This remote-controlled pilotless aircraft or Unnamed Aircraft System (UAS), more commonly known as a “drone”, has been widely used professionally especially in film cinematography. Did you know that there are already training programs being offered to become a drone pilot? Yes, you’ve read that right. You can now make flying a drone your profession.
Flying a drone looks easy, but there are rules from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for drones that weigh below 55 pounds. If you are flying a drone which is over 55 pounds, you need to register it with the FAA, even if you’re just going to use it for recreation purposes. According to their rules, the pilot must keep the drone in sight at all times and should not exceed 100 miles per hour. Also based on the rule, it can only be used during daytime and any accident that results to injuries should be reported to the FAA within 10 days. This also includes accidents resulting in property damage which costs over $500.
There are also certain qualifications and requirements needed to become a drone pilot. The FAA Part 107 Drone Regulation states that you need to be at least 16 years old, able to speak, read, write, and understand English, be in a good physical and mental condition, and pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test to become a pilot. There are around 700 FAA-approved test centers across the United States.
Like any other job, being a drone pilot requires specific skills which are taught in ground schools. A ground school is where flight training for would-be pilots takes place. Investing your time in practicing is important if you want to become a professional drone pilot. If you’re aiming to be a commercial pilot, a certification is required. You must also be easily accessible by the remote pilot during all UAS testing operations. You must also pass a re-certification test every two years. The knowledge test is administered by one of two companies primarily Computer Assisted Testing Service (CATS), and LaserGrade Computer Testing. There are already 690 FAA-approved test centers in the United States as of July 2016 and the cost of the exam is $150.
Since many industries are beginning to utilize drones for many commercial purposes, flying a drone, which many people consider as a hobby, is quickly becoming a well-paying and in-demand job of the future. Here are some of the industries that are now investing in the use of drones:
Wedding Photography: It is a growing trend to have wedding photos and videos taken by the drone. There are already some which used aerial shots and videos that make it even more interesting.
Fast Food Delivery: Some fast food companies, especially pizza companies, are experimenting and looking at the possible use of drones in delivering food. One company, for example, is Domino’s pizza.
Real Estate: For properties with acreage and other property features, aerial photos and videos of the properties will enhance the selling process.
Package Delivery: Some companies, like Amazon and Google, are now researching in using drones for product delivery.
Trades and Utilities: Drones are also being used to inspect high places like roofs and solar panels, as well as telephone towers. It surely requires less effort and is much safer compared to hiring people to climb them.
Mining: Drones are being used to measure stockpiles of minerals. They are helpful since they can measure them just in hours with minimal effort.
Your training may not end in learning how to operate and fly the drone. You may also need some training depending on the industry you want to work. For example, in filmmaking, which is the most common commercial application for drone pilots, more than knowing how to fly a drone, you will need an advanced filming skill to be successful. Some of the drone pilots in the industry started out as hobbyists before they got their pilot certifications. It’s the same for people who attended schools to learn film and photography, you need both sets of skills.
Becoming a professional drone pilot can have a lot of perks. According to Matt Burtwell, an aerial photographer, what he loves about the job is that he gets to travel a lot. Another is you can potentially get a great salary. This will still depend of course in the industry you will be joining. According to Al Palmer, director of the center for Unmanned AircraftSystems in the University of North Dakota, some of the large companies are paying drone pilots in the high 6 and lower 7 digit salary ranges. This is why many are aiming to be a drone pilot.
Who would’ve thought that you can make money by flying a drone? Based on some studies, it is forecasted that the market for piloted drones will double by the year 2022. And based on the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, it is projected that there will be 100,000 new jobs in this industry in the year 2025. That opens up a whole new set of jobs based on this emerging technology.