Master the Skills: How to Become a Drone Surveyor in the US

how to become a drone surveyor

Gone are the days when land surveying was a manual, time-consuming process. With drone technology, surveying has become more efficient and accurate. As a drone surveyor, you can enjoy an exciting and rewarding career in a fast-growing industry. But how do you become a drone surveyor?

In this article, I will guide you through the steps and qualifications required to become a drone surveyor in the United States. You’ll learn about the education and training options available, gain an understanding of the role of a drone surveyor, and discover the potential career paths and opportunities in this field. Whether you’re starting from scratch or looking to advance your existing surveying career, this guide will provide you with all the information you need to succeed as a drone surveyor.

Key Takeaways:

  • Becoming a drone surveyor requires specific skills and qualifications.
  • Education and training are crucial for a successful career in drone surveying.
  • Networking and gaining practical experience can help you advance in the industry.

What is Drone Surveying?

Drone surveying is a rapidly growing industry that utilizes unmanned aerial vehicles to collect visual data from the sky. This data is then processed to create detailed maps, 3D models, and other useful information for a wide range of applications. From construction and engineering to agriculture and environmental monitoring, drones are revolutionizing the way we survey and analyze our world.

To excel in the drone surveying industry, it’s important to have a variety of skills. Piloting a drone is just the beginning – surveying professionals must also possess advanced technical skills, such as the ability to operate mapping and photogrammetry software. They also need to have a solid understanding of geography, geology, and other scientific disciplines, as well as strong communication and project management skills.

Understanding the Role of a Drone Surveyor

As someone interested in becoming a professional drone surveyor, it’s important to understand the role and responsibilities of this career path. Drone surveying jobs vary depending on the industry and project, but generally, drone surveyors collect and analyze data using drones to create maps, 3D models, and other visual representations of the area being surveyed.

Beyond data collection, drone surveyors must also process and interpret this data to generate accurate and useful insights for clients. This requires a strong understanding of mapping software and other technical tools commonly used in the industry.

Many drone surveyors work for firms that specialize in land surveying, engineering, or construction, while others work for government agencies or utility companies. Some professionals may choose to start their own businesses or work as freelancers, offering services to clients as needed.

Becoming a professional drone surveyor offers a great deal of career potential and flexibility, making it an exciting and rewarding field to pursue.

Steps to Become a Drone Surveyor

If you’re interested in becoming a drone surveyor, you’ll need to follow a few key steps and obtain certain qualifications. Here’s a breakdown of what you’ll need to do:

Educational Requirements

The first step to becoming a drone surveyor is to obtain a high school diploma or equivalent. From there, you’ll want to pursue higher education in a related field, such as geomatics, remote sensing, or geography. While a bachelor’s degree is not always required, it can be highly beneficial in gaining the necessary skills and knowledge for a career in drone surveying.

Training and Certification

Once you have completed your education, you’ll want to complete some additional training and certification programs in drone surveying. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires that all drone pilots pass the Part 107 Remote Pilot Certification exam to operate drones commercially. You’ll want to study for and pass this exam to become a certified drone pilot.

You may also consider earning additional certifications in GIS mapping or becoming a licensed surveyor to strengthen your skills and qualifications as a drone surveyor.

Gain Practical Experience

After obtaining the necessary education and training, it’s critical to gain practical experience in the field of drone surveying. You can seek out internships or apprenticeships with surveying or mapping firms to gain hands-on experience.

Alternatively, you may wish to consider starting as a drone pilot and working your way up in the industry. This can provide valuable experience in drone operations and data collection, as well as give you exposure to the day-to-day work of a surveyor.

Continuing Education and Networking

As with any career, it’s important to continue learning and developing your skills as a drone surveyor. Consider attending industry conferences or seminars to stay up-to-date on the latest technology and techniques in the field.

You can also benefit from networking with other professionals in the industry. Join industry associations and attend local events to connect with other drone surveyors and learn about job opportunities.

By following these steps, you’ll be well on your way to a successful career as a drone surveyor!

Education and Training

Aspiring drone surveyors have a variety of educational options available to them. While a degree in surveying or a related field may be beneficial, it is not always necessary. Some community colleges and technical schools offer certificate and associate degree programs in drone technology and surveying.

Online courses and training programs also provide a convenient and cost-effective way to gain knowledge and skills in drone surveying. These courses cover topics such as flying techniques, data collection, and processing. Online resources also offer the opportunity to stay up to date with the latest trends and developments in the industry.

Drone Surveyor Training

For those looking for a more hands-on approach, specialized training courses are also available. These courses often provide practical experience in data collection, using software applications, and flight operations. Some training programs may even provide certification upon completion.

Internships and apprenticeships are also valuable opportunities for gaining real-world experience in the field of drone surveying. Many companies, government agencies, and research institutions offer these programs, providing invaluable on-the-job training and networking opportunities.

