Whether you’re a recreational drone flyer looking to improve your flight skills, or an aspiring professional drone pilot, there’s always more to learn about drones and how to make them work for us. There are tons of training resources available to help drone pilots improve their skills and credentials, but the question always is, how much does it cost?
The cost of a basic flight skills online training course starts at about $49. Taking a training course to help you pass the Part 107 test can cost from around $149 to $350. Industry specific professional drone training courses start at $125 and can go upwards of $1,500.
The amount you need to pay for drone training will depend on your goals and the type of training you want, as well as whether you’re looking for in-person or online training. Whatever type of training you’re looking for, if you choose the right course or instructor, you can be sure it will be money well spent to help you advance your drone skills and your career as a drone pilot.
Who Needs Drone Training?
Drone training comes in lots of flavors, and the right type of training of course depends on your goals. But drone training is right for you if you want to improve your knowledge and skills with your drone. For those with initiative and determination, teaching yourself everything is certainly possible, but it will probably take a lot longer and the road may have a lot more twists and turns in it. Learning from those who have already made the journey can save time, expense and a whole lot of headaches in the long run.
To get into some specifics, we could roughly group types of drone training into 3 categories.
- Basic Flight Skills
- Part 107 Training
- Industry-specific professional training
Based on those three types of drone training, the people who need drone training are beginning hobbyists, those who want to become professional drone pilots, and professional pilots who want to advance their careers.
Beginning Drone Pilots
The first type of drone training, teaching basic flight skills, is aimed at drone pilots who are just getting started, and need a kick-start to master the basics of flight. This type of training usually covers things such as how to use the controller sticks and drills to master the controls, how to use the basic modes and functions of your drone, and probably some drone photography basics.
A beginning drone course is enough to get a new pilot up and flying and fairly confident in their skills, but will probably leave you wanting more, as it will give you a taste of how much more there is to learn. But it’s a good idea to get some type of training, especially to learn basic flight safety and to know what the rules and regulations are for recreational flyers.
You can sign up for basic flight skills courses at your local drone club, from private instructors, or at a local community college or even highschool. The price for in-person basic drone training courses will vary widely, but you can expect them to start around $350. They probably tend to run a little bit higher than an online course, which you can expect to start at around $49, and go up to somewhere around $150.
As of now there is no requirement from the FAA for hobbyists to have any formal training or a license in order to fly a drone, but that may be changing before long. Plans are underway to institute a certification requirement for anyone who wants to operate a drone, whether for fun or for financial gain. But even if you don’t need a license to fly a drone as a hobby yet, you still need to register your drone if it weighs over 0.55lbs – basically any drone that’s not a toy.
Pilots Needing Part 107 Licensing
For anyone who wants to fly a drone commercially – that means anyone making money with a drone – you need to have a Remote Pilot License from the FAA, also known as a Part 107 License. You can learn more about the Part 107 requirement here. Before you can apply for a license, you need to pass the Aeronautical Knowledge Test, which covers topics related to aviation protocols and weather reporting, safe drone operation procedures, airspace classification and more.
While it’s certainly not impossible, it’s quite unlikely that someone without an aviation background would be able to go into the Part 107 test and pass it without any advance training. There are plenty of free resources to help you study, and even free practice tests available on the web, but the most complete and comprehensive training you can get to not only pass the test, but also really understand the information, will come from taking a Part 107 training course.
There are a ton of great Part 107 training courses available online that will give you the background knowledge you need, as well as providing practice questions and tests to make sure you’re ready for exam day. These online courses will run you about $149-$350, depending on who you go with.
Most courses do not include the price of the Part 107 exam, which is paid directly to the testing center where you register to take your test. The Part 107 exam costs $160 at most testing centers. Some Part 107 training courses guarantee a passing score on the first test, and will reimburse you for the cost of your testing fee if you don’t pass.
With the Part 107 exam under your belt and a Remote Pilot License in your wallet, you are now ready to make money with your drone. There are quite a few ways you can use your drone to bring in a little side income, or even make a full time job out of it. Check out our article on how to make money with a drone.
Professional Drone Pilots Looking for Career Advancement
If you’re hoping to make a career out of flying a drone professionally, you would be well advised to put in the investment of getting some good training that will help you step out from the competition. With basic flight skills and a good camera drone, you can make a little bit of money, but to make a full time job of it you’re going to need to drill down into a specific industry such as real estate, agriculture, mapping, construction, etc. And in order to really be able to do that well, you need to get some specific training. With the right training, you can realistically expect to make $50,000 – $75,000 and more per year as a drone pilot.
The cost of training courses for specific industrial applications tends to be a bit higher than for basic flight training, and even for Part 107 training, and for good reason. The level of information is much more technical in most cases, requiring a higher level of training and greater level of input from the instructor. Courses are more likely to be in-person training, which costs more in general. Also, the expected payoff is much greater. For a beginning drone pilot, the amount of money you’re willing to invest in a hobby is probably much smaller than a professional pilot is ready to invest in a course that will exponentially increase his or her expected revenue.
Let’s get into some specific examples of types of training available to professional drone pilots, and how much they can expect to pay.
What Kinds of Professional Drone Training Are There?
As drone pilots specify in different industrial applications, getting good training is absolutely essential to a successful career. While it may feel like a big chunk of change to dish out $1,500 or more for a training course, that’s actually a fairly small investment as far as education costs go. And to pay that amount for a skill that can easily earn you that much or more each month – that’s a good return on investment.
