To compliment our earlier post about drone training in the UK here is the second in this series about careers and employment – Drone Training USA.
Making a living by flying drones is becoming a more and more widespread career trajectory for many. This is due to a massive technological boom in the UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems) market. The digital age has shepherded in a new era where jobs in the tech field are developing by leaps and bounds. The starting salaries are pretty enticing with many jobs starting between $45,000 to $65,000 per year.
Training to become a commercial drone pilot is appealing due to the versatile nature of the certification. You won’t be stuck with a useless degree in a field with no jobs and a large amount of student debt after your training, either. Drone training is open to anyone who wants to learn a new and useful skill that will get you somewhere in today’s job market. The typical drone certification course costs around $4,000, whereas tuition at a traditional college averages out to be nearly $27,000 annually in 2017.
Who Is A Drone Career For?
Certain people are typically drawn to seek out drone pilot training. Some of these groups include experienced quadcopter hobbyists wanting to transition into being paid for their skills, former military personnel looking for a civilian career, and even photographers interested in growing their business by offering aerial photography. People seeking a new career in a growing market are also flocking to take certification courses.
If you’re bored in your current career, or even need your first career, and have been wanting a major change, then this could very well be the right path for you. Not everyone is suited for office or retail life. Being able to enjoy the outdoors, travel (depending on your job), and gather stunning images and information from a fresh point of view are all major factors in drawing new pilots into this field.
Drone Career Opportunities
There are a lot of new careers being created thanks to drone technology in fields with dangerous and dirty jobs that not a lot of people want to do. Drones reduce the risk of personal danger when performing many of these jobs. Surveying natural disaster sites and aiding law enforcement are examples of how drones can impact the safety of a job.
Archaeology is another interesting field that has greatly benefitted from the use of drones. Drones aid archaeologists in surveying new sites of interest and help them better prepare their team for the dig. They save money and have unprecedented access to areas previously thought unreachable by any means other than expensive fly-overs and dangerous hikes.
Surveying using LIDAR, map making and photogrammetry are fields that have benefitted greatly from UAV pilots. Drones have contributed to the advancement of new photographic techniques in order to create a detailed view of the landscape.
The YouTube community has made a new market for drone use as well. Some very well-known YouTubers have utilized drone technology to make their productions pop and views increase. You don’t have to be a YouTuber to enjoy and profit off of videographer skills, though. Drone wedding photography is becoming increasingly popular as you can get some pretty cool shots of the big day that way. The sky is literally the limit with videography.
Small Unmanned Aircraft Regulations (Part 107)
Due to well-placed regulations by the FAA you must become certified before becoming a professional by taking a drone training course. There are actually many of these available online, but you may need to be willing to go to an on-site campus for part of the course so you can get hands-on training. UVU, Unmanned Vehicle University, is one of many that offer a reputable program for prospective pilots. You must find a school accredited by the FAA.
Some of the things covered in the certification course at UVU are a history of drones, the physics of how they work, and how the controls work. You will also learn about weather principles in regards to flying drones. Most importantly you will gain experience and instruction from qualified instructors. They will teach you about safety and FAA regulations as well.
After the “written” part of the course, you will then be given the opportunity to fly a drone simulator. This is the next best thing to real life experience. In a simulation, you can’t really cause any damage, but it still feels real.
After passing the “written” and simulation sections of the course, you will then have your flying classes. These are the most important step. You can’t learn to fly a drone without flying a drone. As part of the course materials, you will build your drone from a kit.
In addition to certification courses, there are also supplemental classes you can take to enhance your skillset. Udemy has a plethora of courses at a low price of typically $10 per class. You can focus on certain specializations like videography and photography, and even how to start your own business using your drone pilot training.
With the right education and training, you will be well on your way to becoming a successful professional drone pilot in the field of your choosing. When choosing a school, please do your research. It is essential that the program you choose is backed by the FAA and follows all of their rules.
Know Your Regulations and Laws
The FAA, Federal Aviation Administration, has strict guidelines you must follow if you’re to become a drone pilot, but especially a professional being paid for your services. These rules and regulations are essential in keeping others and your equipment safe.
There are variations in the rules between flying your drone as a hobby and flying or pay. A drone hobbyist doesn’t need to have a pilot’s certification, whereas the professional pilot does. Let’s discuss some of these rules that you must follow, specifically the professional pilot rules, according to the FAA website. This is not an exhaustive list.
Drone Pilot Requirements:
1. You must be a minimum of 16 years old. There is no minimum age requirement for drone hobbyists, but due to labor laws, one must be of a certain age before being paid for a service. Most jobs you can’t get until you’re at least 16.
2. Have the Remote Pilot Airman Certificate. This is where the course you took or are planning to take comes in.
3. You will need to pass TSA vetting. The TSA is the Transportation Security Administration. They’re the ones who control who can fly, even as a passenger on an airplane. They have to do the security checks for professional drone pilots so that the security of clients, companies, and the government aren’t threatened by someone with ulterior motives.
UAV Aircraft Requirements:
- Your drone must weigh less than 55 lbs for safe and legal flight and it must be registered with the FAA if it weighs over .55 lbs.
- Your drone can fly in Class G airspace if you’re a professional. Class G is the lowest of the airspace layers. Non-professional drone pilots are limited to 400 feet. Class G depends on the area you’re in and the height of the airspace layers above it. The provided link will show you how to find it on a map. You will learn how in your course as well.
- You will also need to do a pre-flight check of your systems. This cuts down on catastrophic malfunctions that could cause harm to others or your equipment.
RPAS Operating Rules:
- Follow the airspace rule for professional pilots.
- Do not fly over people unless it is part of your job and safety precautions have been taken.
- Yield the right of way to manned aircraft. People take priority over machines, remember that for safety’s sake.
- Keep your craft at or below 100 MPH. We’re not trying to go warp speed.
- Never control your drone from a moving vehicle.
The professional drone pilot is one of the fastest growing career paths because there are so many directions you could go with it. As long as you do your research, pick a reputable certification program, and follow the rules then you can be well on your way to literally changing how we see and experience the world around us.