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Drone operator - job, salary, course

Drone operator - job, salary, course

In this article, you will learn what a drone operator actually does, what kind of earnings he or she can earn, where to look for a job in this field, and how to walk the path from passion to a professional career. You will learn what skills are useful in flying a drone and whether every drone operator should complete a specialized course.

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Drone operator vs. drone pilot

We explain why these concepts may be confused! Since the introduction of EU regulations, the person in charge of flying a drone is called a drone pilot. Previously, the term operator was used, therefore the nomenclature may be used incorrectly in many places. Note that drone operator is not the same concept as drone pilot, but more about that in the next part of the article.

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What does a drone operator do?

A drone operator is a registered person or organization that owns a drone or even several drones. In Poland, registration is done on the official website Civil Aviation Authority, in other countries, register with the national civil aviation authority responsible for flying drones. In addition, you should transfer the assigned identification number to the drones you own. On the other hand, when it comes to the drone pilot, this is the person who actually flies the drone and it is not clear that he or she owns it.

Remember that the operator must be registered - the drone is not registered! Many sites provide such information, misleading users.

If you already know the difference, it's time to describe what a drone pilot's job entails. The pilot should be a specialist who uses remote-controlled drones in various applications. Filming, photography, infrastructure inspection, photogrammetry, agriculture or exploration are just a few examples. The main task of the pilot is to safely and efficiently perform the task, whether for commercial, research or recreational purposes.

When working with a drone, it's important to maintain regular equipment maintenance and properly store flight information. Often drone pilots combine their work, with graphic processing , editing and data analysis, so that the order is carried out from start to finish.

The drone operator needs to be aware of flight, privacy and data security regulations, especially if the drone is collecting information about people or private land. Therefore, operating a drone requires not only technical skills, but also legal awareness.

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What earnings a drone operator can expect?

Working as a drone operator is not only a passion, but also an attractive financial prospect.

Depending on experience and specialization, the salary for a drone operator can be as high as PLN 500 per hour. It is worth noting that at the beginning of an operator's career you need to expect a large investment, get advanced equipment, training and then develop skills. Smaller assignments can result in earnings of 4,000 a month, where larger projects for large companies can result in the same salary in one day. Remuneration in this field is highly dependent on skills and commitment. Monthly salary as much as possible can reach several thousand zlotys.

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Drone operator jobs - where to look?

You can start your search by browsing various job portals and Facebook groups. If you want to become a drone operator, it may be most beneficial to start your own business and offer your services to other companies. By contacting advertising agencies or companies that need specific materials such as aerial footage or terrain mapping, the drone operator is able to achieve satisfactory earnings and build his customer base.

As a drone operator, you can seek cooperation or employment in such fields as:

  • film productions
  • geodesy
  • rescue
  • agriculture
  • infrastructure studies
  • schooling

operators can also work in services such as:

  • Police- Road Transport Inspection
  • Fire Department
  • Military
  • Border Guard
  • State Forests
  • GOPR

operator drona bhp

How to become a drone operator?

The first step is to registering with the ULC (Civil Aviation Authority) as a drone operator. This is a completely free and simple procedure. You will then be told to undergo the training you choose in order to obtain the appropriate qualification. Privileges are divided into open category in sight or special category out of sight. Basic training of subcategories A1/ A3 for cat. open go to the ULC website. You will complete the rest of the courses with the help of eligible nurseries by the ULC offering courses, both online and onsite. Training courses cover the principles of safe flying, aviation regulations and operation of the device. It is worth noting that the operator of the open category drone must be at least 16 years old.

After completing the course, it is worthwhile to gain practical experience. You can do this by regularly flying with your drone, experimenting with different modes and settings. The more time you spend at the helm, the better. Basic training is fully online, while higher entitlements are onsite.

Knowing and following the laws and technical rules is very important for safe drone use. For some industries and drones, undergoing training is essential to fly legally.

