Drone Pilot Jobs & Salary

Drone pilots fly specialized unmanned aircraft, often for the military. Learn more about drone pilots' job duties, required education and skills, and get salary and projected job outlook statistics.

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Career Definition of a Drone Pilot

Unmanned aircraft, such as drones, are increasing in popularity and have a range of applications. They can be used to gather weather data, to collect intelligence information or to produce aerial photographs. A drone pilot is someone who is capable of effectively operating a drone. This involves the ability to have a drone safely take off and land. Drone pilots must also keep drones on course and ensure they are operated safely and avoid collisions.

Drone pilots' duties include checking the drones before they are flown to ensure that they are operating properly and monitoring the drone while it is being handled. They plan routes for drones to fly and then navigate the drones along those paths. Some drone operators work for the military and are responsible for gathering information on enemy troops or for maps; others may be involved with producing aerial photographs for other purposes.

Educational Requirements Certificate or associate's degree preferred
Job Skills Mechanical skills, self-evaluation skills, ability to analyze information, problem-solving skills, computer skills, communication skills, multitasking
Median Salary (2016)* $55,610 (electro-mechanical technicians)
Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 1% (electro-mechanical technicians)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Drone pilots need to be capable of performing maintenance on the drones and assessing how effectively their systems are operating, so they need to have some mechanical training. While it may be possible to enter this field with a high school diploma and experience, the majority of those who are employed as electro-mechanical technicians have a postsecondary certificate or associate's degree. Experience using computers is an asset so those considering this career field may want to take computer classes. Those with a high school diploma also have the option of gaining training through the military.

Required Skills

Drone pilots need to have strong communication skills so that they can convey plan information and other types of data effectively. They may need to respond to issues with the drone or flight path while operating the drone, so they should be able to process information and identify solutions to issues effectively. Their duties involve checking the drone to ensure it's operating properly before being deployed, so they need to have electronics and mechanical skills. Since they may have to fly the drone, activate equipment on the drone to do things such as take photographs, and monitor the drone's systems at the same time, it is important that drone pilots are capable of multitasking.

Career Outlook and Salary

Electro-mechanical technicians are professionals who maintain and operate drones, as well as other types of mechanical craft. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that electro-mechanical technicians would see nominal job growth of 1% from 2014 to 2024. The annual median income for electro-mechanical technicians in 2016 was reported by the BLS as being $55,610.

Related Careers

Aspiring drone pilots may decide that they want to work with aircraft in another capacity and focus on utilizing their mechanical skills as an avionics mechanic. Those interested in working with electronics could opt to pursue a career as an electronics technician, while those interested in piloting aircraft could become commercial pilots. Learn more about these other career options through the following links.

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