FLYING Magazine

Are you one of those rare individuals who enjoys making money? Joking aside, just about everyone, including myself, would like to earn more cold, hard cash for their efforts. In the rapidly growing drone industry, there is one sure-fire method for raising your earning potential: specialized training.

Passing the FAA’s Part 107 exam is just the beginning of your journey as a commercial drone pilot. While you can earn a decent living without additional drone education, the real money lies in specialized training for more technical drone services. 

In this article, I’ll share some of the top programs in various specialized fields within the drone industry.

Quick Look: Top Drone Pilot Programs With Industry-Specific Courses

Best for real estate: The Pilot Institute

Best for thermal inspections: The Infrared Training Center

Best for survey and mapping: UAV Coach

Best for first responders: DroneResponders

Best for law enforcement accident reconstruction: Pix4D

Best for data analysis: DroneDeploy

Best for credibility in the industry: AUVSI Trusted Operator Program (TOP)

Best for your next step after the Part 107: Altitude University

8 Best Industry-Specific Commercial Drone Pilot Courses

There are many courses out there. Like anything, price and quality can vary significantly from one program to the next. For this list, I have selected high-quality and well-respected courses that are worth investigating. Consider them the best place to begin your search within each specialized field.

The Pilot Institute

Best for: Real estate drone photography

Most drone pilots start out in real estate photography. The Pilot Institute has a great course to help you build a profitable business as a drone pilot in the real estate industry.

Taught by experts in the field and is nine hours long

Covers subjects including how to capture and edit footage

Leads you through the creation of two different real estate listing videos

Disadvantage: If you need really specialized training on a specific type of real estate, such as large industrial complexes, you may require additional instruction.

Price: $149

The Infrared Training Center

Best for: Thermal inspections

Your drone may have a thermal camera, but if you don’t understand thermography, you probably won’t be able to provide it as a service. When it comes to thermal cameras, no one is better than Teledyne FLIR. Its Infrared Training Center offers Level I & II small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) thermography certification courses.


Covers current IR cameras and imaging capture techniques

Explains how to plan your flight’s altitude and range-to-target to get accurate thermal information for drone inspections

Teaches you how to maximize post-processing software for image analysis, generate reports, and edit videos

Disadvantage: While courses are high quality, they’re also expensive.

Price: $2,300

UAV Coach

Best for: Drone mapping essentials

Creating maps with drones is becoming much more common. However, you need training and the right equipment to develop ones that are accurate. Dylan Gorman, who is one of the best instructors you’ll find on this particular topic, teaches UAV Coach’s online course.


Provides an overview of the equipment and software used in drone mapping

Highlights methodologies for data collection

Describes how to create professional data deliverables for clients

Disadvantage: If you require more in-depth training, you’ll need to attend one of the UAV Coach’s two-day, in-person workshops.

Price: $399


Best for: First responders

DroneResponders isn’t just a school. It’s the best organization for first responders using drones. I have been a member for several years, and it provides a wealth of free resources to its members.


Offers loads of free information to members

Supports first responders starting or growing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) programs

Holds in-depth training at drone-related events throughout the year

Disadvantage: Not all training is free.

Price: Varies


Best for: Law enforcement accident reconstruction

When it comes to accident reconstruction, Pix4D is one of the best and most established software platforms on the market. In this online course you’ll learn best practices for capturing RGB images and creating, managing, analyzing, and sharing 2D and 3D representations of reality.


Teaches the basics of photogrammetry and capturing collision scene images

Explains how to generate realistic, accurate 2D and 3D georeferenced representations of reality, including orthomosaics and 3D models

Includes instructions on exporting 2D and 3D deliverables for documentation and post-processing

Disadvantages: You will need to have a license for PIx4Dmatic software.

Price: $290 for the course (Pix4Dmatic license costs $3,500 and is billed annually)


Best for: Data analysis

At the end of the day, drones are flying data collection platforms. The data is useless, though, without someone who’s able to present it in a comprehensible manner to end users. DroneDeploy’s Analyst Certification courses qualify you as an expert in several fields.


Offers analyst courses for the construction, agriculture, mining, and oil and gas industries

Includes curriculum crucial compliance management details, among other important topics

Disadvantage: Courses require annual recertification.

Price: Annual subscription fee of $250 to access the DroneDeploy Academy

AUVSI Trusted Operator Program (TOP)

Best for: Industry credibility

AUVSI is the world’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of uncrewed systems and robotics. Its TOP certification is widely recognized across the drone industry. AUVSI also certifies others to offer its curriculum, including one of my favorite trainers, Consortiq.


Bridges the gap between getting your Part 107 and being a recognized professional

Teaches how to fly your drone to demonstrate safety and proficiency

Outlines risk mitigation methods, making you a safer and more professional pilot

Disadvantages: Certification may not be familiar to those outside the industry.

Price: Level I costs around $260, and there are three levels.

Altitude University

Best for: Next step after getting your Part 107

Altitude University’s 14-day challenge course is designed to teach you everything from camera settings to editing in two weeks. Offered online, this self-paced training is designed to help you kickstart your drone business.


Uses industry experts to explain the best camera settings

Helps you avoid mistakes made by beginners

Teaches how to edit with Adobe Premiere Pro and DaVinci Resolve

Disadvantage: Not industry specific, but includes instruction that can be applied across a range of industries.

Price: $197

Benefits of Specialized Commercial Drone Training 

If you already have your Part 107 certification, you may wonder why you need anything else. After all, legally, you just need your remote pilot certification. Well, there are many benefits to additional training courses and programs like those listed above. 

Here are a few of the most important, especially if you are looking to increase revenue for your drone service business:

Enhanced skill set: Additional training improves your piloting skills, including navigation, operating in various conditions, and how you respond to emergencies. This can significantly enhance safety and efficiency.

Career opportunities: As the drone industry continues to grow in sectors like agriculture, real estate, filmmaking, surveying, and emergency response, trained pilots are in high demand. New skills can make you significantly more marketable as a pilot.

Increased earnings potential: With advanced skill sets, you can demand higher rates for your services, whether flying for someone else or operating as a freelancer.

Safety and compliance: Training teaches you to operate drones within legal and regulatory frameworks, reducing the risk of legal issues and enhancing safety for you and anyone in your vicinity.

Technical proficiency: UAV innovations are rapidly coming to market. Specialized training helps you learn to use advanced drone technologies, such as thermal imaging, multispectral sensors, and sophisticated mapping software.

Networking: Training programs connect you with other drone pilots and professionals. Greater exposure can increase your value in the industry.

In the end, these benefits make specialized drone pilot training an attractive investment for those seeking more lucrative commercial drone pilot jobs.

Make Yourself More Competitive as a Drone Pilot

Specialized training in the drone industry will sharpen your skills while also significantly boosting your earning potential. By investing in programs such as those listed, you position yourself as a top-tier pilot who’s qualified to earn more than your average UAV operator with only a Part 107 certification. 


Are drone pilots in high demand?

Yes. The drone industry continues to grow annually, as does the need for pilots.

How long does it take to study for a drone license?

It depends on the person. Some people can learn the material to pass the Part 107 exam over a weekend. Other people need several months. On average, if you study the material for an hour a day, you can be ready for the exam in two to three weeks.

How much does it cost to become an FAA drone pilot?

When you sign up for the Part 107 exam, the testing center will collect $175.

The post 8 Best Commercial Drone Pilot Schools for Specific Industries appeared first on FLYING Magazine.

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