Drones - A New Career Path In Aviation?


By mid-2018, there were 95,268 FAA-certified remote pilots in the U.S. A quick check reveals that these pilots were spread among more than a dozen industries. Up to 35% of companies in Construction & Engineering (35%), for instance, already used drones and, therefore, had full-time drone pilots. Government (24%), Transport & Warehousing (13%), and Insurance (12%) were other industries with a high number of drone pilots.

A recent follow-up study shows that the numbers just keep rising. The study, published in May 2019, shows that currently, more than 100,000 people hold a Part 107 Certificate, authorizing them to fly drones for commercial purposes in the U.S. A separate report by the FAA, meanwhile, shows that the demand for commercial UAV pilots is set to quadruple by 2020.

Considering these stats, should aviation professionals and prospects consider drones as a career path?

Yes. It’s About Time!

The drone sector is a new sector that only came to mainstream use in the last two decades. However, like the mobile phone market, it’s one of the sectors with a very bright future.

We’ve already mentioned the predicted high demand for drone pilots. The other major attraction with drones is the high salaries and unmatched work/life balance. Despite what some people call a saturated market, freelance drone pilots make more than $100,000 yearly, according to Market Watch. One freelance drone pilot, Andrew Dean, who left his job with the Air Force four years ago, for instance, is on track to make $200,000 this year. Another Denver-based freelance drone pilot, Vic Moss, makes $500-600 per week.

You can also choose to take up a part or fulltime drone job at the growing list of drone services companies. A drone pilot at any of the “Uber for Drone Pilots” startups, for instance, is guaranteed close to $100 per delivery. One of these companies, DroneBase, pays $99-449 per delivery. The best part is that most of these deliveries take less than 15 minutes!

If you’re wondering whether this unprecedented growth could slow down any time soon, the answer is – NO chance. A recent report by Goldman Sachs projects that consumers will spend over $17 billion on drones between 2016 and 2020, with commercial and civil industries spending another $13 billion in these unmanned aircraft. This can only mean more openings and better pay for professionals in the industry.

Other Drone Careers to Consider

It’s important to remember, however, that becoming a drone pilot is just one of the many careers available in the drone industry. Other career opportunities in the sector include;

  • Software engineering
  • Hardware engineering
  • Sales and marketing
  • Operations
  • Management
  • Maintenance and customization
  • Teaching drone flight classes

These jobs too are likely to be in high demand in the coming years. Consulting firm BCG estimates that the industrial drone fleet in the USA and Europe will top 1 million units by 2050. Additionally, drone technology is predicted to replace up to $127 billion in jobs by 2030. This guarantees more job openings.

How to Kick Start a Drone Career

Several universities now offer fully-accredited degrees in Unmanned Aerial Systems. These include the Oklahoma State University, Kansas State Polytechnic, North Dakota University, Indiana State University, and Troy University. The programs cover a wide range of topics from drone software to management and everything in between.

If you’re only interested in becoming a commercial drone pilot, however, consider drone flight training schools such as; Drone Launch Academy, Drone Pilot Ground School, Drone U, and Fly Robotics ground. Then, get a license from the FAA. With that, you’re ready to launch your commercial drone flying career!

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