As many as 100,000 new jobs will be created in the first 10 years after unmanned aircraft are cleared for takeoff in U.S. airspace, according to a 2013 report from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
Large employers are already paying up for drone pilots — about $50 an hour, or over $100,000 a year — according to Al Palmer, director of the center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems at the University of North Dakota.
Yes. That’s starting at $100,000 a year; top earners in the industry can reach salaries as high as $275,000!
How do you get from Point A, have no experience with a drone, to Point B, being a legal, commercial drone operator with a six figure salary? If you’d like to pursue a career in drones, then read on, the road is by no means easy, but the rewards are well worth it.
According to the FAA, the main requirements needed to operate an unmanned aircraft or drone for business purposes are:
- a Section 333 grant of exemption,
- a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA),
- an aircraft registered with the FAA, and
- a pilot with an FAA airman certificate
Here is my recommended path to legal, commercial drone operator success. Please keep in mind this isn’t the only route, but in my opinion, it’s the shortest and most direct:
- File a Section 333 Exemption petition. (We offer free Section 333 Exemption services for qualifying graduates, as well as stand-alone, low cost Section 333 Exemption services.)
- Enroll in Introduction to Drones. All students will receive a free DJI Phantom and upon successfully completing the course, a Drone Operator certificate.
- Enroll in a specialty course such as Advanced Drone Aerial Photography/Videography. All students who sucessfully complete the course will receive an additional certificate.
- Enroll in LSA (Light-sport Aircraft) Certification or earn your Sport Pilot Certificate or better from another third party provider. At Drone Universities, our Sport Pilot Certificate training is designed around hot air balloons, which is the fastest and simplest way you can earn your Sport Pilot Certificate today.
- Register your aircraft with the FAA and receive an N-Number.
Now you might be wonder why I recommend you file for your Section 333 Exemption first, even though, you haven’t yet completed any drone or flight training. The answer is simple, because of the well documented backlog of Section 333 Exemption petitions it’s important to get you into the cue as soon as possible. This strategy will minimize down time between completing Step 4 and receiving your Section 333 Exemption from the FAA.
Once you’ve received your Section 333 Exemption from the FAA, as long as you are working within the boundaries of the blanket COA, you are ready to work legally as a commercial drone operator. If you need to work outside the scope of the blanket COA, you’ll have to request a new, custom COA.