Drone Pilots



Unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, are used to gather military intelligence, collect information on the health of crops and endangered species, survey damage after tornadoes and floods, check utility lines in inaccessible places, and perform many other tasks. Drone pilots operate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). They fly drones that range in size from those smaller than a computer mouse to the U.S. government’s Global Hawk, which is 44-feet long and has a 115-foot wingspan. Drone pilots are also known as unmanned aerial vehic...

Quick Facts


Median Salary



Employment Prospects



Minimum Education Level

Bachelor's Degree



Drone flight school training, or two to three years experience





Personality Traits

Hands On


Starting salaries for drone pilots range from $50,000 to $60,000, although those who work for military contractors who are deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and other countries where the U.S. is currently fighting terrorism have higher earnings (in the $125,000 to $150,000 range). Contractors may receive additional compensation if they are deployed overseas. Unmanned vehicle operations spec...

Work Environment

Many drone pilots who are employed by the military or defense contractors work in command centers that are in the United States, while flying drones that are halfway around the world. Others work at facilities in war zones overseas or in the field along with troops or intelligence officers. The work area of a military/defense contractor drone operator includes a throttle quadrant, a control sti...


Employment opportunities for drone pilots will be strong in coming years. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems estimates that more than 100,000 drone-related jobs will be created in the United States through 2025 with an economic impact of more than $82 billion. The largest number of commercial opportunities will be found in the agriculture sector. The largest number of drone jobs will ...