Get a Drone Pilot Licence
And Get Paid For Your Flying Skills

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Last updated by Will D. on October 13, 2019

Jobs for drone pilots

Good pilots are definitely in demand. We suggest picking one or two areas to specialise in. The industries that we (the DFH team), predict to adopt drones the most are: asset inspection, agriculture and construction. However the other areas below will still be lucrative - this is why it’s important to consider any relevant pre-existing experience you may have and your passion – these two things will give you an advantage (experience) , and will sustain you in the industry for a longer time frame (passion).

drone job film Film Sets

If you have a passion for film, consider becoming a aerial cinematographer. The film industry from Hollywood to student films have fallen in love with drones - they are used the get beautiful aerial shots in most blockbuster films these days such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Lion, Aqua man and Westworld.
drone job assets Inspecting Assets

There are thousands of structures across the country and they often require a maintenance inspection at least once a year. Examples include buildings, roofs, communications towers, and bridges, all of which can be assessed with drone photography.
drone job construction Construction sites

Drones fly over construction sites every 2 weeks, following the same GPS waypoints, for consistent progress reporting. Measure and digitise many aspects of the site such as distances, areas, slopes and cubic metres of stockpiles. Use photogrammetry or lidar to create 3D models of the building so that any deviations (mistakes) from the plan can be identified earlier and resolved at lower cost.
drone job photography Photographers

If you are already a photographer, getting a drone and adding aerial photography and videography to your list of services is a natural progression for your business.
drone job search and rescue Search and Rescue

Drones can be used to locate lost hikers in a national park, or assist firefighters in inspecting the stability of roof structures.
drone job agriculture Agriculture

Crop farmers use drones to fly over their crops with a special sensor and then generate a NDVI map that shows what areas of the crop require more water, nitrogen or other treatments.
The 3 licence options


ARN only (Aviation Reference Number)
A starting point for new people

You can fly commercially without a drone pilot licence if your drone is under 2 kg but you still need to get an Aviation Reference Number (ARN) and get sub-2kg ‘confirmation’ from CASA. It’s free and is a convenient option for new people wanting to just get their drone in the air legally and start making some money. Remember flying a drone to make money is actually illegal in Australia unless you at least have this sub-2kg ‘confirmation’ from CASA (or an RePL or ReOC). Here are 5 good reasons to make sure you are approved by CASA before you fly.

Also keep in mind a “sub-2kg” pilot is the most restricted drone pilot, for example you cannot apply to operate within a 5.5km radius of an airport/aerodrome and you cannot operate at night. Once attained, your confirmation from CASA is valid for 2 years, it's free to renew after 2 years.

How to get “sub-2kg approval” from CASA:

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


RePL (Remote Pilot Licence)
A licence for individual pilots

If your drone is over 2kg, and you typically prefer to fly for someone else's drone business (not start your own business), it is best to obtain a Remote Pilot Licence.

By far the most popular licence option. RePL is typically a 5 day course, covering theory and practical, or do the theory part online + 2 days practical. This drone pilot licence does not expire and there is no renewal required! Minimum age is 17.

Get course dates and quotes


(ReOC) RPA Operator's Certificate
The highest standard for drone businesses

Best if your drones are over 2kg and you wish to set up your own drone business and work directly with customers. Typically for aspiring drone businesses owners who plan to hire individual pilots and operate a full time business.

Getting a ReOC is a more involved process that requires you to first have an RePL, and to then submit your company procedure and policies to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) for review and approval. The reward for getting this certification is having more options and less restrictions regarding fly zones, and more industry recognition from potential customers who may decide they only want to hire pilots with the highest available certification level (ReOC holders).

Get course dates and quotes


ARN only (Aviation Reference Number)
A starting point for new people

You can fly commercially without a drone pilot licence if your drone is under 2 kg but you still need to get an Aviation Reference Number (ARN) and get sub-2kg ‘confirmation’ from CASA. It’s free and is a convenient option for new people wanting to just get their drone in the air legally and start making some money. Remember flying a drone to make money is actually illegal in Australia unless you at least have this sub-2kg ‘confirmation’ from CASA (or an RePL or ReOC). Here are 5 good reasons to make sure you are approved by CASA before you fly.

Also keep in mind a “sub-2kg” pilot is the most restricted drone pilot, for example you cannot apply to operate within a 5.5km radius of an airport/aerodrome and you cannot operate at night. Once attained, your confirmation from CASA is valid for 2 years, it's free to renew after 2 years.

