How to Make Money in Inspections as a Drone Pilot

Looking for new ways to make money as a commercial drone pilot?

Consider adding inspections to your list of offerings.

If you’re worried you’ll need special training to do this kind of work, don’t worry—you won’t.

To do inspection work with drones you don’t necessarily need any additional training. All you need is your Part 107 and competent flying skills.

Here’s how drone pilots fit into inspection work at a high level:

  • You collect the visual data (i.e., the photos/videos) by drone
  • An inspector examines that visual data

 And just collecting the visual data can be worth a lot to a variety of types of companies. 

A Quick Note on Gear

You can absolutely start inspection work with a middle-grade drone like a Mavic 2 Pro or a Parrot ANAFI.

But as your work gets more sophisticated you may want to consider leveling up the drone platforms you use. When you do this, we recommend you consider what you need first—do you need to be able to zoom, or to fly indoors?—and then look for a platform that meets those needs. 

One last note is on the drone’s payload. Some inspections require specific types of cameras—again, it’s fine to start with what you have, but keep in mind that you may need to level up as time goes by.

Three Types of Inspection Work for Drone Pilots

There are three main ways you can work in inspections as a drone pilot—home inspections, insurance inspections, and industrial inspections.

Let’s take a look at each one.

  1. Home Inspections

Whenever someone is considering buying a home, a home inspection is a typical part of the process.

And a crucial part of the home inspection is to inspect the roof—no one wants to buy a home only to discover the roof will require a costly replacement.

Traditionally, roof inspections are performed by inspectors climbing onto the roof with a ladder or walking around and seeing what they can from the ground. 

But this approach is both dangerous and incomplete. Using a drone, inspectors can quickly get aerial data showing them the condition of the roof in a way that is safer, quicker, and yields higher quality data.

How to Find Home Inspection Work

To get started doing work in home inspections as a drone pilot you can:

  • Cold call/email local inspection companies. Consider offering a free flight to showcase the value of using drones for collecting visual data in a home inspection.
  • Cold call/email local realtors. Realtors work closely with inspection companies, and they might need your services as well for real estate marketing.
  • Get work through a third party. Companies like DroneBase act as a kind of Uber for drone pilots, connecting clients with service providers. Here’s a master list of drone pilot directories and networks to help in your search.
  • Don’t forget to network! Ask around, go on LinkedIn, and keep your ear to the ground—you never know who might be able to get you a meeting with an inspector or realtor among the people you already know.

Insurance Inspections

Insurance companies are also using drone pilots to do roof inspections these days, but their needs are different from those of home inspectors.

After a major storm or hurricane hits an area, insurance companies will be inundated with claims, and some of those will be for roof damage.

Assessing the validity of each of these claims is time consuming and costly—but drones are helping make the process cheaper, quicker, and more reliable.

While a traditional roof inspection for an insurance claim would require the adjustor to climb on the roof, a drone can go into the air and quickly collect all the data needed to assess the validity of the claim.

But it’s important to note that insurance inspection work is typically seasonal for drone pilots. Since this work is usually tied to the weather, it only comes up when the weather is bad.

That being said, insurance inspection work can be relatively easy and lucrative work. 

If you get $50 per roof and you can knock out 10 of them in a single neighborhood recently hit by a storm—usually at around 30 minutes per roof—that’s $500 in your pocket for the day.

How to Find Insurance Inspection Work

To get started doing work in insurance inspections as a drone pilot you can:

  • Get work through a third party. Companies like DroneBase act as a kind of Uber for drone pilots, connecting clients with service providers. Here’s a master list of drone pilot directories and networks to help in your search.
  • Look for job listings on Indeed.com or similar sites. During hurricane season or following severe storms, many major insurance companies will be looking for drone pilots in their area. If severe weather hit your area recently then we recommend you search the internet for inspection work—chances are, it’s out there.
  • Don’t forget to network! Ask around, go on LinkedIn, and keep your ear to the ground—you never know who might be able to get you a meeting with an inspector or realtor among the people you already know. 

Industrial Inspections

Industrial inspections are the most lucrative type of inspection work you can do as a drone pilot, but they’re also the most difficult work to get into.

The reason for this has to do with access to the client. A major company like Chevron may be looking for drone pilots to do inspection work, but it will have a complicated process for how they find and hire those pilots.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. If you can land even one client in industrial inspections it could end up being your primary revenue source as a drone pilot.

Industrial inspection clients are willing to pay a lot for aerial data because that data can help them realize huge savings.

Every hour a nuclear plant is down could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, so companies are willing to do anything they can to reduce their downtimes, including paying a premium for high quality drone inspections.

Work in industrial inspections generally falls into two categories—external inspections and internal inspections.

External inspections can be done with many different types of drones, from a relatively inexpensive Parrot ANAFI all the way to a higher-priced DJI Matrice 300.

Internal inspections, on the other hand, require a drone that can fly inside confined spaces, like Flyability’s Elios 2.

How to Find Insurance Inspection Work

To get started doing work in industrial inspections as a drone pilot you can:

  • Look for job listings on Indeed.com or similar sites. Make sure to search for both companies looking to hire drone pilots internally and inspection companies looking for experienced drone pilots. 
  • Get work through a third party. Companies like DroneBase act as a kind of Uber for drone pilots, connecting clients with service providers. Here’s a master list of drone pilot directories and networks to help in your search.
  • Don’t forget to network! Ask around, go on LinkedIn, and keep your ear to the ground—you never know who might be able to get you a meeting with an inspector or realtor among the people you already know. 

How to Make Even More Doing Inspection Work

In the opening to this article, we said that you don’t need any special inspection skills to work in inspections as a drone pilot.

And that’s absolutely true—you can make good money by just collecting aerial data for inspection purposes.

But if you’re looking for ways to make even more in the inspection space, you should consider getting special training so you can also be the inspector.

If you’re already working as a drone pilot in real estate marketing or collecting visual data for home inspections, becoming a certified home inspector could be a natural next step for you to expand your work and make even more money.

As a certified home inspector, you could be the person who collects the visual data for the home inspection and completes the rest of the inspection.

Home inspections typically cost anywhere from $300 to $500 and take 2-4 hours, which means you can do 1-3 of them on a given workday. By becoming a certified home inspector, you could add a reliable—and potentially lucrative—revenue stream to the work you do.

Companies like Inspection Certification Associates (ICA) offer remote certification courses that meet the requirements for getting a state home inspector’s license. (Each state is different, so make sure to do your research before paying for any course or supplemental program claiming to help you get certified.)