discussion / Drones  / 27 January 2023

Reasonable price for drone pilot (south africa)?

Hi everyone, 

A colleague is looking for a cost check on going rates for drone pilots in South Africa. Is £500-£700 a day reasonable? They'd be flying drones in a project to develop ML alogorithms. 

A sense check would be super welcome - thanks!


I am no expert, but I'd be curious about the answers. I mean if that is a reasonable amount, I am going to buy me one and change career. ;-)

Perhaps it is reasonable considering that the number of jobs they get throughout the year is low and I guess that training with official certificate is not cheap.

Another consideration : non-toy drones do not come cheap. If they bring their own and take the risk of loosing it.

Hi Steph

My partner is a drone pilot (wildlife specialist) based in France and has confirmed that your quote is what you should be expecting to pay a qualified pilot including the use of their gear - this will vary according to experience and equipment. He does not think that the prices will vary much country to country as the cost of equipment and qualification (professional) are fairly similar worldwide. It is also still a fairly niche profession and although there are many drone pilots out there, a professional licence is a whole other ball game so it’s not competitive enough to drive labour prices down.

If you have your own drone then you will be looking at the lower end of the quote as you should be covering the insurance and wear and tear the equipment will be subjected to during its use. If you are asking your pilot to bring and use their own equipment then the price will naturally increase depending on what you require to be used.

As Frank rightly surmised, the cost will reflect a host of behind the scenes factors that are part and parcel of being a freelancer in a specialist profession.

Hope this helps

Hello Stephanie,

I am not sure if you are still monitoring this thread, but if you need any information, please let me know. I have flown drones for a couple of years in Zimbabwe and South Africa in conservation and anti-poaching operations. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Regarding the £500-700 range you mentioned, it seems waaaayyyy overpriced. Those rates are usually charged by lawyers and accountants in South Africa.

If you have found the information you were seeking, I wish you all the best.


Hi Steph,

I think everyone below has summarised it pretty well.

A couple of comments to add.

Select your pilot well - We offer drone flying services. This wasn't our intention, initially, however we have determined that there are many drone pilots, but fewer who do it really well. Having said that, we work predominantly with animal tracking equipment, not just flying straight line vectors, if this is what you are undertaking.

In Australia, fees to become a pilot are about $5,000 AUD, and a reasonable commercial drone with changeable payload capability costs around $20,000- $30,000 AUD, and then as is suggested below, there are insurance and factoring in repairs and maintenance, and of course eventual replacement costs, travel, an hourly rate as wages etc. Obviously, the day rates you have listed aren't profit, they include cost.


Wildlife Drones