Cold hard cash

Afternoon, quick question whilst I ponder PfCO…

Do any of you actually make any money with your drone? I’m not talking about a living, but a sideline. I know there are other reasons for doing the course but ideally I’d like it to pay for itself over time


Being a Self Employed Property Maintenance Engineer for 27 years, I now find that flying a drone near to somebody’s house to be able to do aerial surveys a boon.
(saves a lot of ladder climbing)
I hasten to add I have not charged people for this in the past, just that it saves me the time and effort of crawling around on a roof/chimney to assess problems that a customer has.
I should add, that before this is done I ask the immediate neighbours if they have any objections to me carrying this out (no refusals to date!)
I too (now I am retired) am considering doing my PfCO, partly because I want to, but, also so that my Hobby can be combined with my Old job, and like @leeheyes, make it a paying venture, instead of a hobby.
I would expect to be able to pay for the PfCo course with the year, that is my hope with all the contacts I have.


I guess just you then Chris!

I’ve been approached a couple of times now about things I’ve done with the drone and how people would like to use the images. I’ll more than likely be getting voluntary redundancy shortly and wondered if pursuing it was worthwhile

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I think Lee that if the CAA get their way later this year, and forcing people to have training, be it online or PfCO, I can see there being a rush for people to get the PfCO.
I hope I am wrong, for every ones sake,
but, I am seriously wanting to do this, as i can only see it benefiting me.


I’ve not done mine, but intend to this year as a sideline.

Having being self employed for a long time as a photographer for in a past life, I found its all about selling and the not actual photo taking (or flying)


It’s a tricky one!

I’ve earned enough to pay off my pfco doing two jobs, but I’ve only done TWO big jobs :wink: and I’ve not yet been actively marketing my services.

On my pfco there were lots of chaps itching to make millions doing roof surveys with a drone. Sadly I don’t think any of those guys went on to make loads of money. But if you know what you want to offer and target the right people, and are patient and build over time by reaching out to people and companies I think it’s possible to build a base.

Myself, I never expected my drone work to pay the mortgage, I’ve got a main job elsewhere. However I’ve targeted Estate’s and large conservation bodies from my ecology background and there’s a niche market there for sure! ESP Scotland where counting remote wildlife takes 2 people in a Landrover days and days!!!

I’ve picked up small bits from people who’ve seen videos I posted and want the same for themselves for their own project.

Hope that helps?


This is almost exactly what I’m trying to avoid. I’m sure you can make money doing surveys or thermography etc, I’m really just more interested in making some money on the side by selling the occasional piece of work or taking the odd job request, along with some of the flights that permissions are needed for.

As an example, I can fly over my village right now as it’s not classed as built-up area but once a year we have a parade type thing with steam engines, vintage cars etc which all finishes on the local rec. Without PfCO I can’t go near that event, even though a number of villagers have asked me to. I’ve taken some great pics this week of the village in snow and a number of people have suggested making them in to Christmas cards - again, I can’t.

It won’t pay the mortgage but if it pays for the course and keeps me in a new drone every now and then then I’ll be happy.


Interesting thread guys. I did my PfCO last September. I had no idea how I was going to unfold my business. I do know that taking pictures and video, unless you are the likes of Jimmy Chin, you aren’t going to make this the main source of income.

So, far I haven’t done any paid work, not even tried to. My day job is software development and I am spending time with the dji development kit too, as I think as with everything these days it is all about the data. You might sell the odd image here and a video there but the business comes in the data you capture. This may or may not be visual data either.

I have also been awaiting the legislation changes that seem to plague the flying of drones. I believe there is mileage in training. Not necessarily the PfCO either just teaching people how to fly where to fly and if a CAA qualification existed for hobbyists I think that would go a long way towards acceptance of drones.

It is an interesting business, as it is being formed and not all uses have been found and not all technology options have been explored or perhaps even invented yet.

I believe that a little outside the box thinking is needed here.


I know that round here Estate Agents are using drones (illegally) for real estate purposes.
It’s a know fact that a lot of the people who are doing this are just everyday flyers, not PfCO certified to carry out the task of photographing or videoing properties on their books.
I have actually been working on a neighboring property last year, when I heard a drone flying around.
After questioning the flyer, he claimed it was being done for his brother.
The next day he was back knocking a “For Sale” sign into the properties front lawn, again, i confronted him and said "So, your brothers house is for sale is it, likely story!!.
(Caught ya!) I think he got the point that new what he was up to.
What i should have done is reported him to the Police and the CAA !!.
I should add that he never had the decency to ask the neighboring properties permission to fly around over their gardens.

