drone membership programs join

The best, paid drone membership programs and communities for pilots and industry experts

In the ever-evolving world of drone technology, staying ahead of the curve is crucial. To stay competitive, maximize your connections and push your skills to the next level, you would be wise to join a drone membership program or community.

And sure, there are plenty of great, free online drone communities, which I’ve outlined previously on The Drone Girl (and participate in myself). But it’s often the paid drone pilot communities that tend to offer a more robust trove of resources and expert insights.

Free is good, and always preferred. But in my more-than-10 years reporting on the drone industry, I’ve often found that sometimes the drone membership programs that mandate recurring dues inevitably have higher levels of engagement and more quality discussion. Plus, the best drone membership programs often include more than just a place to chit chat with others, but can also entail member-exclusive discounts on drone-related products, free resources (such as access to exclusive libraries of videos, webinars and PDFs), job boards and sometimes freebies, like swag or invitations to IRL events.

Yes, I know having to pay for one more subscription service can be annoying. But drone pilots who own small businesses might be able to make their drone membership community dues a tax write-off (do check with your accountant first). And pilots who work for companies with learning stipends might be able to make their drone membership count as a qualifying expense.

With that in mind, here’s a guide to some of the best drone membership programs and communities to join (broken down by type of group, but listed in alphabetical order):

AUVSI: best for policy makers and established businesses

For pilots especially interested in drone industry advocacy, AUVSI likely fits the bill. As the world’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to unmanned systems (including drones), AUVSI has been seen as a source for championing the safe and beneficial integration of drones into society.

The group represents corporations and professionals across more than 60 countries — most of whom work in either government, academia or the actual industry (whether that’s defense, civil or commercial markets).

AUVSI is behind one of the world’s biggest, annual drone events: the XPONENTIAL conference. XPONENTIAL 2024, held in April 2024 in San Diego, stood out this year for its new Cyber City area that focused specifically on digital defense.

AUVSI membership benefits include:

  • An invitation to join a local AUVSI chapter (which entails IRL meetups)
  • An exclusive career center
  • Access to annual, in-depth industry reports
  • Discounts to events, including the aforementioned XPONENTIAL conference

AUVSI is best geared towards drone pilots who want to:

  • Contributing to the responsible development and use of drone technology.
  • Staying ahead of the curve on industry trends and regulations.
  • Networking with key decision-makers in the drone space.

Membership fee: $150 annually, though there are plenty of discounts, including if you commit to more than a year, or if you’re an active or retired military member.

Drone Dojo: best for tinkerers and DIY drone builders

Drone Dojo gets a shoutout in my guide to the best free online drone communities given its free-to-join forum, but there’s another, more-hidden community that’s far more vibrant: the Drone Dojo Discord.

The company first rose to prominence in the drone industry when it launched its Raspberry Pi drone kits. These kits were revolutionary in taking the guesswork out of what types of pieces you need to make your own drone, instead shipping it to you in a $1,000 Raspberry Pi drone kit (with a corresponding / taking you through the process, step-by-step).

Since then, Drone Dojo has expanded its offerings with far more courses and kits, including:

You get access to the Drone Dojo Discord by joining its $27-per-month Blue Belt community (but use this link to get your first month for just $1). This hobby-oriented community targets DIY-drone builders who like to tinker with drones on their own. Its also valuable for people who want to learn more about how to code drones — or even make their own drone light show.

Beyond access to that exclusive Discord community, Drone Dojo membership benefits include:

  • Github code access
  • A t-shirt
  • $30 discounts on drone and rover kits
  • Access to all the Drone Dojo courses

Drone Dojo is best geared towards drone pilots who want to:

  • Tinker, hobby, and generally turn a dream for a drone project into reality.
  • Learn through a range of styles, from structured video courses to vibrant online communities.
  • Actually build physical stuff, including drones and light shows.

Membership fee: Starts at $27 per month, but use my discount link to get your first month for just $1. High tiers unlock more benefits like deeper discounts, custom zoom call consultations and free rental kits.

