Drone Pilot

Drone pilots are in big demand as drones are now being used in everything from; fire and rescue, to aerial photography for films and adverts, to surveying the land in farming and surveillance for the armed forces. 

Annual Salary

£17000 - £65000

Average UK salary in 2018 was £29,588 (source Office for Statistics)

Working hours

What's it all about?

As a commercial drone pilot, you'll:

  • plan flight paths
  • test flight equipment
  • carry out aerial surveys
  • gather digital images and data
  • maintain and repair drones
  • produce maps based on flight data
  • work with other professionals to interpret data

You could complete training approved by the Civil Aviation Authority. This lasts between 2 and 4 days and includes:

  • UK air regulations
  • flight safety
  • flight planning
  • theory test and practical flight skills assessment

You'll also have to write an operations manual describing how you are going to use your drone commercially.

After successfully completing training, you can apply for a Permission for Commercial Operations certificate

which you need to fly drones for commercial purposes. You must renew the certificate every 12 months.

£17000 - £65000

Starter salary: £17 160

Experienced salary: £65 000

Your starting salary may depend on who you are working for. The starting salary for a trainee drone pilot in the RAF is £26 500 going up to £33 000

A council in London recently offered a graphic design and drone apprenticeship starting on £15000 per year.

Many drone operators are self employed or run their own businesses.

You could work on a film set, on a construction site, in the countryside or in a control room.

Your working environment may be outdoors in all weathers and you may spend nights away from home.

You may be able to complete a qualification like the Level 3 Certificate and Level 4 Diploma in the Remote Piloting of Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

Training as a Drone pilot could be a useful additional skill to your existing job - for example if you are a firefighter, farmer or surveyor.

Alternatively you could work solely with drones and specialise in a specific industry such as film making.

Examples of work you might do includes:

  • film making, TV and marketing
  • weather forecasting
  • mapping land use for farming or archaeological work
  • inspecting buildings like bridges and high rise blocks

If you have engineering qualifications, you could move into drone design and development work.

Trainee Roles

There are opportunities in the RAF to train as a Remotely Piloted Aircraft System Pilot [ RPAS] or in the Army as a Gunner [Unmanned Aerial Systems].


Some businesses are offering drone / UAV pilot apprenticeships usually as part of another role such as trainee graphic designer or surveyor. Go to find an apprenticeship to look for opportunities.

You can even train to be a professional international drone racer!

The demand for drone operators is growing fast. Amazon have drones working in their warehouses and are hoping to launch unmanned deliveries to homes soon. Drone operating skills could be a useful qualification to get in the future as it will be useful in many job sectors from computer games to conservation.

You can get more advice about working and training as a drone pilot from Dronesafe and the Civil Aviation Authority.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • knowledge of media production and communication
  • being able to use a computer terminal or hand-held device
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • to be flexible and open to change
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • to be focused on what the customer wants
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • the ability to monitor your own performance and that of your colleagues

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