Gaining Practical Experience

As with any profession, hands-on experience is crucial to becoming a successful drone surveyor. While education and training provide a solid foundation, practical experience will help you develop the skills and knowledge needed to excel in the field.

One of the best ways to gain practical experience is through internships or apprenticeships with established drone surveying companies. These opportunities can provide you with valuable on-the-job training, allowing you to work alongside experienced professionals and learn from their expertise.

If you’re already employed in a related field, such as GIS or engineering, look for opportunities to incorporate drone surveying into your work. This will allow you to gain experience while still earning a paycheck.

Another option is to volunteer your services to local organizations or non-profits that could benefit from drone surveying, such as environmental groups or disaster relief agencies. This will not only give you practical experience but also help build your professional network.

Remember, the key to gaining practical experience is to be proactive and seek out opportunities. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and learn from others in the field, as this can help you grow both personally and professionally.

Understanding Drone Surveying Technology

When it comes to drone surveying, technology plays a crucial role in collecting and analyzing data. As a drone surveyor, it’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest tools and techniques to ensure accurate results and efficient workflow.

Drones and Sensors

One of the most essential pieces of equipment for a drone surveyor is the drone itself. There are various types of drones available, each with different capabilities and specifications. The most common types of drones used in surveying are fixed-wing and multi-rotor drones.

Another crucial component of drone surveying technology is the sensor. Sensors are used to capture data such as images, videos, and thermal readings. The most common sensors used in drone surveying are RGB (Red, Green, Blue) cameras, multispectral cameras, LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensors, and thermal cameras.

Data Collection and Processing

After collecting data using drones and sensors, the next step is to process and analyze it. This is where software applications come into play. There are many software applications available that allow drone surveyors to process data and create accurate 3D models and maps. Some of the popular software applications used in drone surveying include Pix4D, Agisoft Metashape, and DroneDeploy.

Additional Skills

To be successful in the field of drone surveying, it’s important to have a strong foundation in technology and data analysis. Skills such as GIS (Geographic Information System) and CAD (Computer-Aided Design) can be extremely beneficial in drone surveying. GIS skills can help with data management and analysis, while CAD skills can help with creating accurate 3D models.

As a drone surveyor, it’s important to continually develop and improve your skills to keep up with the fast-paced advancements in technology.

Building a Professional Network

Networking is an essential part of any successful drone surveying career. As a professional drone surveyor, I have found that building a strong network can lead to new opportunities, partnerships, and collaborations.

Connecting with Professionals

One way to start building your professional network is by connecting with other drone surveyors and industry professionals. You can join online forums and groups, attend industry events and conferences, and reach out to people on social media platforms such as LinkedIn.

Tip: When reaching out to individuals, always introduce yourself and be clear about your intentions. Offer value and express your interest in learning from them. Remember that networking is a two-way street, and it’s essential to give as much as you receive.

Joining Industry Associations

Another way to expand your network is by joining industry associations such as the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) or the Drone UAS Professional Pilots Association (DUPPA). These organizations offer opportunities to connect with other professionals, attend events and workshops, and stay up-to-date on industry news and trends.

Attending Events and Conferences

Attending events and conferences is another effective way to build your network. These events offer opportunities to connect with other professionals, learn about new technologies and trends, and showcase your work.

Tip: Be sure to bring business cards and be ready to introduce yourself and your work. Also, ask questions and engage with other professionals to establish meaningful connections.

Strengthening Relationships

Once you have established connections, it’s essential to nurture those relationships. Follow up with people after events or meetings, offer your help and expertise, and stay in touch regularly.

Building a strong professional network takes time and effort, but it’s a crucial step in establishing a successful drone surveying career. By connecting with other professionals, staying up-to-date with industry news and trends, and offering value to your network, you can create opportunities for growth and advancement.

Developing Additional Skills

Aspiring drone surveyors should strive to have a diverse skill set that goes beyond the technical aspects of drone surveying. Developing additional skills can enhance your value as a potential employee and provide a competitive edge in the job market.

One skill that can complement drone surveying is GIS (Geographic Information System). This tool allows you to capture, analyze, and manage geospatial data that can be used for mapping, land surveying, and urban planning. Having knowledge of GIS can expand your capabilities as a drone surveyor and open up more job opportunities in related fields.

Another skill that can be advantageous is CAD (Computer-Aided Design). This software can be used to create 2D and 3D models of buildings, infrastructure, and landscapes. Understanding CAD can be useful for drone surveyors who want to visualize and interpret their data in a more detailed and comprehensive way.

Obtaining Certification and Licensure

Becoming a certified drone surveyor is an important step in gaining credibility and opening up job opportunities. In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) oversees the regulation of drones and requires all commercial drone operators, including surveyors, to hold a Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate.