Drone Launch Connect: best for pilots looking to launch a drone business

Aspiring to transform your drone passion into a profitable venture? Drone Launch Connect is a community that caters specifically to commercial drone pilots — and in particular those who want to make money in drones.

It’s also a super compelling drone membership program because members get access to many of the classes within Drone Launch Academy’s robust offering of courses, which cover topics ranging from getting your drone pilot’s license, to leveling up your drone company’s social media presence.

For people who were going to sign up for something like Drone Launch Academy’s $199 Part 107 Remote Pilot Exam Prep Course anyway, then joining for just a quarter at least is a no-brainer.

Membership benefits include:

  • Access to roughly two-dozen online workshops, including Drone Launch Academy’s Part 107 course, courses that cover the basics on flying DJI drones, guides to getting airspace authorization and more.
  • Invitation to live, bi-weekly expert Q&A sessions.
  • Additional discounts on pricier Drone Launch Academy courses not included in the Drone Launch Connect package, such as their $799 Drones to $1k course.
  • An invitation to Drone Launch Live, which is an in-person drone event happening later in 2024 in Florida (exact date tbd)

Drone Launch Connect is best geared towards drone pilots who want to:

  • Launch a business in the commercial drone industry.
  • Secure high-paying freelance or full-time drone pilot positions.
  • Network with other commercial drone businesses and industry professionals.

Membership fee: $87 quarterly or $290 annually (annual subscription is effectively two months free).

Though if you want to join Drone Launch Connect, you’ll want to jump on this now. Come Friday, June 28, Drone Launch Academy is putting a temporary halt on accepting new members. So get in on this killer membership deal before they put a cap on the community size.

EAA: best for pilots interested in unique aircraft beyond just drones

True to its name, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) fosters a vibrant community for all things aviation, including drones. While not solely focused on drones, the EAA offers valuable resources and networking opportunities for drone pilots.

Its signature event, EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, is one not to be missed. Held annually in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, it’s world’s largest airshow and features amazing aerial acrobatics, all sorts of aircraft on display (ranging from fancy private jets to fun, experimental planes), and great entertainment. I went to EAA in 2016, and I can’t wait to go back.

Annual membership dues starts at $48, and gets you discounts to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh (which alone can pay for itself), alongside other benefits such as:

  • A monthly subscription to Sport Aviation magazine
  • Invitation to local EAA chapter events and meetings
  • Free admission to nearly 400 museums, including the EAA Aviation Museum in Oshkosh

EAA is best geared toward drone pilots who:

  • Have a broader interest in aviation beyond just drones.
  • Seek a supportive network of pilots and aviation enthusiasts.
  • Want to access member benefits and discounts on all sorts of aviation-related products and events.

Or, you could pay $1,495 for lifetime EAA membership. It technically pays for itself after about 31 years, but that doesn’t account for inevitable, inflation-related increases in annual dues. Plus, lifetime EAA members get bonuses goodies that money can’t buy, like a personalized lifetime member jacket, as well as a lifetime member personalized ID card, patch, pin, plaque and decals.

Membership fee: $48 per year (individual) or $60 per year for a family membership (includes a spouse and any children under the age of 18).

Choosing the right drone community

The best paid drone pilot community for you hinges on your specific goals and interests. Are you chasing breathtaking aerial visuals or aiming to build a commercial drone business? Do you crave industry advocacy or simply want to stay informed on regulations? By carefully considering your needs, you’ll find the perfect community to propel you forward in your drone pilot journey.

What drone membership programs do you belong to? Was it worth it to pay to join? Tell me about them in the comments!

And speaking of paid communities, The Drone Girl community is — and always will be — free to participate in. I want to make my content free to provide access to information for everyone. That said, I make money purely off sidebar ads, affiliate links and donations like yours. I know the ads are annoying, but I must pay my staff! If you want to keep content like this going and minimize the irritating ads, please consider making a donation today!

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