We’ve all seen at least once aerial shots of Canadian wildlife or of New York and thought to ourselves “Yep, that’s cool”.
With drones becoming easily accessible and affordable, aerial photography is on the rise. In fact, I don’t think the time when even normal ground pictures are taken with the help of drones. That being said, the sheer amount of drone photographers makes it hard to tell what a fair hourly price for their services really is.
Whether you’re someone trying to get an idea on the current drone photography prices to book a pilot, or whether you are a pilot trying to price your services adequately, this article is for you.
On average, a drone photography session can cost between $20 to $350 per hour, depending on the industry. The cost usually depends on several factors like drone model, permission level, customization, image quality, post-processing, deadlines, experience, and location.
There. That’s the straight answer in a nutshell. If you’re the nerdy type and want the long, detailed version though, stick around.
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We’ve seen that the general costs of drone surveys range between $20 and $350 per hour, but as I said, we’ll have to expand on that.
According to Ziprecruiter, the average yearly salary of a drone photographer is around $50,029/year. Making the average hourly rate $24.
Should you expect that price range when you’re hiring a drone photographer (or offering your service) though? Not quite. Ziprecruiter pulls the data from the several job offers around, which usually try to low ball drone pilots.
Needless to say, it’s not the most ideal place to get a clear picture, but it does give us some idea.
A quick search on Indeed brings up a higher hourly average of around $35 per hour. With that, we can assume that the average is around $30 per hour in most U.S states.
So how can some people make upwards to $350 an hour? Simply put, those are seasoned professionals and are probably managing a team of drone pilots as senior pilots. People who make that much money flying drones usually work in industries like filmmaking or energy inspections, both of which require expertise that go beyond just drone flying. Additionally, some may be selling footage of their drone flights to media outlets or stock footage websites.
Perhaps the most deciding factor of pricing when it comes to drone photography is the industry you’re in. The more the industry needs expertise beyond just drone piloting skills, the more you can expect to pay (or charge).
Industries that require higher expertise include agriculture (and land surveys in general), power line and tower inspections, filmmaking, and more or less roof inspections as well as real estate in some cases.
We’ll look over each of those in this section. Starting with land surveys:
When we’re talking about agriculture drone photography here, we’re probably not talking about just taking pictures. Anyone can do that.
This sector requires piloting skills, a large drone, subscriptions to data processing services that cost a lot of money, and expertise in land surveying and agriculture. You can expect a high price here, whether you’re charging or paying.
In most cases, the national average drone land survey can cost between $30 and $120 per acre. It can be even higher or lower than that depending on the type of survey and the amount of time needed to complete the work.
To go even further than that, we have this table from Ziprecruiter on how much drone land surveyors charge for their service:
Keep in mind that the average $26 hourly cost is made on a national level so in certain states you might find it higher. Below are 10 US cities with the highest drone survey costs:
|City||Average Hourly Cost|
|Santa Rosa, CA||$31.43|
|New York City, NY||$29.56|
|San Mateo, CA||$29.36|
Some drone pilots charge by the acre though, and not by the hour.
Land survey cost per Acre
Usually, land surveys can cost between $50 and $500 per acre. depending directly on the land size, how filled with trees it is and how many property corners you need marked.
The larger your estate and the more markings you need, the more you can expect to pay. However, with an increase in acreage, the rate per acre decreases.
Rates also differ among professionals and regions, so there’s no hard-set, per-acre rate. However, for large parcels - those 5 acres or larger - most pros charge per square foot, which could run anywhere from $0.15 to $0.70 or more, or per hour.
Again, we’re not talking about just taking pictures of roofs here (anybody can do that). Taking drone roof pictures also requires expertise. The drone pilot needs to know what they’re looking for, and how to look for it.
The average cost of a drone roof inspection ranges from $150 to $400 nationwide. It can be lower or higher than that range depending on the complexity and size of the roof.
That’s not much since one session can take up to 4 hours.
If you’re deciding whether to inspect your roof the traditional way or get it done with a drone, this infographic may make your decision easier.
Data pulled from study done by Fixr
This picture was taken by a drone, not a traditional camera. Wedding photography has been on the rise, demand has been increasing for a while which means the prices that you’ll be paying or charging are also increasing.
You can expect to pay between $500 to $600 for drone wedding photography, for a starter package. What’s included in the starter package is dependent on the drone pilot. Sometimes they also offer editing, other times it’s not included in the package.
