What to Look for When Hiring a Drone Operator

Are you wondering how to find qualified drone operators? Do you need to map a neighborhood, take video of a concert, or fly over a golf course?

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, have become extremely popular in the past decade. They differ from model airplanes in that they have more range and can be flown outside of the operator’s line of sight.

Experts estimate that there could be more than 25,000 drones in American airspace by the year 2020. Police use them for aerial surveillance and amateur drone operators enjoy flying them in their backyards.

Experienced drone operators should have a background in photography and be willing to sign a contract before they provide services.

We’ll take you through a few of the most important questions to ask drone flyers before you get started on your aerial photography project.


When you’re looking for a drone operator, you should always ask to see their license. More than 100,000 people in the United States have been granted a drone operator license.

All drones should be registered online and should be cleared for commercial use. You should never hire a person who is not licensed for commercial flying.

Take the time to inquire about drone operators’ experience. If they are newly licensed, would they give you a discount on their services? What kind of experience do they have with concert flyovers or golf course drone flyovers?

Any drone pilot should be willing to show their credentials and to submit their qualifications to the customer in writing. Drones aren’t toys: they’re considered commercial aircraft.

Liability Insurance

Always make sure that you hire a drone operator who carries enough liability insurance for the work they are planning to do. You don’t want to end up having to pay for damages in the case of a drone crash or malfunction.

If you ask to see their insurance documents, the drone pilot should be able to produce them on the spot. Be wary if the documents look faked or overly worn.

You should also ask the drone operator if they have ever had an accident. Check the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed against their business.

Also, make sure that the drone operator is licensed to interpret the results of any land surveys or mapping projects. They should have no problem turning over all of their credentials and insurance paperwork.

If you don’t see proof of liability insurance, do not contract with that company.


Before you sign a contract with a new drone operator, ask them whether they have the right equipment for the job. They should be able to show you the exact technology they are planning on using including drone sensing technology and drone sensors.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a portfolio of previous projects. You’re investing in costly aerial photography and mapping: you should be able to make sure that the drone flyers are using the right equipment.

You should also check to make sure that the drone can cover the distance and rise to the height you need. Getting specifications in writing is always a good idea.

If you’re unfamiliar with drones, ask an expert about the type of equipment the drone pilot should be using. In the case of a crash, who would be responsible for the cost of repair or replacement of equipment?


Any licensed, experienced drone operators should be more than willing to sign a contract. If you’re investing thousands of dollars for a professional mapping or flyover project, you should insist upon signing a contract.

Check out the drone company’s availability as well. How far in advance do you need to book for your project? If extreme weather causes a cancellation, can they fit you in again or would you need to wait for several months?

Make sure that the terms of your agreement are clear. If you don’t have experience generating contracts, take it to a lawyer and have them draw up a contract for services.

Again, a reputable drone pilot will be willing to sign a contract. There is no good reason not to put the terms of the project into a written document. Be careful to find a reputable drone company and work with them on a long-term basis.

Photography Credentials

Just because a person can fly a drone doesn’t mean that they have a solid photography background. Take the time to find a drone pilot with a background in film and photography.

When you find a company that has qualified drone operators, ask them to show you a portfolio of their previous work. Do they have a degree in film or photography? What are their credentials?

You may be surprised to find that some operators have an impressive portfolio but no formal training in film. If you like their work and they meet all of your criteria, consider testing them out on a small project first.

In general, you want to find someone with a degree in film, art, or photography who has a professional portfolio and more than two years of experience.

Finding Qualified Drone Operators

If you’re wondering how to get started finding drone operators, the best first step is word of mouth. Find a business with a great drone video and ask them which company made it for them.

Building a strong network of local contacts is always a great idea. You can send a mass email asking for recommendations for licensed pilots.

Another way to find a great drone company is to search online for flyover projects. Once you find the right company, see if they can meet your needs.

Above all, don’t hire a company that seems disreputable. There are thousands of drone companies out there that have stellar reputations and the right equipment. Make sure you’re clear about what you need and don’t sign any paperwork until you’ve found the right company.

Check out their insurance paperwork, confirm their licensing, and ask to see examples of previous work. Drop us a line and tell us about your successful drone projects!