There are as many types of professional drone training courses as there are industrial applications for drones. If you can make money doing a job with a drone, be sure that there is someone who is ready to teach you how to do it.
I’ve put together a list of some of the leading professional opportunities for drone pilots, together with an example of a training course. This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the types of training courses you could find. And it’s definitely not an exhaustive list of all the training courses you could find for each industrial use. It’s really just a sampling, and a launching pad to help get you headed on the right track.
|Industry||Course Offering||Cost||In-person or Online|
|Photography||Aerial Photo Pro by Drone Launch Academy||$199||online|
|Videography||Aerial Video A to Z by Drone Launch Academy||$397||online|
|Cinematography||Cinematic Drone Secrets by Drone Pro Academy||$197||online|
|Real Estate||Real Estate Master Class by UAVISUALS||$129||online|
|Roof Inspections||Aerial Roof Inspection Pro by Drone Launch Academy||$499||online|
|Public Safety||DroneResponders by Pilot Institute||$125||online|
|Disaster Response||Rapid Response Drone Data by Scholar Farms||$397||online|
|Agriculture||Phytomappers Pro: A Masterclass for Mapping Plants With Drones by Scholar Farms||$397||online|
|Industrial Inspections||Aerial Drone Inspections by DartDrones||$1,490||In person|
|Mapping & Surveying||Aerial Mapping and Modeling with DroneDeploy Workshop by DartDrones||$1,490||In person|
|Solar Inspections||Level 1 Thermography by ABJ Drone Academy||$1,000||online|
|Telecommunication Tower Inspections||Level 1 and Level 2 Telecoms by ABJ Drone Academy||$400||online|
Drone Certifications and What They Can Do For You
Very closely related to drone training are drone pilot certifications. The most obvious certification for professional drone pilots is the Remote Pilot Certification from the FAA. Any pilot earning money with a drone must have a Remote Pilot Certification. But that’s really just the beginning.
In most industries that make use of aerial platforms, there is not yet a standardized certification system or requirement. But that’s not to say that getting certain certifications is unnecessary or optional. The commercial drone pilot market is becoming increasingly saturated, and in order to make a good living at it, drone pilots are finding that more than ever they need to have expertise and credentials that stand out above the crowd.
One really good way to do this is by obtaining some credentials that demonstrate your proficiency in a certain knowledge area. It’s one thing to say you’ve had a training course in a certain field, but for all your clients know, you could have slept through all the lectures. Taking and passing a certification test shows that you really do know what you’re talking about.
One organization, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) has taken the lead in working to create a standardized approach to drone pilot credentialing. They have created the TOP (Trusted Operator Program) Certification. As a TOP Certified pilot, you demonstrate your commitment to safe drone operation as well as a high level of knowledge and skill as a drone pilot.
There are 2 levels of certification as a TOP drone pilot. A Level 1 Certification covers details about operational safety, risk assessment and mitigation, site and weather assessments, emergency procedures, equipment care and maintenance, and more. A Level 2 Certification goes even more in depth on training pilots to perform site assessments, and mitigating in-flight risk.
You can get a Level 1 TOP Certification from DartDrones for $649. A Level 2 TOP Certification from DartDrones is $1,850.
Pix4Dmapper Essentials Certification
One of the leading mapping software companies for the drone industry, Pix4D, offers a certification exam to demonstrate proficiency in use of their software. Aerial mapping is the basis for drone applications in all kinds of industries, including agriculture, construction, mining, surveying, and even public safety.
Knowing how to use mapping software such as Pix4D or DroneDeploy is absolutely essential for drone pilots in these commercial industries. It’s not mandatory to have a certification in mapping, but it can go a long way toward winning the confidence of your clients, and helping set yourself above the competition.
A Pix4Dmapper Essentials Certification exam costs 199 EUR, and you can add on the Essentials Course, to make sure you’ve got the necessary knowledge, for an additional 50 EUR. That puts you somewhere around $300 for the Pix4Dmapper course and the certification.
Another area of expertise in the drone field that applies across quite a few commercial applications is knowledge of thermography. Thermography basically is using a thermal sensor to translate thermal energy into a visible representation. A thermal camera picks up heat or thermal energy and creates an image using colors to represent heat indexes.
Thermography is absolutely foundational to the use of drones in applications such as firefighting, Search and Rescue, solar panel inspections, powerline and other utility inspections, roof and HVAC inspections, and HazMat inspections.
Knowing how to operate a thermal camera and how to read the output requires specific training and a high level of expertise. And considering the import of the industries it applies to, many of them like to see their drone operators carry a thermography certification.
You can get a Level 1 Thermography Certification from ABJ Drone Academy for $1,000.
How Will Drone Training Help Me Reach My Goals?
The investment of time, mental effort and money on any of the courses listed in this article are really small potatoes in the grand scheme of taking your career as a professional drone pilot to the next level. If you’re just starting out, a basic flight skills course will help you go from novice to expert in less time.
If you’re trying to get started in a commercial field, a training course will teach you foundational skills, but will also help you get thinking in the right framework to build yourself a successful business. You can try to blaze your own trail as you build a drone business, but why go through the pain, if a few weeks of study and a few hundred bucks can get you there faster?