How To Make Money From Flying Drones Without Breaking the Law

If you've flown a drone and haven't thought of how to make money from a drone, UAV, or quadcopter, you're a better man or woman than I am. To tell the truth, I've logged a number of hours in commercial flight of my Phantom 2 Vision+, but those have all been hours with certification, as I've been part of teams that used drones to provide aerial shots for music videos, sports coverage, and the occasional movie.

That said, there's a big difference between going through all of the official channels to get certification and approval to use drones for business and simply wanting to make a few dollars on the side without getting permission in advance.

I do not advocate doing this, as it goes against best practices for flying drones, which are what I live by. As a result, I will presume you have already secured the necessary permissions to make money from your drone, and are now interested in the different ways to profit from your drone. Here are ten of the most common ways I've seen personal drones used for business.

1. Real estate photography - you can use a drone for real estate photography to get an edge on the competition. Doing so gives you angles that you simply can't get from the ground, and a number of realtors who use drones to photograph properties report significant increases in profits compared to when they simply took pictures with DSLRs around the property on the ground.

2. Wedding photography - wedding photographers are always looking for unique angles and shots to help distinguish themselves from the myriad of other photographers, and a wedding photographer who uses drones to capture key moments, such as images of the couple kissing at the moment the wedding becomes official, or a view of the first look, can easily find themselves knee-deep in clients. Of course, you'll want to use the drones for outdoor weddings!

3. Property mapping surveillance - people in rural areas are increasingly using drones as low-cost ways of mapping out the boundaries and terrains of their properties. If you have several acres to survey, you could drive it, hire someone to fly over it, or even go as far as contracting a satellite in space to review it. But why spend thousands of dollars and hours when you could simply send a drone up there to take high-definition photographs for you?

4. Property security surveillance - a close cousin to the previous drone moneymaking idea, property security surveillance with drones is also changing the way people make sure there aren't trespassers or unwelcome people on their land. This approach is also significantly cheaper and faster than renting a private plane or setting out in a car, truck, or SUV to survey one's land for intruders. It's also significantly more discreet, while allowing you to capture shot after shot.

5. Search and rescue operations - there is a growing use of drones overseas to search for people lost in the wilderness, or for survivors after tragedies such as car collisions, earthquakes, floods, mudslides, or explosions in war-torn areas. Drones can cover ground more quickly than humans on foot or in vehicles, and the video or photography footage can be reviewed in real time to help save lives.

6. Filming movies, music videos, TV shows, and promos - this is the method I'm most familiar with, and it's where a lot of money is when it comes to profiting from drones. If you can get in well with a TV or movie studio, you can log a lot of flight time and make a lot of cash in a short amount of time. Similarly, promos, music videos, and similar opportunities can also become lucrative when you have a drone and the ability to capture footage with it.

7. Commercial farming applications - farmers are always interested in knowing what their crops are doing and where their animals are; if you've got a drone setup, you can figure out whether certain crops are in need of watering or if certain predators are going after some of your animals. You can even figure out where your livestock are eating and make farm decisions accordingly.

8. Live covering sports matches - thanks to drones that offer live relays of video, you can get an eye in the sky view that used to be the sole purloin of blimps, helicopters, and airplanes. Of course, you'll need someone on the ground to provide the audio, but that issue exists with all kinds of air coverage options.

9. Bounty hunting - I'd never do this, but I do know a number of bounty hunters who use drones to help them in their searches for fugitives. This is also an approach increasingly used by law enforcement to track down suspects and others on the run.

10. Package delivery - finally, from Amazon thinking about using drones to deliver packages to Papa Johns and Dominos debating over using drones to deliver pizzas, pretty much everyone with a product-based business is now considering the feasibility of using drones to ship things in a fraction of the time it would take through traditional methods.

As you can see, there are clearly a number of ways to make money with drones, and a lot of these methods overlap with one another. However, what every single one of these methods of making money through quadcopters has in common is that you need permission from the FAA to do so. None of these methods should be used without the appropriate permission, or else you're simply asking for trouble from the FAA, and I'd rather spend my time flying than explaining why I thought I could score a few dollars by breaking the law when it came to using my drone for commercial work without prior permission.

That said, if you have the proper permits, I'd personally recommend the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ for the first 9 drone jobs I mentioned. You can read a full review of mine here, and you can buy it from Amazon here.


Hi! My name is Mike, and I'm the author of this personal drone blog. If you find the information on my flying drone review blog useful, you can shop through Amazon here.

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