How Much do Drone Operators Charge?

Apart from the initial outlay of purchasing the drone itself, there are other financial implications which need to be considered, some of which are unrelated to the drone equipment.

Apart from the initial outlay of purchasing the drone itself, there are other financial implications which need to be considered, some of which are unrelated to the drone equipment.
Whether you envisage hiring an operator (with or without their own equipment) or training an existing employee as an operator and/or owning your own equipment, the information below is designed to give you a better understanding of the possible costs involved to suit your needs.

A stack of Expensive Drones

The Costs of Operating a Drone

Drones are like any other type of vehicle or aircraft in the sense that every time they are used, there will be a certain amount of ‘wear and tear’ and eventually components will need to be replaced. Even if you invest in a high-quality drone there will be maintenance costs which can fluctuate due to the type of drone you decide to purchase as the energy resources that drones need to fly will depend heavily on their size and weight.

Most drones are going to have to lift cameras and sensors, therefore the extra will mean that the drone consumes more energy and will affect the general costs of running the drone.

The final thing to consider when it comes to equipment is ground gear. This means all of the equipment that is related to the drone but not attached to the drone itself. For example a computer (to view the drone files), a monitor (to view the camera feeds). Some of this equipment and the related expenses combined can be far more expensive than the drone itself.

The Costs of Operating & Handling the Drone

Most drones require that the operator has undergone training, is certified, has a specific permit for flight, is fully insured and has completed relevant paperwork and protocols prior to any flight Technology is allowing drones to perform all kinds of complex manoeuvres during flight which can require a lot of training and experience on the part of the operator.

Therefore, you can expect to be charged around £800 per day for the services of a certified operator.
Operators tend to work only on daily rates, hourly rates are impractical due to the nature of costs involved with travelling to locations, the setup and dismantling of the equipment, the flight planning process and the risk assessments, all of which require time.

If you decide to use a current employee to fly the drone there will be the expense of training, insurance and a reflection in salary to be considered.

A two-person crew is often advisable for some situations such as the size of drone to be used and/or the scale of the project and this would, therefore, double the daily cost. If the drone to be operated is complex and large, the costs of operation per day could easily double to those of a standard-sized drone. This includes operator, safety marshal, and equipment costs.

More Expensive Drones

The Shoot Location

When it comes to transportation, your expenses will depend on how remote the location might be and the condition of the roads that lead to the site. Once those expenses are covered, you have to look into the costs related to the shoot location.

Safety measures and flight planning protocols need to be done for the flight of the drone to be both safe and legal. Drones are not toys, they can be dangerous if they are not operated properly. Organisations such as the UK Civil Aviation Authority require certain regulations and flight protocols to be undertaken if flights are to be considered legal. This means that a substantial level of planning is required before the operator even begins to operate the drone.

Some locations might require that you get permission related to specific buildings or other structures near the flight area. This kind of planning and setup is going to require an experienced operator to speed the process up as much as possible. Safety marshals may also be required in some situations depending on the shooting location.

Always Look for a Certified Operator

Should you consider the idea of hiring someone without certifications that claims to be an expert in drone flight you should be aware that any issues or accidents caused by a drone could lead to legal repercussions if the operator is not properly certified. Always remember that drones crashing could harm people and structures on the ground, so it’s important to remember that safety is paramount.

There are many safety measures that need to be considered before the drone even tales flight and an uncertified operator may fail to consider those measures.

Never forget that the injuries and property damages that can occur due to drone accidents can be very expensive. The last thing you want is to find yourself in a legal battle due to damages caused to people or to properties plus the risk of projects being delayed because of the legalities of safety issues.

A black drone sat on a drone case with a warning sign leant on it, implies operating drones can be expensive.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this guide has been useful for the purpose of helping you gauge the approximate costs of operating a drone for your project. The numbers we have provided serve only as an indicator, of what costs could be higher or lower depending on the operator you hire.

Some companies will consider having one of their own people to operate the drone, therefore having this as an additional skill to offer within the company. However, the cost of training and paying a salary to reflect the job description of that employee may be less financially viable that hiring an operator on a daily basis.

Having read all the information provided here we hope to have alerted you to the possible costs you could incur and avoid any budget-related surprises.

Tim Harris

February 01

An airborne drone during a GVC transition training course.

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