Way back in 2013, I picked up a drone for the very first time in my life. It was at that very moment that I knew inside me that I would, one day, be able to reserve enough time and money out of hectic schedules to adopt drone flying as a hobby. In the next couple of years, I was able to transform my inner desire into a reality and I became a hobbyist commercial drone pilot with a formidable inclination to sharing some stunning aerial images and video footages on different interactive social media.
Everything changed in the latter half of the previous year. I met one of the judges at the Flying Robot International Film Festival and as soon as we were finished with the formalities, he recognized me from my Instagram account and asked if I would be interested in working with him on an aerial shoot of San Francisco’s legendary Embarcadero Center buildings.
Of course, every little speck of me wanted to be a part of his crew and to avail this once in a lifetime opportunity. This was how I started transitioning from a hobbyist commercial drone pilot to a professional certified remote pilot.
Pass the commercial drone examination
Passing the Part 107 Knowledge Exam is the first and foremost requirement for attaining the Remote Pilot Certification from the Federal Aviation Administration. If you do not quite have the background knowledge with respect to aeronautics, it should take you 15 to 20 hours to get yourself prepared for the test. Here are some of my favorite resources that will help you a lot in preparing for the test. Schedule your test and pass with a score of 70% or above.
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I really get annoyed when I see people advertising their services for a lot lower rates than the actual market rates since they are not qualified remote pilots. It is not legitimate to fly a commercial drone commercially with the Part 107 certification.
Get a commercial drone website
Develop a website for your business. Check out FatCow if you have a few budget constraints. You will have to do some learning but this platform offers myriad options for customization. You can quite comfortably integrate your own branding. I am currently using a Google font but also looking for viable options at Fiverr. The fluid and responsive templates allow for seamless viewing and navigation on tablets as well as smartphones. It can’t get more frustrating than opening a website and not being able to read the minuscule text on display. You do not want your clients to run away right from the landing page just because they got a poor first impression from you.
Ensure that people are able to easily navigate your website and get in touch with you. Get the Google Analytics installed to keep track of the social and promotional efforts that are driving traffic to the website (check out this hosting provider offering $450 Dollars to promote your business on Google) . Also, inform the people that you are Part 107 certified and insured.
Make yourself legal
As discussed above, if you are going to become a professional drone pilot, you have to take care of the more costly and yet less flamboyant, but all the more important, aspects of your business. This implies the structure you want for your business (sole proprietor vs LLC, etc.), how to get registered in your state or country and grabbing an insurance policy.
Build your networks
One of the most important suggestions that I can give you is to get in touch with any commercial drone pilot in your vicinity and ask him or her if you could assist. There is a high probability that if the veteran has been impressed by your dexterity and professionalism, you will be referred to accomplish a task where scheduling becomes an obstacle.
Try be a regular fixture of networking events. Get yourself introduced and when asked, always begin with Professional Remote pilot or Commercial Drone Pilot as and when required. Try to keep business cards with you all the time while ensuring that your logo design or text gets the much needed dronie culture.
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Some people make a mockery of this step but if you want to stand out from the crowd, it is essential that you boast a formidable presence on the social platforms as well as commercial drone forums and Facebook groups.
I am acquainted with a number of people who are far better aerial photographers than I am. Having said that, in spite of all their skill set, they do not get the same number of gigs as I do. Either they get freaked out because of the anticipated censuring or they think that they won’t be able to set up an Instagram account. Twitter and Facebook are nothing but boredom for them. What I want to prove here is that most of my traffic comes from the Instagram referrals. Moreover, my participation in forums also helps me get in touch with a number of new acquaintances.
Last week, I had a gig with Intel and plan to do another one next week. It took me almost half a year to get to this point but I hope that the suggestions given above will help you as well in becoming a professional remote pilot.
Finally, I would suggest you to practice as much as possible. I have kids and am still able to spare time for my business, clients and flying. I take time out to practice hard and capture aerial images and videos that I may never use. But all of this gives me that much needed bliss. I am not aware of what’s going on in the popular TV shows but I can get the attention of some large enterprises looking out for professional drone photographers and cinematographers.
The most important thing when you become professional commercial drone pilot is how you manage your time. If you are in love with flying drones, everything will be a piece of cake for you.