice some more. You will mess up, learn from your mistakes, and you will need to become fixed on learning and succeeding. Are you ready to put the work into getting the drone jobs you want?
Once you have an understanding of the terminology, equipment, technology, rules, regulations, policies and have found your own footing in the community you will take your business to the next level, and you will have created a self-supporting endeavor during a time of great change and innovation. Bravo to you! Because “Whisky Tango Foxtrot” is what you will be saying until you are otherwise comfortable doing what it takes to get drone jobs.
Do you have questions for Amy? We welcome her to assist in breaking down industry information, and we are pleased to have her back regularly in an “Ask Amy” blog series. Submit your questions to Amy here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Amy is the Marketing & Communications Director for DroneUp, an aerial data collection service provider, headquartered in Virginia Beach, VA. Amy is the first woman in her region awarded for the development of an FAA sUAS Part 107 training program which assisted in efforts for the military and local and state emergency management.
“Expert Insight” is the independent views and opinions of the submitting named author of this article.