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The Ultimate Guide to Selling Drone Footage (Make Money From Your Drone)

Updated in 2024 by Paul Posea

If you’re like me then you know that there's nothing quite like the thrill of capturing stunning footage from high up in the sky. But what do you do with all of that footage once you've got it? Well, one option is to sell it!

Selling drone footage is a great way to turn this hobby into a lucrative side hustle or even a full-time career! (yes, you can make some serious money doing this).

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But it's not as simple as just posting your videos online and waiting for the offers to roll in. There are certain steps you need to take to ensure that your footage is of high quality, legally sound, and marketable to potential buyers.

In this article, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know to start selling your drone footage successfully.

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Freelance vs Full-Time UAV Pilot Salary

I've had the opportunity to explore both freelance and full-time roles in the industry. This experience has given me a clear understanding of how salaries and job structures differ in each path.

When working freelance, you can charge your clients either per project or on an hourly basis. This setup allows for a lot of flexibility in choosing projects and managing work hours. The potential to earn more per project is there, especially in specialized areas like aerial photography. 

However, the income isn't always consistent. There are times when you earn a lot, but there are also quieter periods. Plus, you have to handle your own expenses, such as equipment and insurance.

In a full-time drone pilot role, the situation is quite different. The salary is regular, which means steady income and less financial uncertainty. Full-time jobs often come with extra benefits like health insurance and paid holidays. 

The trade-off is less flexibility in work hours and the types of projects you get to work on. But, there's usually more chance for career growth and learning new skills in a full-time position.

AspectFreelance Drone PilotFull-Time Drone Pilot
IncomeVariable; based on projects and hourly ratesSteady; regular salary
Earning PotentialPotentially higher per project; fluctuates annuallyConsistent but may be lower per project
FlexibilityHigh; choose projects and work hoursLower; set hours and assigned projects
Job SecurityLess stable; dependent on finding projectsMore stable; regular employment
BenefitsSelf-provided (insurance, retirement plans)Often provided (health insurance, paid vacation)
ExpensesSelf-covered (equipment, marketing)Covered by employer
Career GrowthSelf-directed; more independenceStructured opportunities for advancement

Getting Started with Selling Drone Footage

Before we get into this, we should first be clear on what it means to sell your drone footage online. 

Selling your drone footage (or pictures) is simply giving the ability to individuals or companies to legally use your footage. That use can or can’t be commercial depending on the type of deal you strike with them.

We’ll look over the types of licenses later on in this article.

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How to sell stock drone footage?

First things first, you have to make sure you already have your part 107 license (more on that here) – basically, here’s the gist of it: 

To sell drone footage, ensure you have the legal right to use said drone, find platforms to sell it, price it competitively, and promote it. Obtain permission if necessary or get a Part 107 certification if flying commercially. Maintain high-quality standards for your footage.

If you’re just getting into the market, you may be confused about how and where to platform your footage. Don’t worry, we’ll be getting to that soon!

It’s quite difficult to get the part 107 test without proper training, so a good online course is highly recommended.

Although this seems simple enough (and it is) there are a few factors you might consider. Generally, many rookies go into this with the common price misconception.

While you CAN sell one footage for $250+ – the truth is most sales are priced within $5 - $20. Some pieces of footage even sell for as low as $0.26!!

I’ve found a video for you that shows the entire process in detail – from what type of footage to capture to how to upload it to the various sales platforms:

What type of drone footage sells well? (and fast)

Very good question. Knowing where the money's going will not only ensure you’re not wasting your time but also make it easier for you to make more money faster than clueless drone pilots.

A great way to make sure you’re taking the right kind of footage that sells is to follow an A to Z guide on how to make money with a drone and improve your aerial footage skills considerably.

Types of drone footage that sell well include aerial views of cities and landscapes, real estate and property showcases, sports and action scenes, construction and infrastructure projects, and natural and wildlife captures. These categories often attract high-paying clients.

Let's talk about these types in detail to see why buyers like them and how you can take videos that sell fast and do well.

