Drone pilot

Job Description:

Drone pilots remotely operate aircraft used in work like defence, surveying, filmmaking and aerial photography.

Job Category:
Aerospace & Defence

What you will do:

As a commercial drone pilot, you’ll:

  • plan flight paths
  • test flight equipment
  • carry out aerial surveys
  • gather digital images and data
  • maintain and repair drones
  • produce maps based on flight data
  • work with other professionals to interpret data

As a military drone pilot, you’ll be an intelligence specialist, integral to providing Army personnel with information about enemy forces and battle areas. You’ll train and utilize specialized skills to conduct air reconnaissance, surveillance, targeting missions, and analyze aerial photographs.


You’ll need:

  • knowledge of media production and communication
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

As well as:

  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • to be flexible and open to change (adaptable)
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • leadership skills
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • the ability to monitor your own performance and that of your colleagues
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become a drone pilot, specific subjects are not typically required. However, there are important skills and knowledge areas that can be beneficial for pursuing a career as a drone pilot. Here are some considerations:

  1. Mathematics (Maths): Basic math skills are important for tasks like calculating distances, flight times, and managing flight plans.
  2. Physics: Understanding basic physics principles, especially those related to aerodynamics and the principles of flight, can be useful for operating drones safely and efficiently.
  3. Geography: Knowledge of geography, including understanding of maps and spatial awareness, can be valuable for planning and executing drone flights.
  4. IT and Computer Skills: Familiarity with computers, software, and technology is essential for operating drones and processing data from flights.

Post School

You can get into this job through:

  • applying directly
  • specialist courses run by private training organisations

Direct Application
You can apply for jobs directly. Most employers will expect you to have a minimum of 40 hours of recorded drone flying experience.

If you are in the armed forces or the police you may be able to train as an aerial vehicle pilot to operate drones for military or security purposes.

For that you will need in the UK:

  • 10 weeks of basic training
  • more than 23 weeks of advanced individual training
  • 102ASVAB Score: Surveillance & Communications (SC)

Other Routes
You could complete training approved by the Civil Aviation Authority. This lasts between 2 and 4 days and includes:

  • air regulations (of the country in which you wish to work)
  • flight safety
  • flight planning
  • theory test and practical flight skills assessment

You’ll also have to write an operations manual describing how you are going to use your drone commercially.

After successfully completing training, you can apply for the Permission for Commercial Operations certificate, which you need to fly drones for commercial purposes.

In the UK, you must renew the certificate every 12 months. This may vary from country to country.

Working Hours and Environment:

Your typical work hours could be variable.

You could work on a film set, on a construction site, in the countryside or in a control room.

Your working environment may be outdoors in all weathers and you may spend nights away from home.

Career Path & Progression:

You may be able to complete a qualification like the Level 3 Certificate and Level 4 Diploma in the Remote Piloting of Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

Examples of work you might do includes:

  • filmmaking, TV and marketing
  • weather forecasting
  • mapping land use for farming or archaeological work
  • inspecting infrastructure like bridges and tall buildings
  • surveying air accident sites as part of investigations

If you have engineering qualifications, you could move into drone design and development work.