Now is a great time to be a drone pilot. It’s also a great time to become a drone pilot.
Job opportunities for qualified operators are expanding in industries such as construction, energy, package delivery, and public safety. What’s more, leading drone companies and UAV-related organizations are offering training programs to ensure that the industry will have the pilots it needs as it continues to grow.
Drone pilot jobs can be challenging, rewarding—and lucrative. A review of opportunities for drone pilots stated that median annual salary in the field is $58,280. However, the report said, some pilots can command as much as “six-figures flying drones commercially.”
Where can you find these jobs? A February 2022 Commercial UAV News article asserted that dozens of industries will be looking for talented pilots in the coming years, but demand will be particularly high in the fields of surveying and mapping, delivery, construction, inspection, and security. Here’s what experienced pilots and those new to the field need to know about those industries:
- Surveying & Mapping: Pilots in surveying and mapping need to understand sophisticated technologies as well as know how to fly their vehicles. That’s because the surveying and mapping industry is using drones connected with specialized software and imaging equipment to capture aerial images and thousands of data points. It is recommended that pilots seeking work in these fields invest in high quality equipment and receive advanced training on imaging and data analysis.
- Drone Delivery: One of the many lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic was that more and more consumers and business want fast, inexpensive deliveries. To fill that need, major companies like Walmart, UPS, Flytrex, and Amazon are investing heavily in the drone delivery space. Smaller companies are also looking to add drones to their delivery platforms. All of these firms will need pilots. If you’re interested, just remember that you’ll need special FAA certification to operate a delivery drone.
- Construction: Opportunities abound for qualified pilots working in the construction space. Drone operators conduct pre-site surveys, create progress reports, take detailed measurements, plan post-construction marketing, and even work on promotional videos and photo shoots. During a recent Commercial UAV News webinar, Jonathan Beaty of Kiewit Geospatial Services reported that drone operators working in construction tend to come from inside the industry itself. He said that many individuals who become construction drone pilots perform other roles in an operation, and they learn UAV piloting skills as part of an expanded role.
- Inspection: The fields of agriculture, industrial, utilities, energy, and mining have been using drones for inspections for many years. Using sophisticated cameras and sensors, drone operators may be called on to assess and monitor assets such as pipelines, powerlines, irrigation equipment and more. Just like work in the construction and surveying and mapping sectors, work in this industry requires a knowledge of both piloting and imaging technology.
- Security: Security operations use uncrewed vehicles to monitor secure facilities, help with surveillance of highways, coastlines, and borders, and provide crucial intelligence to ensure safety at large public events. As in the construction industry, pilots in this field often start by working in traditional security functions and then receive specific training in drone operations.
So, if you are pursuing a drone pilot career, keep in mind that while there is great potential for interesting, well-paid work, what matters most is making a commitment to a specific industry or application that will enable operations to be performed in a faster, cheaper, or safer way. To move ahead, be sure to do your research into the different industries that are adopting UAVs and find the field that is the “right fit” for you.
And, regardless of what field you go into, remember that training is crucial. UAV piloting in commercial settings requires more than just a hobbyist or basic Part 107 skill level. Fortunately, many companies and organizations offer comprehensive instruction and support for both new and experienced drone pilots.
For example, DroneUp, a leader in package delivery and commercial UAV flight services, offers pilot training and program development services to its clients. These efforts focus on flight proficiency and emergency preparedness, while also helping to create standard operating procedures customized to the needs of specific companies and organizations.
Similarly, the aerial analytics firm DroneBase provides training along with a wide range of resources for established and budding drone operators. The company offers pilot training tailored to missions in fields such as insurance, construction, and telecommunications. Also, the DroneBase network helps connect pilots to full-time and contract jobs.
Want to learn more about options and opportunities for drone pilots? Attend the 2022 Commercial UAV Expo.
Commercial UAV Expo features more than 140 companies, including Amazon Prime Air and DroneUp, who are using advanced drone technology solutions for real-world applications. The event offers top-notch education, including sessions specifically for drone pilots to scale their business, thousands of attendees, and more exhibitors than any other commercial drone event. It’s the best opportunity of the year for anyone who needs to keep up with commercial UAS technology, trends, and developments. Registration is now open - click here to register today.