Aerial views of cities and landscapes

selling drone footage

There will never come a time when these types of shots and videos will not be in demand. It’s one of the most popular types of drone footage.

This type of footage is often used in travel videos, documentaries, and promotional materials. This means there is always a big demand for it – and often the people who need this type of footage are willing to pay more for it.

Real estate and property footage

selling drone footage

This is where the money is at, and may just be one of the best ways to make the max amount of money as a drone pilot.

Real estate agents and property developers often use drone footage to showcase their properties from unique angles. Usually, an agent will be looking at footage that highlights the features of a property and its surroundings, such as a waterfront view, a large yard, or proximity to amenities. 

High-quality footage can make a property more appealing to potential buyers and help it stand out in a crowded market which means it’s worth a lot to real estate agents – here is what to expect in terms of pricing:

Square footagePricing
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.

Sports and action footage

selling sportsdrone footage

This is also a great field, but there is a big barrier to entry. You won’t be selling your footage here passively like when it comes to cities and landscapes but will have to be in the field (like real estate photography).

Thing is, drones are perfect for capturing action and sports footage from unique angles. That’s because showcases the thrill and excitement of various sports, such as surfing, snowboarding, and motorsports. 

This type of footage can be used in sports documentaries, highlight reels, and promotional materials for sports teams and events!

Construction and infrastructure footage

selling drone footage

Construction and infrastructure companies often use drone footage to monitor progress and inspect sites from above. 

They’ll also be willing to pay well, because the footage showcases the scale and complexity of large construction projects, such as bridges, highways, and skyscrapers. 

This type of footage can also be used in engineering and architectural documentaries and promotional materials.

Natural and wildlife footage

selling drone footage

Drones are awesome because they can capture stunning footage of wildlife and natural landscapes that would be difficult or impossible to get otherwise. 

Usually, you’ll get the type of buyers who are interested to get footage that showcases the beauty and diversity of nature, such as wildlife migrations, waterfalls, and forests – it can be used in documentaries, nature programming, and educational materials.

The only problem is that it’s quite hard to get this footage without traveling by yourself. You’ll also need a LOT of patience – something every wildlife photographer knows.

Unique or Recognizable Infrastructure

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Capturing drone footage of unique or recognizable infrastructure offers lucrative opportunities. This niche includes famous landmarks, iconic buildings, and architectural marvels. So, just a bit more niche than footage of cities and landscapes!

Such footage appeals to filmmakers, advertising agencies, tourism boards, and educational publishers. It’s often used to showcase destinations, enhance narratives, or serve as dramatic backdrops. 

To succeed, ensure legal compliance, capture unique angles, highlight the infrastructure's context, and prioritize high-quality footage.

Time-lapse videos

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Creating time-lapse videos with drones is a dynamic and profitable niche, blending the passage of time with aerial perspectives. 

These videos compress hours into seconds, revealing the fascinating evolution of landscapes, urban development, or natural phenomena. Ideal for construction projects, environmental changes, and bustling city scenes, time-lapse videos captivate audiences in documentaries, real estate promotions, and social media content.

Platforms to Sell Your Drone Footage

Ok, so you’ve got yourself great drone footage, edited it, and made it look professional (or at least I hope you did), now’s the time to be rewarded for all your work – AKA Getting paid $$$

Where can I sell my drone footage?

You can either do it physically (like in real estate or sports photography), or use several platforms that we’ll go into.

There are several platforms where you can sell your drone footage. Stock footage websites such as Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, and Pond5 offer a marketplace for buyers to purchase footage from a variety of creators. 

You can also use social media platforms like Instagram and YouTube can be used to showcase your work and attract potential buyers. 

Best places to sell your drone footage

There are 5 platforms that I’d recommend, I’ve put them up for you in the table below:

PlatformType of deliverables 
Drone StockVideos & Photos
Getty ImagesVideos & Photos
ShutterstockVideos & Photos
Pond5Videos & Photos
BlackboxVideos & Photos

1. Drone Stock

As one of the first websites to offer exclusive drone footage, they are often the go-to of content creators who are looking for aerial videos and do not want to sift through other unnecessary media.

