Your aerial footage is unmatched. The way you can whiz your drone around, turning at sudden angles and quickly ascending mesmerizes everyone fortunate enough to watch. You want to combine your love of drones with your passion for sports, filming footage of games that the cameras on the field can’t catch. How do you get started doing so and—more importantly—get paid for your work?
To record sporting events on your drone and make money, you should do the following:
- Have an adequate drone
- Know where you're allowed to fly your drone
- Capture amazing footage
- Find a company or new agency that pays for videos and images
- Collect the money
In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to turn your drone into a money-making machine while attending sporting events. We'll tell you which companies accept footage and how to avoid complaints for having your drone at the event. Read on!
Which Drones Are Best for Shooting Sports?
Sports footage that you want to appear on the nightly news needs to be top-notch. The better the quality you shoot, the more likely your chances of making money from your drone videos. When you sell your drone footage to agencies, they expect the videos to be high quality and professional.
To that end, a cheaper drone is not the best choice. Now, you’re probably a little worried about bringing an expensive drone to a sporting event where fans get wild. That’s understandable, and fortunately, you won’t fly near the fans. Keep reading for the official rules of flying your drone in and near sporting events.
We recommend the following DJI drones for filming a live sporting event. We even included a great budget option.
The original Inspire was a filmmaker’s dream. It had a 4K camera, a gimbal that rotated 360 degrees, and its own HD video transmission system. As an upgrade from the OG Inspire, the DJI Inspire 2 is better in every way.
It has a CineCore2.1 image processing system, a clear step up from the CineCore2.0. Those DJI Inspire 2's with the Zenmuse X7 camera can shoot footage in 5.2K using Apple ProRes or 6K with CinemaDNG/RAW.
You can speed up your drone when needed, and it only takes five seconds for this DJI model to reach 50 miles per hour when starting from 0. The fastest this drone can go is 58 MPH. It can also fly for upwards of 27 minutes.
Should you want to capture a football game in the middle of winter, you can with the Inspire 2. It has a self-heating feature that keeps it warm in freezing cold weather.
Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom
Shoot the kind of pro footage you’ve always dreamed of with the Mavic 2. This impressive drone comes packed with the kinds of features you want, including hyperlapse, video transmission at eight kilometers when shot at 1080p, and the Mavic 2 Pro has a Hasselblad camera. The Mavic 2 Zoom has 2x Optical Zoom as well. You can also adjust for things like aperture while shooting in 10-bit Dlog-M color with a stunning dynamic range.
Don’t worry about crashing into anyone or anything at sports games, as the Mavic 2 has omnidirectional obstacle sensing. It can also fly for 31 minutes at a clip, giving you plenty of time to shoot all those big plays as they happen.
The Mavic 2 even has a sport mode. This increases maneuverability and flying speed so you don’t miss a thing. You can ascend five meters or 16.4 feet a second when in this mode. It’s seriously impressive.
If you’re truly stressed about getting your high-end drone broken during a big game, then try the Spark. Meant as an introduction into the world of drones, the Spark has a lot of the same quality features you’re used to with any DJI drone. Its FaceAware feature will ensure no one else uses your device, as it needs facial recognition to begin running.
You can use hand gestures to command your drone, so there’s no need to have your face buried in your phone’s app or the remote control all night. The Spark also comes with a teeny-tiny sensor and a mechanical gimbal. It shoots HD Wi-Fi video and can take photos as well. Do note, the Spark can only fly for 16 minutes at a time.
What are the Rules for Flying Drones Inside Arenas?
Okay, so you’ve got your drone and your tickets to the big game. You’re ready to begin shooting, right? Not quite. The Federal Aviation Administration has rules and restrictions.
You cannot fly your drone within three nautical miles of a venue or stadium. You are limited to flying near these venues an hour ahead of the event as well as an hour post-event if it’s the following:
- NASCAR’s Champ Series, Indy Car, and Sprint Cup races
- NCAA Division One Football
- National Football League (NFL) games
- Major League Baseball (MLB) games
Hmm, okay. So where exactly does that leave you if you want to capture drone footage of sports games? The rules are the rules, and for now, you’ll have to shoot other sports than those listed above. For instance, you can film motocross, lake skiing, motorbikes, snowboarding, soccer, golf, and NCAA Division Two and Three football games.
While you can always try to obtain permission from the above major sporting organizations to film with your drone at a sporting venue, don’t be surprised if you get turned down. The FAA rules exist for a reason, after all, mostly for people’s safety.
