How to Become a Drone Pilot – Definitive Guide

Drone flying is one of the most fun hobbies but also becoming a profitable occupation for those who choose to use drones for their business operational activities. You can make good money out of flying drones professionally as a qualified drone pilotFrom a legal standpoint, becoming a drone pilot can seem a bit complicated. There has been a lot of confusion from a legislative basis as to what is required for professional drone piloting. Luckily, though, there are organisations (like ours) that can help the grey areas become more black and white.

So, if you want to become a drone pilot, we have here a complete guide to becoming one: the tips, the tricks, and the in-betweens.

Advantages of Becoming a Drone Pilot

Before we look at the stages involved in becoming an unmanned aerial vehicle pilot (UAV pilot), you should first know the advantages for being certified professionally compared to a hobby drone flyer.

  • Drones have become an integral part of many fields of work. From surveying properties in real estate to shooting incredible scenes for movies. From agricultural survey and spraying, rescue missions to extinguishing wildfires, from delivering pizza to journalism. All these are viable uses for drones that are increasing in popularity. Drones are cheaper and easier to manoeuvre in many cases than a helicopter – they can squeeze into tight spaces too – such as a damaged building searching for earthquake survivors.
  • It’s completely legal. As long as you know the rules – for part 101 or 102 with the New Zealand CAA, and are certified to operate within and sometimes outside of those rules if have been properly trained and certified by us and CAA to do so.
  • It will get you hired. Once you become a licensed UAV pilot, you’ll be able to work professionally which is becoming more and more of a prerequisite nowadays. Many companies won’t consider hiring a drone pilot or business using a drone unless they are certified. This is for safety and legal liability reasons.
  • Credibility. Drone pilots who don’t have a license are much less likely to get hired, because their skills and knowledge are unknown. If there’s one thing that companies want to avoid it’s an unlicensed UAV flyer.
  • Fun. Learning all of the features and capabilities of your drone means you are getting the most out of your drone and your experience. We also teach you how to get the most life from your batteries, drone body, plus teach you features (and manoeuvres) you may not otherwise know about.

Now you’ve probably understood that becoming a drone pilot is not just about learning how to fly a drone. It’s also about getting licensed. The next section will feature information on what steps you need to take in order to become a drone pilot.

How to Become a Drone Pilot

In New Zealand, law dictates that those who want to fly a drone commercially may require a 102 pilot’s license. You heard that right. So, in order to fit into the legal green area, potential drone pilots will need to pay up to $2000 for piloting lessons.

Here are a few things that you need to know before learning how to become a commercial drone pilot:

  • Drone piloting is being regulated by the CAA. We are certified under a 141 certificate to teach you all you need to know to comply with these rules, and verify (certify) that you know them too.
  • If your drone weighs over 25 kg or is agricultural you may need to fly under 102 rules or apply for 101 exceptions. We teach 102 courses and issue the necessary certification so that you can fly your drone without having to ask CAA or Airways every time. After all what’s the point of owning a drone you can only fly under very strict conditions.
  • You don’t need a license for personal use. As long as you abide by the typical safety guidelines, you don’t need a pilot’s license. These are: fly during the day, never fly above other people, fly below 400ft, do not fly within 4km of airdromes (this includes airstrips) and always have the drone in your line of sight.
  • You first need an exemption or to be licensed to fly outside of the rules above. Before the training to become a licensed drone pilot starts, you’ll need to apply for a 102 certificate. If you’re working for a company, then your boss will be the one required to apply for the certificate.
  • There are several types of pilot licenses. You can either have a private, commercial, or agricultural (chemical handling also) certificate.
  • Getting a pilot’s license is just the beginning. Depending on the job you want to apply for, you can opt for further training. Think about this before endeavoring to get a license. Those who want to shoot photos and videos at striking heights will need some cinematography training prior to actually making any money.
  • Start low and seek more training. A professional drone pilot should begin their career with the most basic of drone pilot jobs. You need to be practicing the flight manoeuvres needed to pass so that your drone piloting skills will be sufficient to pass the actual flight test.

A few extra tips on actually flying your drone:

  • Don’t dismiss flying lessons. There will be a considerable amount of knowledge that will actually help you with flying a UAV drone. It’s very important to learn about weather conditions and how they can affect flight. All the more important is learning about flight regulations so that you never get in the way of other aircraft.
  • Flying must become second nature. Handling those controls must become muscle reflex before you actually apply to get a pilot’s license. Extensive training is paramount if you actually want to earn a serious income from your drone pilot career.
  • Don’t assume you can fly without a license. First of all, most employers will dismiss you immediately if they learn you don’t have a license. Second, it may be illegal to do so – so don’t! Third, you will endanger everyone around you including yourself. Fourth, piloting skills are absolutely necessary, especially if we look at what drones can do today and how advanced they’ve become.


Actually learning how to fly is the most important step in being able to become a drone pilot. So, while it will grant you a UAV pilot’s license, it will also make for a safer flight and better knowledge of safety regulations.

We run courses to certify you as a 101/102 drone pilot.

Students below back from an airspace navigation flight – we take students on this flight in our helicopter to bed in core learnings.

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Our Course

Check out our 102 drone training course here, one full day of theory which includes a trip to the control tower and half a day on practical.

There is one theory and one practical test, both of which you must pass before we issue you with your 102 certificate.

There is one test per day. You may use this certificate to demonstrate competency and/or apply to the CAA for your 102 certificate. You’ll also need an exposition if you want to fly professionally.



Visit our Drone Training Knowledgebase Page to read FAQ

Aviation Training 2017 Limited – we are at:
Hangar 1, 240 Aerodrome Road, Mount Maunganui
Telephone: 027 315 2265