Can I Make Money Selling My Drone Footage?

Can I Make Money Selling my Drone Footage

Selling your drone footage is an effective way to monetize your aerial videography skills. Focus on capturing high-demand scenes like nature, urban landscapes, and time-lapses in 4K quality. The market for unique drone perspectives is growing, offering significant income opportunities.

Hello and welcome to my blog! If you are looking for ways to earn money with your drone, one lucrative method is to turn your drone footage into a lucrative source of income. I remember when I was starting out, and didn’t have the knowledge I do now, I was constantly trying to come up with new ways to monetize my drone skills.

Over the years, selling stock footage has emerged as an exciting avenue for drone enthusiasts to generate passive income. In this guide, I’ll share my firsthand experiences and guide you through the process of selling your drone footage, step by step. Whether you’re a seasoned videographer or just starting out, the world of stock footage offers a realm of opportunities to turn your aerial creativity into a profitable venture.

Let's Start with the Basics of Stock Footage

In my experience selling drone footage, getting a grasp of the basics is key. Simply put, stock footage is content that you sell to others through various stock footage platforms, who then use it in their own projects. This could be anything from scenic nature shots to bustling urban landscapes, captured from the unique perspective of your drone.

I have found that there are two main types of stock footage: commercial and editorial. Commercial stock footage is generally used for advertising or promotional purposes. Think of a real estate company using aerial shots to showcase properties. On the other hand, editorial stock footage is used for educational or journalistic purposes, like footage of a public event or a natural landscape used in a documentary.

Before you start capturing footage and thinking about sales, it’s important to be aware of and adhere to local drone laws. This is especially important if you’re using your drone for commercial purposes. Laws vary by region and country, but they generally include regulations on where and how you can fly, as well as privacy considerations. Some places might require a license or specific permissions, so doing your homework here is key. Remember, staying informed and compliant is not just about following the rules; it’s about respecting the safety and privacy of those around you while you operate your drone.

What Kind of Drone Footage Sells?

In my opinion, the first and most important consideration is that we ourselves have a natural eye for what excites us. So much of the stock footage that I have sold was clips that I shot before or after a commercial shoot. For instance, I was on a shoot for Bridgestone America in downtown Nashville and the scope of the shoot included a sunrise shot, midday and sunset shots. When I launched the drone, I could not resist getting some shots of the Cumberland River flowing through downtown Nashville with the sun coming up, reflecting off of the river. Of course, I went on and got my shotlist for the client, but acquired some amazing shots for my own pleasure, that I eventually listed on Motion Array to sell.

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Top Drone Footage Types 

Nature Shots: There’s something captivating about nature from above. Lakes, forests, mountains, or coastlines, if shot well, can be mesmerizing. These visuals are often sought after by filmmakers and advertisers for their serene and natural beauty.

Time-lapse Videos: These are incredibly popular. Whether it’s clouds rolling over a mountain range or the hustle and bustle of city life, time-lapses captured from a drone offer a unique perspective that ground-based cameras just can’t match. They’re not only visually appealing but also tell a story about the passage of time.

Urban Scenes: Aerial views of cityscapes, landmarks, and busy streets are in high demand. They provide an expansive view of urban life, capturing the essence of a city. Real estate, tourism, and city planning sectors, in particular, often look for this type of footage.

Emergency and Search and Rescue Footage: Footage of real-world emergency operations, is highly sought after. It’s essential, however, to capture such footage legally and ethically, typically requiring official authorization. While it can be lucrative, especially for educational or documentary use, drone pilots must navigate strict legal and ethical boundaries to ensure respect for those involved and compliance with regulations.

Other Popular Themes: Historical landmarks, architectural marvels, and nighttime cityscapes are also highly sought after. Footage showcasing people engaged in outdoor activities, like hiking or surfing, can be valuable as well. The key here is to capture footage that tells a story or highlights something unique about a location or activity.

In all of these, quality is king. High-resolution, smooth and stable, well-composed shots are more likely to sell. When pondering if you can make money selling your drone footage, we need to know what sells. Remember, when you’re out there capturing footage, always be mindful of the potential story your video can tell – that’s what buyers are often looking for.

The Thrill of FPV: A Different Dimension in Drone Footage

DJI Avata FPV DroneWhile we’ve discussed the importance of smooth, stabilized footage typical of most aerial videography, it’s worth mentioning the unique world of FPV drone footage. FPV offers a distinctively dynamic and immersive experience, often characterized by fast-paced, agile movement that can provide thrilling perspectives. This style of footage, though different from the traditionally smooth drone shots, has its own market, particularly appealing for action sports, cinematic sequences, and immersive experiences. For a deeper dive into maximizing FPV footage for stock selling, I have published the article below.

can I make money with my fpv droneDiscover how FPV drones are opening doors to new business opportunities in various industries. This article provides insights and practical advice on turning your FPV drone hobby into a lucrative venture.