This here is the golden goose for any aspiring drone photographer because of the sheer demand on drone services. The real estate industry has become almost entirely dependent on drone photography for house showings and promotions.
When it comes to real estate, drone pilots usually charge per square footage rather than per hour, the starting packages usually include both exterior and interior shots. You may also find a pricing structure that’s by the hour, half-day, or day.
While perusing the internet I’ve found this convenient and popular pricing model for real estate drone photography.
|Under 2000 sq. ft.||$149|
|Under 3000 sq. ft.||$199|
|Under 4000 sq. ft.||$249|
|Under 5000 sq. ft.||$299|
These will usually cover both interior and exterior shots. Exterior shots are usually directly from above, level with the ground to capture the whole property, then side shots from different angles.
While interior photos include two types of photos:
Those perfectly taken aerial car videos you see in commercials, those are taken by drones. Depending on whom you work for in this industry, you can really charge big bucks (especially if the project requires high spec drones, but we’ll get into that later).
On average, Drone photography prices in advertising can go from $100 to $450 per hour (on the high end) and $500-$800 per project. This cost varies depending on several factors including certifications required, the type of drone and expertise of the pilot.
Drones are getting used by every major brand out there, and I’m assuming these prices will only keep on increasing. That is, if the number of drone pilots doesn’t explode in the coming months.
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There are numerous factors that influence prices when it comes to drone photography. So numerous in fact that even coming up with the average hourly price we discussed above wasn't’ an easy task. Below are common factors that might influence the cost of a project.
Drone jobs vary by industry as we’ve discussed above. Some jobs can take oly a couple of hours and cost as low as $50, while other that need specialists can cost up to $8000 per day (energy inspections can cost that much).
Remember when I said drone models influence the price greatly? Well, the cost of drones ranges from $2,000 for a DJI Mavic model, up to $250,000 for a Hybrid VTOL fixed-wing aircraft. Needless to say, the cost will depend on the required drone for the job.
What do I mean by that? Some jobs will require permissions that can only be granted from local authorities. If you need pictures taken near an airport or military base for example, the drone pilot will have to request permission, which can make him liable should any problems arise.
Things like that can cause the pilots to increase their prices, which is reasonable.
A drone job is sometimes not just a one-man job, even if there is just one drone. Sometimes the drone will need to fly away from the pilot, which requires another person to maintain visual line of sight with the drone (according to U.S drone laws). Sometimes even more than one person if the drone needs to cover a larger distance.
This goes without saying, the drone you use to capture the images and videos will impact the quality of the deliverables. Image quality on a drone can vary between SD and 8K+. The higher the image quality, the more advanced the drone will need to be.
If you don’t know how to edit the raw footage and pictures, you can let the pilot take care of that for you as an extra, provided they have the expertise for it. Post-processing can include video stitching, color grading, voiceovers, adding music, or other cool special effects.
Pretty much obvious. The amount of time taken will directly impact the price if it’s hourly, and indirectly if it’s per project. Time after the operation can also be taken into consideration if they’ll have to figure out how to better deliver the final footage.
As we’ve discussed before, expertise plays a big role, perhaps the biggest after the job type, in determining the price. A veteran drone pilot with a decade of flying under their belt will scoff at a rate lower than $70/hour for example.
Choose wisely the right person for the job that also fits your budget.
The location of the project’s area plays a role in determining the price of said project. If the drone pilot has to travel more than a certain distance, usually they’ll charge you an extra fee per mile (back and forth), to cover their travel expenses.
So it’s always a good idea to look for a local pilot first to save yourself money. And if you’re the one offering a service as a pilot, make sure you’re not losing money in travel expenses.
After the many factors we covered above, the answer to that may already be clear to you. A good rule of thumb is to start small if you’re just starting (after having received your commercial license, of course). $20/hour is not bad for a beginner, especially if you’re just taking raw footage without doing any editing.
And then, start to gradually increase your prices. Here are 3 simple ways to do that:
Truth be told, I think prices for drone photography and videography will go down instead of up. That’s because low end drones are improving at a staggering rate. A drone like DJI mini 2 that retails at $499 can take professional footage nowadays.
So how do you charge higher prices? The trick is to stock up on skills. Expertise beyond drone piloting like video editing, or the knowledge to use surveying software will take you far in this business.