When people go to a sporting event, they want to let loose, have fun, and cheer on their team. They don’t need to worry about a drone getting too close to their faces. Besides, that’s a lot of pressure on you the pilot. Think of a filled sports arena. That’s thousands upon thousands of people. It’s now your job not to crash or even bump into any of them. You also have to pay attention to the game so you can shoot at just the right moments. Talk about nerve-wracking!
You’re much better off in open-air spaces like a ski slope, outdoor motocross track, or even the ocean or another body of water. There, you have the freedom to follow, even chase, the athletes, staying close on them to film the kind of amazing footage people will want to see and buy.
It can be somewhat discouraging to learn you can’t shoot the big sports like NASCAR, NFL, or MLB games, but it’s not all bad. Not at all. Golf Digest went as far as to say “drones will change the way we watch sports,” likening this pro-shot footage as to “what a fireworks display feels like.” After all, as we just mentioned, your drone can get very close to the action in a way humans can’t without interrupting the athletes and game.
Live Stream Sporting Events
Before we get into which companies you can sell your drone footage to, let's talk about another unique avenue that has incredible possibilities. Low latency live video streaming.
If you can't attend a sporting event, what is the next best thing? How about viewing the action as it happens with very low latency (delay)? If you have flown a DJI drone before, you probably know that you can live stream to Facebook, YouTube, and a couple of other platforms.
The problem with streaming video natively within the DJI GO 4 app is that there is about a 30-second delay, and the footage is often choppy.
Airdata UAV is a company that makes drone fleet management software, and they recently released a low latency live video streaming capability. The video delay when using Airdata's software is only about 2 seconds. Learn more about Airdata UAV here, and check out the live streaming demo that Trevor from Let Us Drone made below.
Not everyone needs their live stream to be low latency though — some will get by just fine using the DJI GO 4 app.
Okay, now you know about live video streaming, but how can you capitalize on it? We recommend that you reach out to sporting organizations that don't currently implement live video streaming.
Having that live stream really helps engage the audience. Maybe you could cultivate a relationship with officials of a local charity run? Live stream the run with your drone to their social media page or YouTube. If they're happy with your work, odds are that they will not only use you for future events but will spread your contact information around.
Check out this video about how Tough Mudder uses the company Livestream to stream their events.
Which Companies Pay for Drone-Captured Sports Footage?
You’ve found the sporting events and games to gravitate towards with your drone. You’ve also filmed a ton of footage you quite enjoy. Maybe you even have some photographs. Now that you’ve put the time in, let's see if you can get a return on your investment.
You’re more than ready to bring in the money, but where exactly can you sell your drone footage? We dug around to find you some great resources to get you started.
We talked about VideoHive on this blog once before in our list of sites that accept drone videos and photos. They have a specific part of their site dedicated to sports videos, which you can see in the link. A lot of these drone pilots filmed surfers, snowboarders, joggers, skiers, soccer players, golfers, and high school-level baseball players.
As we had written about, you must join Envato to sell your footage through VideoHive. You’ll need to sign up for a free membership, then you’re considered an Envato Author. From there, you can upload your footage, price it, and watch it get sold. The Envato Market has sold more than 55,693,881 items with a community that has earned $759,719,128 and counting.
Another site we discussed before was Pond5. This is yet a second great resource that welcomes drone-captured sports footage, including swim meets, skateboarding, high school football, biking, and motocross.
You can sell photos and videos to Pond5, keeping your rights when you do so. You also get complete control in choosing how much you’ll price your footage. Pond5 does ask that you shoot your drone videos no lower than 1080p resolution. They also don’t want audio with your video unless the quality is equal to the footage.
Accepted videos can be as short as three seconds and as long as 60 seconds. They prefer 4K videos to have a file size of five gigabytes or lower and 5K videos to be six gigabytes or less. Make sure you save your video as an MP4 or a MOV file before submitting or it will get turned down.
If the sports footage you film is newsworthy, then you might opt to try SellNews. The site has a section dedicated to sports. According to SellNews itself, they have “thousands of global media buyers” you can access through social media when you sign up for an account and begin selling footage.
To do so, either download SellNews’ app or go on their website, registering an account. Then you can upload your video, tag it, and post it across the social media platforms you use. The more exposure you drive to your footage, the more visibility it gets. That increases the chances of it being sold.
That can be a downside or an upside depending on how much you use social media, but it’s the backbone of SellNews’ service. You have to sell the footage yourself, as they won’t do it.