Preparing Your Drone Clips for Stock

motion array drone stock footage

If you’re reading this article, you’re likely interested in making money selling your drone footage. The first and most important step to preparing your drone clips, is in the actual flight and capture of your drone footage. Buttery smooth flight will give you buttery smooth video that can be sped up, slowed down or manipulated however the buyer chooses. Then, you’re ready to prepare your clips using the following key aspects: video length and format, quality editing, resolution, and color grading.

Video Length and Format Requirements: There are many stock footage platforms, making it important to first understand the requirements of the platform you’re using. For instance, my preferred platform, Motion Array, has specific needs regarding video length and format. Typically, your clips should be concise yet long enough to be useful – generally between 15 seconds to a couple of minutes. As for the format, MP4 or MOV files are widely accepted, ensuring compatibility.

Editing Tips: When editing, focus on smooth, consistent movement. Jittery or erratic footage is less likely to be purchased. Also, don’t shy away from splitting your clips. If there’s a change in movement or scenery, consider creating two separate clips. Each one tells a different story, doubling your chances of a sale.

4K Resolution: High resolution is key. I always recommend recording and exporting in 4K resolution. This ensures your footage meets the high standards of quality that buyers expect. As 4K becomes increasingly common, anything less might not stand out in a competitive market.

Color Grading: A little color grading can go a long way. Enhance natural colors to make your footage pop, but keep it subtle. The goal is to make your footage more appealing without overshadowing its natural beauty. Remember, you want your footage to fit seamlessly into a variety of projects.

In summary, successful stock footage hinges on quality and usability. By adhering to these preparation tips, you’re setting up your drone footage for potential success in the stock footage market.

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Uploading and Selling Your Clips: A Guide to Success

A big part of successfully making money selling our drone footage depends on how and where we upload our content. Let me walk you through the process, using Motion Array – the platform I have been using as an example.

Choosing the Right Platform: Finding the right platform is crucial. Motion Array, for instance, is an excellent choice for several reasons. It’s user-friendly, has a large audience base, and offers competitive compensation for your work. Different platforms may have specific niches or preferences, so choose one that aligns with your style and type of footage.

Step-by-Step Guide to Uploading Footage:

  1. Create an Account: Sign up and set up your profile on the chosen platform. For Motion Array, this process is straightforward – just follow their sign-up instructions.
  2. Prepare Your Footage: Ensure your footage meets the platform’s technical specifications – correct format, resolution, and length.
  3. Upload Your Content: Use the platform’s upload interface to submit your footage. Some platforms offer bulk upload options, which can be a time-saver if you have multiple files.

Tips for Efficient Uploading Using FTP Clients: Using an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) client can streamline the uploading process, especially when dealing with large files or numerous clips. Here’s how:

  1. Choose an FTP Client: There are several free and paid FTP clients available. FileZilla, for example, is a popular free option.
  2. Configure Your Settings: Input the FTP server details provided by your stock platform. This usually includes a host address, username, and password.
  3. Transfer Files: Drag and drop your prepared footage into the client interface. The client will handle the rest, uploading your files directly to the platform.

Remember, the key to making money selling drone footage is not just capturing great content but also presenting and uploading it effectively. Platforms like Motion Array offer a gateway to a wider audience, but it’s up to you to make the most of these opportunities.

Optimizing Your Stock Footage for Sale

In addition to preparing and uploading your drone footage, optimizing your presentation is crucial. It’s like selling a car: you wouldn’t just list it as is. Instead, you’d clean it, detail it, maybe replace the floormats to ensure it looks its best. Then, you’d take well-thought-out photos or a video to showcase it on social media or other platforms. Similarly, when uploading content to stock platforms, the same level of care and presentation is necessary to effectively market your footage.

Accurate and Descriptive Titles and Categories: Believe it or not, the right title can make a significant difference. A well-crafted title should accurately reflect what’s in your footage and draw potential buyers in. And categorizing your footage appropriately will ensure it reaches the right audience – those most likely to find value in your work.

Keyword Optimization: Keywords are are like hashtags on your social media postings. making your content easily searchable for potential buyers. I always think about what terms someone might use to search for footage like mine and include these in the description and tags. The right keywords is a critical part of getting your footage seen by the right people.

Meta Details: Adding details about the location, time of shooting, equipment used, and even the backstory of the footage can significantly enhance its appeal. This additional information often provides that extra touch that resonates with buyers, making them feel a connection to the footage.

Making money selling your drone footage involves more than capturing awe-inspiring views; it’s also about cleverly showcasing and marketing them. These optimization steps are key in turning your aerial adventures into profitable, saleable assets.

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Licenses and Permissions: Legally Monetize Your Drone Footage

Another critical aspect to making money with your drone footage is understanding how to navigate licensing and permissions. Maybe not the most fun, but equally important as capturing stunning shots.

Commercial vs. Editorial Content: When it comes to selling drone footage, we need to understand the difference between footage we can legally sell, with or without legal release. Commercial and editorial footage have different requirements. Commercial footage, used for advertising or promotional purposes, typically needs clearances or releases.