Which also makes it the go-to website for many drone pilots. They also have a lot of clients that are big names in TV and movie production. 

You can expect to earn up to %50 from your sales with them.

2. Getty Images

Very well-known for stock pictures, but did you know that you can sell drone footage here as well? 

All you have to do to tap into the millions of monthly visitors on the website is to apply to become a contributor.

Which is surprisingly simple. All you need to do is to submit YouTube links via the Getty Images smartphone app and one of their editing teams will review it. Once approved, you’ll be free to upload any content as long they comply with the site’s standards.

3. Shutterstock

Selling drone footage on Shutterstock is easy – All you have to do is sign up for an account and upload your content. Before submitting any clips, be sure to check Shutterstock’s guidelines to make sure your content meets the requirements!

Once you’ve uploaded your footage, they will review it and provide feedback on how to improve it. 

It takes about 2-3 days for videos to be approved or rejected. If accepted, your clips will be available for sale in its library of over 200 million royalty-free images and videos.

4. Pond5

This is a very popular choice for selling footage and images. You’ll find 4K resolution videos, photos, music, sound effects, and special visual effects all in one place.

Whether you’re an independent filmmaker or a professional photographer, Pond5 has something to offer everyone.

It’s easy to upload your content and start selling it in no time. They also provide a variety of helpful tools and features to help you market and promote your work.

5. Blackbox

This is actually more of an intermediary. It doesn’t provide hosting to stock media but, instead, forwards them to sites such as Shutterstock, Vimeostock, and Pond5. 

This is a great platform for immediately expanding the reach of your content without having to upload them to multiple sites. Instead of making multiple accounts you can just make one BlackBox account and tap into multiple platforms.

6. Launching your own website

Here’s one alternative that may trump using other platforms — if you do it right. 

Launching your own website for selling drone footage allows you to directly showcase and transact with buyers, providing full control over pricing and marketing. This method ensures you retain 100% of the sales revenue, bypassing any intermediary fees. It also opens avenues for custom requests and project collaborations.

Effective SEO and marketing can attract a global audience, allowing you to set your own terms and build a loyal customer base that values your unique aerial content. 

This approach not only maximizes your earnings from selling drone footage but also fosters direct relationships with your clients, which is key if you’re serious about turning your hobby into a small-scale business.

How to sell drone footage to news stations?

To sell your drone footage to a news station you’ll have to first polish your footage and edit it, before reaching out to news agencies. Either directly or through platforms that facilitate this.

There are various platforms that can help you do this. Like: Newsflare, Stringr, Reporter, and Sellnews.

Additionally, you can also do your research to find out the email addresses of people working at the news station and pitch them your footage directly. Be sure to have samples ready to send out.

 Financial Aspects of Selling Drone Footage

In other words, let’s talk money! In this section, we’ll debunk some income myths when it comes to selling drone footage.

How much can you sell drone footage for?

The price of your drone footage can vary depending on a number of factors, like the quality of the footage, the length of the clip, and the intended use of the footage (remember what we said about lucrative fields?).

In general, stock footage websites typically offer pricing based on licensing options, which can range from a few dollars to several hundred dollars per clip.

For example, some websites offer royalty-free licenses that allow the buyer to use the footage multiple times without additional fees, while others offer single-use licenses that are less expensive but limit the usage rights of the buyer. 

Another factor that can affect the price of drone footage is the exclusivity of the footage. Exclusive footage that is only available on one platform or to one buyer can command higher prices than non-exclusive footage that is available on multiple platforms.

An example of this is “Drone Stock” – if you put your footage exclusively with them you’ll be getting a 50% royalty per sale, but only 30% if it’s not exclusive to them.

Put simply – the amount you can sell your drone footage for will depend on the demand for your footage, the quality of your footage, and the platform you choose to sell on. 

How much money can you make selling drone footage?

This is a very broad question that might even require an article of its own. Luckily I’ve already gone in-depth about that here!

