What Kind of Training Do Commercial Drone Pilots Need?
Whether you believe the predictions that the drone services market size will grow to 63.6 billion by 2025 or take a more conservative view of the future (we’ve seen predictions like this before), almost everyone in the industry agrees that there is going to be continued growth in the industry. This means that the commercial drone industry needs to attract and properly prepare pilots to fill the needs of a growing industry. But what does the industry need to do to build a competent and prepared workforce? What happens to the industry if we don’t?
To legally fly a drone, you need a Part 107 license, which is a paper test with no demonstration of flight proficiency required—that’s it. For those with experience or who have done their homework, Part 107 is seen as the ground floor—a starting place—but for others, it may be the only floor they visit before applying for jobs. Even if someone gets flight training, without minimal industry-wide operational standards and expectations it is difficult for businesses to know what that training involved, how they were evaluated, and what skills they have.
Figuring out who is qualified requires businesses to either do their homework on all of the testing institutions out there, trust that the pilot they are hiring knows what they are doing, or spend time and money training them in house to ensure proficiency. This can be a barrier for businesses due to the risks, time, and cost they take on when hiring a pilot. Even when someone gets a high-quality education it is difficult to tell them apart from the rest.
For the drone industry to grow, pilots need to be able to step relatively quickly into a wide range of highly technical industries and deliver high-quality results and be prepared to support, manage, and grow that industry’s drone program. Businesses need to be able to confidently know that they are hiring that caliber of professional. This is where colleges can provide industry with the skills and businesses with the confidence to build drone programs.
Colleges are subject to rigorous accreditation procedures that ensure every person who graduates with a degree or certificate is qualified to work in that field. Businesses know this, which is why most request a college education as a pre-requisite for hire.
The qualifications required to meet the needs of a business vary by industry. Are you hiring a remote pilot to do inspections of pipelines, monitor the progress of a construction site, produce a 3D map of a building or an area, take photos of a property for a realtor, produce cinematic footage for a film, or something else? A pilot with experience in one field may not be qualified to meet your specific needs.