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Does a drone operator have to take a course?

Before the new drone regulations came into effect in 2021, anyone who wanted to fly a drone professionally had to obtain the proper qualifications. If flying a drone was linked to earnings, investing in expensive courses was essential. With the implementation of the new regulations, this obligation has been abolished and currently obtaining the authorization depends on the weight of the drone the pilot is operating. Depending on the drone to be controlled, its weight and the complexity of the operation, the pilot should take the courses needed to control the drone. You can read more about related flight categories in our article Do I need a drone license?

We will put the basic principles here in a nutshell:

Open category - in sight

  • If you plan to pilot drones weighing more than 250g and owning a camera you must first complete a free training and online test, confirming the acquisition of the necessary knowledge. This A1/A3 drone operator course is available at ULC. Once qualified, you can use them for a period of 5 years.
  • For drones weighing more than 250g, do low-cost A2 online training at one of the ULC-authorized nurseries. The price is approx. 80 zł.

Special category - out-of-sight flights

  • These are trainings where you have to show up in person and you have to invest larger sums of money. Training courses from N-STS- 01 to N-STS-07, as they are referred to may last several days and include lectures and flights with an intructor.
  • Specialized training is also possible, including knowledge of forogrammetry from a drone or thermal imaging.

People who have current UAVO qualification certificates - for them, training is not required, only conversion of existing authorizations.

Drone training

Before the exam, you might want to take advantage of our training on the basics of flying and drone operation! During the course, you will learn how to use a drone safely, what it can do, and how to use it to its full potential. View available training on our website.

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Frequently asked questions about drone operator

What is the difference between an operator number and a pilot number?

Operator number is an individual identification code that identifies the registered operator. This code is placed on the drone and on remote e-identification systems, if available. The pilot number, on the other hand, is the unique number of the document confirming the operator's qualification to carry out operations. You can find both numbers when you log on to the ULC website.

Will my registration as a drone operator be recognized throughout Europe?

As a drone operator, you will receive a unique operator number that is recognized in all European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) countries. It is worth noting that registration is a one-time event, which means that there is no need to repeat the process in different member states. The individual number provides recognition for your drone, making it easier to identify and check compliance with flight safety standards throughout the European Union.

Where can I register and take online training for the open category?

To register and take online training in the open category, go to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) website. First, register as a drone operator. Fill out the form with the necessary information, such as personal and contact information. Once you have your operator number, log in to your account and proceed to the A1/A2 online training process. You can find them in the main panel. The training is completely free and can be taken an unlimited number of times.

Can I register another person as an operator?

Registration is essential for any drone operator, so it is impossible to register another person as an operator. This process includes a personalized registration number that identifies a specific user. Such registration is crucial for effective monitoring and enforcement of drone compliance, as well as ensuring safety.

What about the operator number on the drone, which I lend to a colleague?

Keep in mind that you are registering yourself, not the drone, so if you want to lend a drone to someone, that person should get a flight license. Your registration does not exempt him from this obligation. The operator number, which is on the drone, should belong to the person borrowing it. As the operator, or owner of the drone, you are responsible for any operations you perform, and in the event of problems, supervisory services will contact you.

What if I perform private operations with a company drone or borrow a drone for an extended period of time?

In a situation where you are using a company's drone for personal use or borrowing it for an extended period, it is important to put your operator number on the device. This ensures clear identification of the person responsible, even when using the drone in a context other than business. This supports compliance with regulations, but also enhances safety in drone use, protecting both the operator and the environment from possible unwanted consequences.

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A drone operator is a registered individual or organization that owns a drone and must comply with regulations regarding flight, privacy and data security. The work of a drone pilot involves the use of remote-controlled drones in various fields, such as filming, photography, infrastructure inspection and agriculture. Salary depends on experience and specialization, can be very attractive. A person wishing to become a drone operator must complete the appropriate training and qualification, as well as comply with regulations on drone piloting.

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