On average, a dedicated drone footage seller can earn up to $50k/year. While hobbyists and people who sell their footage on stock platforms can earn an average of $500 per month.

I’ve found this video here to do a great job debunking the myths around selling drone footage – because the truth is, it’s not something that’ll make you rich!

How much to charge for drone footage?

How much to charge and price your drone footage is something that will depend on the length of your footage, what it’s going to be used for, and the industry in which you’re working.

I’ve written an in-depth article about there over here – check that out and you’ll never have to wonder about much to charge.

Tips to Succeed in the Drone Footage Market

The drone footage market is a VERY competitive one, so if you’re not putting out high-quality work you’ll just be left in the dust!

That being said, there are ways to succeed and stand out from the competition. Here are some tips to help you succeed in the drone footage market:

Improving the Quality of Your Drone Footage

Producing high-quality drone footage is key to success in this market. One way to improve the quality of your footage is to invest in a quality drone and camera. 

You don’t really have to go overboard, a handy DJI Mini 3 is more than enough. It's also important to pay attention to lighting and composition and to use post-processing techniques to enhance your footage. Additionally, practicing and honing your piloting skills can help you capture smooth and steady footage.

I won’t go into detail about this, but you can find many tutorials on youtube.

Focus on High-Demand Footage to Boost Your Sales

Certain types of drone footage tend to sell better than others!

Aerial views of cities and landscapes, real estate and property footage, sports and action footage, construction and infrastructure footage, and natural and wildlife footage are all popular among buyers as I said above. 

When producing drone footage, consider the needs and interests of potential buyers.

Find Niche Markets for Drone Footage

In addition to the more popular types of drone footage, there are also niche markets for drone footage. 

I’m talking about footage for things like industrial sites, agricultural areas, and historical landmarks... By identifying and targeting these niche markets, you can make sure you’re not competing with too many people.

Promoting Your Drone Footage Online

Nobody’s going to buy your stuff if nobody sees them! 

It's important to choose the right platforms to showcase your work, such as stock footage websites or social media platforms. Additionally, pricing your footage competitively and if you have a website of your own you should consider using search engine optimization (SEO) tactics.

These can increase your visibility and attract potential buyers. It's also important to stay up-to-date on industry trends and to produce content that is timely and relevant. (like I said above!)

Stay Abreast of Market Trends

Understanding what’s currently “in” can lead you to more profitable opportunities. Regularly research which types of drone footage are selling best, such as cityscapes, natural landscapes, or specific large-scale events, and adapt accordingly.

By focusing on this key area, you can increase the marketability of your drone footage, making it more attractive to potential buyers and helping you succeed in the competitive drone footage market.

Edit Your Drone Footage Like a Pro

To stand out in the drone market, editing is key. Use editing software to refine visuals and enhance clarity. Trim clips to highlight the best moments and maintain viewer interest. Adjust colors and apply filters for a professional look. Incorporate music or sound effects to complement the visuals. By focusing on these editing techniques, you can elevate your drone footage and captivate your audience.

Networking and Building Relationships with Clients

Some industries like real estate photography need networking more than others. This is why building a network of people who know what you do and know you deliver good work is key to success in this market.

Networking with potential clients, such as real estate agents, event planners, and marketing agencies, can help you secure long-term contracts and skyrocket your revenue!

Legal and Regulatory Considerations When Selling Drone Footage

I know I left this for last but this is equally as important as everything we’ve covered so far – if not more important!

If you're looking to sell drone footage, it's important to understand the legal and regulatory considerations involved. Here are some common questions you should keep in mind:

Do You Need a License to Sell Drone Footage?

Good question, especially since drone laws in the US are pretty strict (with sizeable fines).

Commercial drone pilots must obtain a Part 107 certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in order to legally operate a drone for commercial purposes. This certification involves passing a knowledge test and adhering to certain operational requirements. 

Other countries may have their own licensing requirements though, so it's important to research the regulations in your specific location.

