Drone Pilot License
Earn your FAA Remote Pilot License
While there are online courses available to help potential pilots learn the material to pass the exam, most cost $299 or more plus the cost of the test ($109). These online courses do a good job of preparing one for the exam, but do not teach how to FLY a drone. That's where we come in!
Unlike a driver's license, which requires a written test and a driving test, the drone pilot license does NOT require a "flight" test -- only a written test. Without the flight training we give, a student would be hard pressed to learn many of the techniques we teach to produce flights with no damage to the aircraft and/or the items being photographed.
Hamlin Collegiate maintains 4 drones for student use. Comparable drones would run from $1150 - $1450 if purchased.
The short nature of this course allows the student to obtain the knowledge and skills required in a minimal amount of time, and once he/she has been licensed, the pilot can then work on their own time with their own drone, making money even while completing the course. Many pilots advertise their businesses on social media and websites.
Starting drone equipment costs to outfit a business could run between $1000 and $3000, based on the type of drone and other equipment. During our course, we train students to use both cell phones and iPads to control the drones and take photos and videos. (iPads are much better for precision photography and videography.)
A Remote Pilot license is valid for 24 months under current rules. Before the license expires, the drone pilot now watches a 2-hour video on an FAA website, and then takes an online free test as many times as necessary to score 100 points. The remote pilot then completes online registration and the license is renewed for another 24 months.
Course of Study
Introduction to Aircraft (Drone 1) course is now one semester. Drone 2 is a separate course which strives to help pilots master both photography and videography, as well as expose them to 3D imaging and modeling techniques being used with drones today. Drone 2 is also a one semester course.
Most drone pilots have been working as independent contractors although some corporations hire them for year-round jobs rather than having to contract out their inspection work. Jobs pay from $150-$750 on average, depending on the time involved. Real estate sales businesses are large users of drone pilot expertise. It is very common now for home buyers to go to a realtor's website, choose a home for sale, and be able to view aerial photographs or videography of the real estate they are interested in. Farms and ranches are now including aerial 3D models of the land for sale, showing potential buyers the lay of the land which they would be hard pressed to even see when driving through the land.
Cell phone tower operators, commercial radio tower operators, and wind turbine operators hire drone pilots for inspections. The agriculture industry is now making use of drones with special optics which can determine which parts of fields need fertilizer application. This data is then passed to a "fertilizer drone" that only sprays the areas needing fertilizer, greatly reducing the cost and use of chemicals.
Perhaps the best-paying use of drone pilots is the U.S. military. Currently, the U.S. army pays an average annual salary of $61,284 (34% above the national average) for drone pilots. Those just joining the military who have already received their remote pilot license can start at a higher pay grade and rank. The U.S. Air Force has sign-on and staying-on bonuses (see attachment).