How to Become a Drone Pilot

Children have long dreamt of becoming pilots or astronauts, and there’s never been a better time to build a new career in the skies. The commercial drone industry is growing, with drone operations integrating into a variety of industries around the world. As a result, demand for drone pilots is booming.

Think you have what it takes? Here’s what you need to know about becoming a drone pilot, from taking your first steps towards certification to completing every mission safely and successfully.

Soaring Demand for Drone Pilots

Capable of flying serenely above traffic and other obstacles, and covering large distances quickly and safely, drones are finding their way into a number of different sectors.

Drones are being used to revolutionize the supply chain by making last-mile deliveries more efficient and filling the gaps between different modes of transport. But drones are also proving their worth in sectors as varied as agriculture (where they are used for tasks such as mapping, crop health monitoring or seeding crops), cinematography (where they open up new possibilities with aerial footage) and real estate (where they are used for conducting surveys as well as showcasing property from different angles).

It’s no wonder that training as a drone pilot is increasingly being seen as a smart career move. Samsung picked up on the trend back in 2020 when it surveyed teens about their career aspirations. Drone pilot was named as one of the top 10 tech-based careers, along with app developer and social media influencer.

Steps to Becoming a Licensed Drone Pilot

How can you capitalize on this demand for commercial drone pilots (and, perhaps, fulfill a childhood dream along the way)?

In Canada, the process is governed by Transport Canada. Here, you’ll need a drone pilot certificate for either basic or advanced operations, depending on types of flights you conduct. There are three stages for an advanced operations certificate. First, you’ll need to pass an online exam. Next, you’ll need to pass a flight review, where a flight reviewer will assess your performance in action—just like in a practical driving test. Finally, you’ll be able to apply for your certificate.

In the US, commercial drone pilots need to have a Part 107 license (named after the Federal Aviation Authority regulations that govern the use of drones). To be eligible, according to the FAA, you must be:

You’ll also need to pass an exam covering all the different aspects of flying a drone.

Skill Development

As demand for drone pilots has increased, universities and community colleges are stepping up to fill the skills gap. In the US, for example, Alabama State University is among the universities offering courses in drone tech and becoming a drone pilot.

Of course, training doesn’t end when you have the certificate. The University of Arkansas is offering an online course to help students who are already certified under Part 107 further their skills, with a view to taking on more responsibility and leading teams of pilots. And ongoing training is essential if you want to keep your license. In Canada, pilots must have completed one of three activities (passing an exam, passing a flight review or undertaking training) within 24 months before every flight they take.

Closer to home, Seneca College now offers an Advanced Drone Pilot program in partnership with AlteX Academy, a Transport Canada compliant drone/RPAS training facility providing professional drone pilot training since 2014.

Safety and Ethical Considerations

Commercial drone pilots know that safety is paramount. It’s essential to stay up to date with training and certification and to make sure that you comply with regulations on each and every mission. This means making sure that you adhere to privacy rules in your jurisdiction, as well as adopting best practice every time you fly, from monitoring weather conditions and checking for any temporary flight restrictions and conducting post-flight checks.

Careers and Opportunities

If you’re serious about a career as a drone pilot, you’ll want to stand out from the crowd. It’s essential to build up your flight log, either on paper or in a specially designed app, to demonstrate your experience.

From agriculture to filmmaking, there’s a growing number of industries integrating drones into their operations, which opens up an intriguing set of pathways.


DDC is one of the industry’s leading technology companies, pioneering drone delivery operations across sectors including healthcare and logistics. Get in touch to learn more about drone delivery solutions today.