To obtain this certification, you must be at least 16 years old, pass a written knowledge test, and complete a TSA security screening. The test covers a variety of topics, such as airspace classification, weather patterns, and drone operation regulations. You can prepare for the exam by studying the FAA’s Remote Pilot – Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Study Guide and taking online practice tests.

In addition to the Part 107 certification, there may be additional state-specific requirements for drone surveyors. Check with your state aviation authority to ensure you are in compliance with any regulations.

Other certification programs are also available, such as those offered by the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) and the International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ISPRS). These programs validate your expertise and can enhance your credibility in the industry.

Job Opportunities and Career Growth

As an aspiring drone surveyor, you may wonder what career opportunities lie ahead once you complete your education and training. The good news is that the demand for drone surveyors continues to rise across a range of industries and sectors, from construction and engineering to agriculture and environmental science.

Some of the job titles you may encounter include drone operator, aerial surveyor, GIS technician, and remote sensing specialist. Depending on your interests and skills, you may find work with private companies, government agencies, or non-profit organizations.

In addition to job opportunities, there are also possibilities for career growth within the field of drone surveying. With experience and additional skills, you may advance to higher-level positions such as project manager, team leader, or even start your own drone surveying business.

Keep in mind that the drone surveying industry is still relatively new and rapidly evolving. By staying up-to-date on the latest technology and industry trends, you can position yourself for long-term success as a professional drone surveyor.


In conclusion, becoming a drone surveyor in the US requires dedication, education, and practical experience. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can take the first steps towards building a successful career in this exciting and rapidly growing industry.

Remember, education and training are key. Consider pursuing a degree in surveying, geomatics, or a related field, and seek out specialized training courses and online resources to develop your skills. Don’t forget to gain practical experience through internships, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training opportunities.

Networking is also vital to your success, so connect with professionals in the industry, join industry associations, and attend conferences and events. And be sure to stay up to date with the latest technology and software applications to remain competitive.

Finally, obtaining certification and licensure is crucial. The FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate is a must-have for drone surveyors, and be sure to research any state-specific requirements.

With the right skills, knowledge, and qualifications, you can look forward to a rewarding career as a drone surveyor. So take the first step today and start your journey towards a bright future in this dynamic industry.


Q: What is drone surveying?

A: Drone surveying is the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) to collect data and images for mapping, surveying, and land analysis purposes. It involves using specialized equipment and software to capture aerial images and create accurate 3D models and maps.

Q: What skills are needed to become a drone surveyor?

A: To become a drone surveyor, you need a combination of technical skills, including piloting and operating drones, data collection and processing, and knowledge of mapping and surveying principles. It’s also important to have good problem-solving and communication skills, as well as attention to detail and the ability to work in a team.

Q: What are the steps to become a drone surveyor?

A: The steps to become a drone surveyor include completing the necessary education and training, gaining practical experience in the field, understanding the technology used in drone surveying, building a professional network, developing additional skills, and obtaining the required certification and licensure.

Q: What educational options are available for aspiring drone surveyors?

A: Aspiring drone surveyors can pursue degree programs in fields such as surveying, geographic information systems (GIS), or civil engineering. There are also specialized training courses and online resources available for those looking to gain the necessary skills and knowledge.

Q: How important is practical experience in drone surveying?

A: Practical experience is crucial in drone surveying, as it allows you to apply your knowledge in real-world scenarios and gain a deeper understanding of the field. Internships, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training opportunities can provide valuable hands-on experience and help you build a portfolio.

Q: What types of drones and sensors are used in drone surveying?

A: In drone surveying, a variety of drones equipped with different sensors can be used depending on the specific application. Common types of sensors include RGB cameras for capturing visible light imagery, thermal cameras for measuring temperature variations, and LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) sensors for capturing high-precision elevation data.

Q: How can I build a professional network in the drone surveying industry?

A: Building a professional network in the drone surveying industry is important for career growth and opportunities. You can connect with professionals through industry associations, online communities, and social media. Attending conferences and events related to drone surveying can also help you expand your network.

Q: What additional skills can complement a career in drone surveying?

A: In addition to technical skills, developing skills in areas such as GIS (Geographic Information System) and CAD (Computer-Aided Design) can complement a career in drone surveying. These skills can enhance your ability to analyze and manipulate geospatial data and create detailed maps and models.

Q: What certification and licensure options are available for drone surveyors?

A: In the United States, drone surveyors can obtain the FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate, which allows them to operate drones commercially. Some states may also have specific requirements or licenses for drone surveyors. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the regulations in your area.

Q: What job opportunities and career growth can I expect as a drone surveyor?

A: As the use of drones for surveying and mapping continues to grow, there are increasing job opportunities for drone surveyors in industries such as construction, agriculture, and land development. There are also opportunities for career growth, including managerial roles, specialization in specific areas, and starting your own drone surveying business.