Featured NewsTrending NewsPilots StoriesPilot Story: Michael Miller


10 February 2024

By Michael Miller

All my life as a kid I've had a fascination with anything RC (cars, boats, planes etc.). Later, as an adult and father, I bought my son and daughter every RC vehicle imaginable—living my childhood vicariously through them.

In mid 2020, as a grandfather of four, and COVID in the news all over world, this limited my outings with my grandchildren. I decided that day to share with them a bit of my childhood and their parent's' childhood.

I went to a local Dollar General and bought a $10 flying orb that basically lit up and had a downward sensor that made the orb fly higher as the grandchildren attempted to catch it.

This gave me the idea of buying an inexpensive drone to fly with them outdoors.The drone arrived approximately two weeks later (Holystone D10). The grandchildren were elated, and so was I (if I'm being honest).

We went outside to the backyard, and flew until the batteries drained over and over all afternoon. Admittedly, I was horrible as a drone pilot and found my drone in the bushes and a few trees several times. After the grandchildren left, I thought to myself, "I want to get good at this so the next time I could really show off my skills to them."That night, I sat up watching YouTube videos one after another trying to learn the basics of piloting a drone. It was then—to my surprise—that I found out flying a drone wasn't just a recreational hobby, people were actually getting paid to do it.I immediately told my wife about it (initially not a fan of the idea) and told her this is something I wanted to pursue as a means of supplemental income. My career as a paramedic for over 20 years had become insufferable in the mist of the pandemic, and I wanted to spend as little time on an ambulance as possible (meaning less overtime). Eventually, I got the idea past her and got started researching everything drone related.Fast forward to 2021, and a few hundred dollars later, I had learned about the difference between recreational pilots, Part 107 pilots, and how to fly responsibly. I had joined a local Facebook group and attended a few meet ups. I got myself a self-study guide on Part 107 and studied for a month before taking my test. To my surprise, I passed on the first try. Now here I was with my drone, my certification, and not a clue what to do next.I looked for drone jobs online with no luck.

Then, I came across a few online sites that hired pilots. To my dismay, I was shocked to see what the pay was for the services the clients wanted. I found one that paid a little better than most, but found myself in a bidding pool of pilots, and the site taking a percentage of my earnings. I sucked it up because I had no portfolio and started doing jobs. I was fortunate enough that I began getting work outside of the website. Soon after, I invested in a website of my own and editing software.In addition to continuing to better my skills as a pilot, I began focusing on photography and videography. I had to learn about framing, composition, editing, color grading, and how to use all these tools and others to tell a story through a lens.Today, I still do work for a few of those clients and have grown in not only my skill as a pilot, but basic photography and videography. I've learned that it's a never-ending process of learning, as the industry is continuing to expand.

I have also learned a few other things like knowing my worth.

Willingness to walk away from a client regardless of how many jobs you've done for them or how much they pay. I've learned not to be afraid to ask questions. There is always something new to learn. 

Lastly, have fun. Even if you're getting paid to do an assignment, make the most of it. You have invested thousands of dollars and time into learning how to fly a drone and doing something most people aren't able to do.

See Miller's Work

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