FREE Guide: How to make money with your drone in 2023

A 37 page guide that shows you basically everything you need to get started right now.

Can You Sell Drone Footage Without a License?

Already trying to find loopholes in the law?

Jokes aside, you should consider this…

You may be able to sell drone footage without a license if you are flying recreationally and not for commercial purposes. However, it's important to ensure that you have the legal right to use and distribute the footage. This may include obtaining permission from any people or property owners featured in your footage.

The keyword here is “may” as this is a very ambiguous part of drone laws that few seem to discuss.

Fines for Flying Drone Footage to Sell

The FAA runs a tight ship and doesn’t hold back when it comes to any violators of drone regulations.

Fines for flying drone footage to sell can vary depending on the severity of the violation. In the United States, fines for violating FAA regulations can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. It's important to research and adheres to all relevant regulations and laws in order to avoid fines and legal consequences.

Is Insurance Required for Selling Drone Footage?

Drone insurance is not strictly required but is highly recommended. 

Drone operations come with inherent risks, and accidents or damage to property can occur even with the most skilled pilots. Insurance can protect you from financial losses and legal liabilities in the event of an accident or incident. It's important to research and obtain the appropriate insurance coverage for your specific drone operations and business needs.

It’s also usually cheap, so better safe than sorry. If you’re wondering how much insurance will cost you exactly, check out this article I’ve previously written.

Is Insurance Required for Selling Drone Footage?

Before you plan to sell, remember: using drone footage commercially requires clear permission from those captured or owning the properties featured.

When selling drone footage, navigating copyright and privacy laws is crucial. Always ensure you have the right to use and distribute footage, especially if it includes identifiable people or private properties. Violating these laws can lead to legal issues and fines. 

In addition, it's wise to familiarize yourself with the specifics of copyright law in your region, as these can significantly impact how you use and sell your footage legally.

Do You Need Release Forms for Everyone in Your Drone Footage?

Securing release forms is a key step in legally selling drone footage, ensuring you respect individuals' privacy rights.

Selling drone footage that incidentally captures individuals or private property often requires release forms to avoid legal complications. It's essential to understand when and how to use these forms to ensure your footage is legally compliant. 

Obtaining release forms can sometimes seem daunting, but it's a straightforward process that protects both the drone operator and the individuals captured in the footage. 

The process of obtaining release forms typically involves identifying the individuals or owners of private property featured in your footage and then contacting them to explain the purpose of the footage and the need for their consent. 

This courteous approach facilitates understanding and cooperation, ensuring the legal use of the footage.

Conclusion

Selling drone footage can really be a good side hustle that brings in good money, but it requires careful consideration and effort. 

By investing in a quality drone and camera, producing high-quality footage, targeting the right markets, promoting your work online, and building strong relationships with clients, you can succeed in this market even if it’s competitive.

Also, don’t forget! Understanding the legal and regulatory considerations involved, such as licensing and insurance requirements, is essential to avoid fines and legal consequences. 

So in conclusion, with the right approach and dedication, you can turn your passion for drones into a good income source, or even a successful career.

Frequently Asked Question

How do I price my drone footage?

Pricing depends on the footage's quality, length, intended use, and exclusivity. Research current market rates on the platforms where you plan to sell and price competitively.

How can I make my drone footage more marketable?

Focus on capturing high-demand footage types, improve your videography skills, use quality equipment, and edit your footage professionally. Staying informed about market trends and tailoring your content accordingly can also enhance marketability.

Can I sell the same drone footage on multiple platforms?

Yes, you can sell non-exclusive drone footage on multiple platforms. However, exclusive agreements with certain platforms might offer higher royalties per sale but restrict you from selling the same footage elsewhere.

author-paul-posea-picture
Hi, I'm Paul.
A big drone enthusiast, reviewing, comparing and writing about drones since 2015. I'm all about helping people enjoy and even monetize their hobby.

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paul posea
Paul Posea
Hi, I'm a long-time drone reviewer and I hope my articles and comparisons on this site as well as Dronesgator's youtube channel are of as much help as possible.
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