For example, if you’re an Elvis fan and you’re visiting Graceland in Memphis, we would certainly want to fly the property and capture some drone footage. But to sell that footage on stock footage platforms might present copyright infringement issues requiring a legal release from Graceland. A few years ago, I took my family to the Ark Creation park in Kentucky to see the Noah’s Ark replica. Obviously I wanted to put my drone up and get some amazing drone footage, however upon asking the security guard if I could, I was flatly told no. Knowing FAA regulation, when we left the site, we stopped at a gas station and I tried to launch my drone and discovered it was a restricted airspace.

You will likely ask “what about posting on YouTube?” and yes, I see drone videos of both Graceland and the Ark Encounter on YouTube. My answer to this is that there seems to be some gray area; while posting on YouTube can potentially offer monetization from ads, posting content on stock footage platforms is for the specific purpose of selling the license to use that footage. 

However, editorial footage, aimed at educational, newsworthy, or documentary use, often doesn’t, but there are exceptions. This delineation becomes crucial when you decide to sell your footage for income, as opposed to capturing it for personal archives. Understanding these differences and respecting property rights is key, not just for legal compliance but also for professional integrity in drone videography.

Securing Model and Property Releases: For commercial use, securing model and property releases is critical. This means getting written permission from people or owners of properties featured in your footage. It’s a legal requirement to protect privacy rights and avoid potential legal issues. From my experience, it’s always better to secure these releases upfront to ensure smooth sailing later on.

Motion Array’s Submission Process: Platforms like Motion Array simplify this process. Their submission guidelines clearly outline when and what kind of releases are needed. They even offer resources to help you understand and comply with these legal requirements. Following their submission process can significantly ease the legal complexities of selling your drone footage.

A Tip from My Own Experience: In my standard proposal, which becomes our contract upon signing, I include a courtesy clause. It basically lets the property owner know that the footage might be used for promotional or other purposes. However, according to FAA rules, aside from restricted airspace, the airspace isn’t owned by property owners. So, not that we want to flaunt our so-called freedoms, we’re really not bound by legal restrictions. 

Navigating these legal aspects might seem complex at first, but it’s an important part of the process for anyone looking to monetize their drone footage. It’s more than just following rules; it’s about maintaining professionalism and respecting everyone’s rights.

Marketing Your Stock Footage: Maximizing Sales

online marketing

Ok, so we have flown and shot our drone footage, we have prepared and uploaded it to our preferred stock footage platform, and optimized it. We’re done right? Nope! Now we need to market it. I tell people all the time that we are always selling. In order to succeed at anything, we have to market ourselves, our skills, our services and it’s the same thing here, to make money selling our drone footage, we need to market our footage.

Utilizing Motion Array’s Marketing Features: Most stock footage platforms will offer their tools for marketing your footage. Features like showcasing your best work and using their analytics to understand what buyers are looking for. I’ve found that regularly updating my portfolio and staying active on the platform keeps my content in front of potential buyers.

Tips for Direct Marketing and Using Social Media: Social media is great for sharing vacation pics; but it is also a very powerful marketing medium. Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, X as well as LinkedIn can be great for showcasing your drone footage. I like to post clips of my best work, sometimes even behind-the-scenes shots, to engage my audience. And don’t forget YouTube – it’s perfect for longer videos and can drive traffic to your sales platforms.

A few years ago, before I even knew I could sell my footage,  I was driving through downtown Houston Texas, and passed the Houston Astros, Minute Maid Park and decided to stop off and get a quick drone shot. Later on, I created a little video and put it up on YouTube. A year or so after-the-fact, I received an email asking if I would be willing to license the video. Now, remember, I shot the video on a whim for my own personal enjoyment. Needless to say, I was happy to sell the licensing, and for a handsome fee.

Strategies for Increasing Visibility and Sales:

1. SEO for Your Footage: As we mentioned earlier, incorporating the right keywords and tags in your video descriptions on selling platforms and YouTube makes your content more discoverable.

2. Engage with Your Audience: Respond to comments and messages. Building a community around your work creates loyal followers and potential customers.

3. Collaborate with Others: Partnering with other drone enthusiasts or videographers can expand your reach.

4. Regular Updates: Keep your portfolio fresh. Regularly adding new footage keeps your profile active and engaging for repeat visitors.

Remember, making money selling your drone footage involves understanding the fundamentals of marketing. With the right strategies, you can significantly boost your visibility and sales.

starter guide to marketing your drone services businessClick in to my comprehensive “Starter Guide to Market Your Drone Services Business” to learn how I grew my business from the ground up.

Conclusion: Turning Your Drone Footage into Profit


There’s vast potential in the world of drone videography. From capturing awe-inspiring shots to navigating legal complexities and mastering marketing strategies, each step is crucial in monetizing your passion for drone footage.

If you are looking to make money selling your drone footage, I hope this guide will be a source of motivation. The process from capturing footage for personal enjoyment to selling it as stock footage can be immensely rewarding. Yes, there will be challenges, but with patience, learning, and persistence, the sky’s the limit. (pun intended)

I invite you to continue exploring this exciting opportunity. Whether you’re just starting out and looking to refine your skills, there’s always more to learn and achieve. So, keep shooting, keep exploring, and feel free to reach out with your stories, questions, or for advice. Let’s keep the conversation going and help each other grow in this dynamic field of drone videography.

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