How to get “sub-2kg approval” from CASA:

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


RePL (Remote Pilot Licence)
A licence for individual pilots

If your drone is over 2kg, and you typically prefer to fly for someone else's drone business (not start your own buiness).

By far the most popular licence option. Typically a 5 day course, covering theory and practical, or do the theory part online + 2 days practical. This licence does not expire and there is no renewal required! Minimum age is 17.

Get course dates and quotes


(ReOC) RPA Operator's Certificate
The highest standard for drone businesses

Best if your drones are over 2kg and you wish to set up your own drone business and work directly with customers. Typically for aspiring drone businesses owners who plan to hire individual pilots and operate a full time business. Getting a ReOC is a more involved process that requires you to first have an RePL, and to then submit your company procedure and policies to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) for review and approval. The reward for getting this certification is having more options and less restrictions regarding fly zones, and more industry recognition from potential customers who may decide they only want to hire pilots with the highest available certification level (ReOC holders).

Get course dates and quotes

What pilots are getting paid in 2019
Here are some estimates that are intended to be a rough guideline for aspiring drone pilots.
drone pay for New Pilots
New Pilots
$75-$100 per hour

A new drone pilot, with less than 1 year of experience, flying a DJI Mavic Air drone, doing work such as basic aerial photography of houses, weddings, and small business promo videos

drone pay for 1-2 years’ experience
1-2 years’ experience
$100-$160 per hour

A pilot with 1-2 years’ experience
Flying a Mavic 2 Pro
Getting aerial photography for corporate events, fly overs on construction sites, and music videos

drone pay for 3 years’ experience
3 years’ experience
$160-$250 per hour

A pilot with 3+ years’ experience
Flying a DJI Inspire 2
Getting high res drone photography of assets such as bridges or towers, higher end corporate videos, cinematography work

drone pay for 3+ years’ experience
3+ years’ experience
$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.

8 min video: How a licence elevates your drone pilot career


quote The drone industry is one of the fastest growing industries at the moment, we are seeing 3% growth every week quote

Tips for getting work as a pilot 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
A good approach is to leverage any experience you may already have, that has some relevance to current drone applications. E.g. anyone with a background as a camera man, surveyor, building inspector, civil engineer, builder or architect, photographer, or crop farmer / agronomist. Go to full article

Tip 2: Be customer centric
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 aerial imagery of the most important day of her life, captured in a safe and quiet way. A construction site engineer doesn’t care about drones, if anything she sees them as just adding more complexity and risk to the site. She wants a 3D model of a building that is accurate and on time…

Go to all tips

6 Basic drone laws in Australia

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.

1 min video about these laws.

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

Popular drones

DJI is by far the biggest manufacturer of drones, holding over 70% of the drone market worldwide. DJI drones are versatile & excellent value, and because so many people own one, it’s easy to get help online or from a drone repairs person. The 3 most popular models for commercial use would be the Mavic 2 (Zoom or Pro), Inspire 2, and Matrice 210.

Drones for photo and video

DJI Mavic Air
Mavic Air

Your first decent aerial photography drone
DJI Mavic 2 pro
Mavic 2 pro

For mid to high-end aerial photography
DJI Inspire 2
Inspire 2

Sets the professional standard for aerial cinematography

Drones for inspection

Mavic 2 zoom
Mavic 2 zoom

For inspecting roofs, towers etc. Especially when some (2x) optical zoom is beneficial
Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual
Mavic 2 Enterprise Dual

Medium grade dual thermal and visual cameras for handy inspection of machinery, microwave radio towers, emergency situations etc.
DJI Matrice 210
DJI Matrice 210

Carry’s high grade dual thermal and visual cameras for inspection of larger scale industrial assets such as solar farms, power lines, and wind farms.

Drones for survey

DJI Mavic 2 pro
Mavic 2 pro

For medium level mapping, volume calculations, 3D models. When used with popular software such as dronedeploy.com or a combination of djiflightplanner.com + flylitchi.com
Phantom 4 RTK
Phantom 4 RTK

Turns a Phantom 4 into an RTK survey platform
DJI Matrice 210 RTK - B Combo
DJI Matrice 210 RTK - B Combo

A solid dual-sensor platform for highly accurate RTK surveying and inspection.
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