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That’s one of the main reasons that I am doing my PfCO at the end of this month.

I believe that those that have an existing PfCO will be exempt for any initial main changes that may be brought in. I also believe and it’s possible that the authorities may make the PfCO a more complicated process as a way to reduce the number so want to get it now, in the same way they do for driving tests.

I am hoping to make a few bob, enough to fund the hobby, but I realise that it want be easy as there are a lot of people out there - but if you don’t try!!


My thesis of thinking exactly Brian !!

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Your comment about the estate agents is an interesting one Chris. Speaking to one a few months back about drones as his ‘business’ had paid for ones when they phantoms had first come out and he spoke about having lost three! I forgot to ask him at the time who he was using now. Found one site where the charge £150 for 10 digital images and another £100 for one hour video so you are never going to make a fortune from that without investing a lot of time and money in marketing yourself.

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Just proves my point exactly Brian !.
In using people who do not know how to fly them properly.
I am not suggesting for one minute that is what i want to do, but, i am sure with my flying experience that i could make a far better job of it than most of them !.:trumpet:
It’s the old saying is’nt “for what it’s worth” to them that is.
The above pricing is ludicrous for what you have to do.
I had a customer 2 years ago (in my Phantom 3 Advanced days) who had multiple chimney stacks that needed inspecting for failing brickwork.
Suggested that IF i done the survey, i would want the repair work that eminated from it.
Turned me down, then went and spent £3,000 on having scaffolding put up for doing the same thing.
Bloody Idiot !!


I should have added above, that i would have done the survey for nothing, and used a Cherry Picker on a Flatbed to do the repair work, my estimate was £2,000 (inc Hire Costs).
Some ferkin people have more money than sense !!.

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I agree with all the comments about future legislation and the impacts it may have. I (for now) work full time and commute for 4 hours a day so touting for paid work isn’t something I want to do at the moment, but should someone ask me for something I want to be in legally sound position to do it and earn a little money. To do this properly as a business venture I’d need much more than the PfCO and I’m not prepared to commit to that level of investment right now.

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Just going to add my comments hope you don’t mind
I took my PfCO last June and have used my drone for 1 job cost of course, insurance, registration £2k income from my work £150 yeh all the work is flooding in…
admittedly I haven’t advertised yet and will be doing this over the next couple of months.
What it did teach me is to check out where I am about to fly the weather conditions and any other relevant issues basically confidence.
I’m not going to make my millions… but it hasn’t stopped me enjoying my hobby and hopefully future income…
My next renewal will be £200 ish plus insurance luckily I have my own business that I was able to pay for the training as a loss leader.

If you are a hobbyist don’t waste money on the PfCO until you have to, prices are coming down for the training so choose wisely

Most importantly enjoy your drone


Agree with what you say @sparkman999 and I am fortunate that semi - retired so I will have a bit more time on the promoting side.

I am interested in what you do about insurance? Do you do it job by job or get an annual insurance.

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Hi Brian
Well not sure but I was told by the training company that it was easier to get CAA approval if i had 12 month insurance as opposed to short term which I did and got acceptance straight away. It was mentioned about proof of a current insurance which is included in my manual which a short term policy would be hard to include in your manual.
I know that it was expensive but covers everything including loss of drone. in future the company i am currently with does a per flight app for instant cover for day week month etc which will be looked at in June/July at renewal
hope this help

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Interesting thought, and entirely possible I guess.

Just throwing a potential scenario out there then…

Let’s say that hobbyists end up with different restrictions.

For example, what if hobbyists were restricted to 50m altitude and 100m distance, and that a PfCO holder was allowed to fly 120m and say 500m VLOS.

Would I be right in thinking that you can’t then undertake a hobbyist flight under the banner of a PfCO? In other words, a PfCO isn’t a magic ticket to except people from whatever hobbyist rules come in to play by November, if it’s not a PfCO flight.

I might be wrong, and I’d love to hear from a PfCO holder, but would I be right with that train of thought?

I couldn’t just go flying my drone over the local canals and waterways under the banner of a PfCO if I wasn’t actually doing it as, well, as the title says really, as a Commercial Operation? :thinking:


A good question but assumes logic will be involved making decisions! I am not sure and I am just using the opportunity i have a the moment at the moment.

I seem to recall, when reading consultation replies in the last consultation document, that there was comment by a body supporting exiting commercial drone pilots to the effect that too many PfCO’s are being issued and suggesting that CAA needs to make it more difficult - and yes they did mention it’s causing prices for jobs to reduce.