Becoming a drone pilot?

Learn about the work opportunities, income, licencing options and more

Updated November 10, 2017

Drone​ ​laws​ ​Australia​ ​-​ ​6​ ​rules​ ​explained​ ​simply
1. Fly no higher than 120 metres (400 feet)
2. Fly no closer than 30 metres to other people
3. Not over populous areas like a beach
4. Be able to see your drone with your own eyes at all times
5. Fly only in the daytime and not through fog or cloud
6. Fly at least 5.5 km away from airports, landing pads etc.

Before flying a drone, check the aviation safety authority website (CASA) for the complete list of rules

1 min video - the rules in Australia

The 3 main license options
License Type What You Need to Do When It Expires Popular Drones

No licence required

If your drone is under 2kg

If you are flying on your own private land the drone may be up to 25kg
You need to do 2 things

1. Get an ARN (Aviation Reference Number) by completing this 5min online form

2.Notify CASA by completing this 1min online form
Your approval from CASA is valid for 2 years, it's free to renew after 2 years Popular choices - under 2-kg drones, e.g.
DJI Mavic Pro
Phantom4 Pro

Remote Pilot Licence required

If your drone is over 2kg
And you wish to fly for someone else's drone business
Do a Remote Pilot Course (RePL)

Typically 5 day course, covering theory and practical Or do the theory part online + 2 days practical

Get course dates and quotes
No expiration for RePL's (no renewal required)

Minimum age is 17
Popular choices for Remote Pilots:
DJI Inspire 1
Matrice 200

Business licence required

If your drone is over 2kg
And you wish to set up your own drone business and work directly with customers
Do a Remote Operators Certificate course (ReOC)

Typically a 5 day course, covering theory and practical Or do the theory part online + 2 days practical

Get course dates and quotes
A ReOC is valid for 1 year, $480 to renew after 1 year. Popular choices for ReOC holders:
Phantom4 Pro
Inspire 2
Matrice 200
Sensefly ebee
Useful resources for everyone
We recommend getting public liability insurance
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What pilots are getting paid in 2017?
Here are some estimates that are intended to be a rough guideline for aspiring drone pilots.

$75-$100 per hour
A new drone pilot, with less than 1 year of experience, flying a DJI Phantom 4 drone, doing work
such as basic shots of houses, weddings, and small business promo videos

$100-$160 per hour
A pilot with 1-2 years’ experience
Flying a DJI Inspire 1, or Phantom 4 Pro
Getting shots for corporate events, fly overs on construction sites, and music videos

$160-$250 per hour
A pilot with 3+ years’ experience
Flying a DJI Inspire 2
Getting high res shots of assets such as bridges or towers, higher end corporate videos, cinematography work

$250-$400 per hour
A pilot with 3+ years’ experience
Flying a DJI Inspire and or a Sensefly ebee
High end aerial cinematography work – working on films, TVCs etc.
Or, acquiring data and creating 3D models of structures. Doing NDVI scans of crops. Mapping a section of a forest.
Getting volumes on stockpiles of coal for a mine site.

4​ ​Tips​ ​on where the industry opportunities are...
The drones market is set to exceed $127 billion by 2020, according to PwC . Get into the industry now, while the opportunities are there for the taking!

Tip 1: Be a specialist

Drone piloting is becoming popular, so in order to get work, you will need to gain experience that is specifically relevant to your chosen target market. We suggest picking 1 or 2 areas to specialise in. Consider your pre-existing experience, background and your passions. 5 examples below.

5 examples of drone Pilot specialisation

1. Film sets
Hollywood movie scenes shot with drones - Skyfall (2012), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), The Expendables 3 (2014), Chappie (2015), Jurassic World (2015), and Captain America: Civil War (2016). if you are a creative person, and have a passion for film, consider becoming a specialist aerial cinematographer. Creative skill is something that will always be in demand, and cannot be replaced by technology. Get a DJI Inspire 1 Raw, meet with some Directors of Photography, watch YouTube videos on how to get cinematic shots.

2.Inspecting bridges and roofs
Drones are being increasingly used to inspect assets such as buildings and roofs, communications towers, and bridges. There are thousands of these across the country and they often require a maintenance inspection at least once a year. In many cases, drones offer a better way by replacing things like EWPs. Consider getting a drone such as a Phantom 4 or Matrice and start working with a maintenance company to gain experience in this area.

3.Construction sites
Drones can be used to:
Measure how many cubic meters of gravel is in a stockpile
Check levels – verify if the ground is level or not before laying foundations
Fly around a structure and construct a3D model to compare actual vs planned construction progress

If you are already a photographer, getting a drone and adding aerial images and video to your list of services should be a natural progression for your business.

5.Search and rescue
Drones can be used to locate lost hikers in a national park, drones assist firefighters in inspecting the stability of roof structures

Tip 2: Be customer centric

Many businesses are just starting to integrate drones into their operations and workflows. There is lots of learning to be done on both sides – for the customer and the drone pilot. For this reason, it is important to approach a customer with their​ ​goal​ as your priority.

Remember, a bride doesn’t want a drone, she wants beautiful and unique imagery of the most important day of her life, captured in a safe and quiet way. A construction site engineer doesn’t really care about drones, if anything he seems them as just adding more complexity and possibly risk to the site. He wants a 3D model of a building that is accurate and on time.

After deciding on a speciality area (See point 1 above), work closely with your customers in a consultative way to ensure that whatever you do is relevant​ ​and​ ​value​ ​adding​ ​for​ ​the​ ​customer.

Tip 3: get insurance

Drones have the capacity to injure people and damage property. We very strongly recommend having a current public liability insurance policy that specifically covers the operation of a drone (RPA). Get a quote for insurance here

Drone flying can be dangerous - 3 examples of incidents:

Drone operator fined after UAV crashed into triathlete
Drone crashing into car on Sydney Harbour Bridge
Cyclist is thrown over the front of his handlebars

Tip. 4 check out these useful resources

Flite test is a great bunch of guys who create informative and entertaining drone review videos

Rotor Riot is a YouTube channel covering the adventures of some very skilled drone pilots indeed

The UAV Digest is a leading pod cast show that covers drone industry news from America. Listen to it via a free pod cast streaming app called Stitcher. Download Stitcher (Android or iOS)

Getting into survey and mapping? Drone Deploy is the most widely used app for capturing imagery, processing maps & 3D models - 2 min video

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