Another highly-recommended option that we talked about before is Getty Images. They welcome editorial and creative videos and photos. Currently, they have 493,939 sports-related stock videos, with more added all the time.
To get in on this service and begin making money, you can download Getty Images’ app on Google Play or the Apple App Store. They have a special sports contributors section as well, which you can view here.
You’d become an editorial contributor if you get accepted. Getty Images asks that you choose your best clip and then email it to them. You’d hear back from a managing editor if they’re interested in proceeding. If you hear nothing back, then you can still be a general contributor.
That requires you to submit at least three samples (and up to six) to Getty Images as part of an application. You’d have to post your video clips on YouTube as a potential video contributor. Then you wait to hear back. Hopefully, you get in and start earning that cash.
Owned by Getty Images, since you sell there, you might as well sign up for an account on iStock as well. This site welcomes royalty-free and stock videos, illustrations, and photos just like Getty Images does. You’ll still have to do a separate registration to join iStock even if you’re already on Getty Images, as they’re two separate platforms. That said, when you apply to become a contributor, you could get accepted on iStock through an application on Getty Images.
How Much Money Can You Make from Your Footage?
That brings us to the biggest and most pertinent question. How much much money can earn from selling my drone video footage and photos from sporting events?
The answer absolutely varies depending on a couple of factors such as:
- Video and image quality
- Video length
If you have a DJI drone, then you don’t have to worry about quality. You can film in the kind of lifelike quality that makes the viewer feel like they’re right there with the athlete. However, a lower-quality video wouldn’t net as much money as a clip shot in a higher resolution, as we’ve talked about.
You might think that longer videos are always better, but it depends. On many of the sites we shared above, some clips averaged out at five or 10 seconds but still got the point across. Ultimately, it’s at the discretion of the buyer regarding how long is too long. If they only need a few seconds of footage for a news story, then a 10-second video is probably good. They can cut it down and get just what they need. A three-second clip might be too short.
Others might find that three seconds of footage is ideal. More still might want 30 or 45-second videos. If you build a portfolio on one or more of the above sites, have clips at various lengths to appeal to the broadest audience.
Swim meets, soccer games, and motocross races have been filmed a million times by now. Thousands of drone pilots have done what you’re doing. How can you make your footage unique so it’s not identical to other sellers? Perhaps you use a certain angle, a special editing technique, or you don’t mind chasing the athlete close (but not too close) to get that perfect shot. A unique clip should earn you a bigger paycheck than one that’s cookie cutter.
Sports are newsworthy and should be treated as such. If you capture a big moment, a huge final goal, or the victory at the finish line, you don’t want to sit on your footage for too long. As we’ve said on this blog before, videos and photos become less newsworthy as time goes on. Try to get your clip polished and ready in 24 hours or fewer.
Finally, the platform you choose to sell on is important as well. For some, like SellNews, your income is dependent on your social media following. Other sites like iStock and Getty Images have a stricter application process and don’t welcome just anybody into the fold. Although it’s not as easy to get accepted, these sites use a reliable pricing model you can learn to count on.
For instance, on iStock, media buyers can pay for credits. Here’s how the credit prices break down:
- Three credits cost $33, or $11 per credit
- Six credits cost $60, or $10 per credit
- 12 credits cost $115, or $9.58 per credit
- 24 credits cost $220, or $9.17 per credit
- 36 credits cost $325, or $9.03 per credit
- 60 credits cost $520, or $8.67 per credit
Videos as part of the Essentials Collection, a discount option, cost six credits and photos one credit. In the Signature Collection, which promises higher quality, photos cost three credits and videos 18.
Over on Getty Images, their HD and 4K videos and large images cost $499 each download for one piece of footage/photo, $450 each download for a five-pack, and $425 each download for a 10-pack. SD videos and medium images cost $375 for one download, $325 each download for a five-pack, and $300 each download for a 10-pack. Even low-res video and small images cost $175 for a single download, $160 each download for a five-pack, and $150 each download for a 10-pack.
Now, do the above prices mean you get every last dollar and cent for your footage or photos? More than likely no, but this data is a good benchmark to see how much money your videos can rake in for you.
The thrill of the sport, the heart-pounding action, and the unforgettable surging of emotions. You can’t get enough of filming sports on your drone. To make money from your hobby, you need a drone that can fly for lengthy periods. It should also ascend and descend fast and shoot videos in very high quality. Next, you need to know the sporting event rules through the FAA. Then, capture your footage, register and apply to one of the sites above, and you’re ready to make some income. Good luck!