We get asked all the time “How do I get hired as a commercial drone pilot?” and after over 4 years of training remote pilots, we have some seasoned words of wisdom.
The FAA recently released a report stating “Remote Pilots are set to experience tremendous growth following the growth trends of the non-model sUAS sector (commercial). Non-model activities may require almost 350,000 RPs in 5 years, a three-fold increase, providing tremendous opportunities for growth in employment associated with commercial activities of UAS. Potential for RPs may enhance even more if larger UAS are used in commercial activities and urban air mobility becomes a reality in the near future.”
So with a forecast of booming growth in the commercial drone industry, what does it take?
Beyond just passing the FAA Remote Pilot written test (for now), you will need to know how to fly a drone professionally. The current industry demand is for “skilled” pilots with solid core flight skills. This means you need to know how to fly without the GPS training wheels. Flying everyday and practicing precision flight skills and emergency procedures is what we’re talking about. This means taking the time and money to invest in your future by getting trained in those specific industry environments. Also learning what type of UAS equipment you will need, how much it costs and where to get it. And don’t forget insurance, who now more than ever can control your destiny by specifically asking for proof of professional drone flight training depending on the mission risk.
WORKFLOW SKILLS –
You will need industry specific “workflow” training to be competitive or you will become frustrated as why you’re not getting hired. This is not buying the best, most expensive drone that almost flies by itself. “Workflow” means understanding the solution to what the client wants, not that you are just a good drone pilot. Workflow is what type of drone, sensor(s), flight and data processing platforms are best for what the deliverable needs to be (what the client wants). You are providing the solution to the client, not promoting how good you are. You need to know what specifics are required for data collection for that industry mission. Flying around power lines, over live construction sites, acres of crops, poor weather, manned aircraft traffic, etc. just to name a few, are skill sets you need. Truly understanding what it takes to work in the commercial drone world with real world problems you can expect to encounter and how to prepare for what can disrupt your workflow and schedule, or worse.
Next you will need a drone with a good quality sensor, 20MP is ideal for most commercial RGB work. This will open up your data collection possibilities to accommodate the demand for higher resolution imagery essential for accurate data collection, and/or you may need a multi-spectral sensor to see beyond what the human eye can see. The aircraft itself must be operationally solid for the mission – payload capability, flight environment compatible, etc.
Understanding what the current UAS compensation market looks like, using proper grammar in speaking and emails, show the client how you can be his or her solution – listen to what they need! Show up early, return calls and emails promptly – be reachable. Dress the role, keep your equipment clean and arrive organized. Give your batteries lots of love, it’s all about the batteries!
STAY PLUGGED IN –
If there is one thing for certain with this industry, you must always be a student and always be learning or you will not be competitive. The fast and ever changing technology, industry and regulatory requirements simply demand it. You must commit to being a part of the commercial drone community – join social media groups and participate, listen to podcasts, subscribe to digital news feeds.
MARKET YOURSELF –
Once you’ve accomplished the above, put yourself and your skill sets out there. Use ALL the digital platforms – Dronehive, Dronebase, Droners.io, DroneUp and more. Want to be your own boss? Take a business development class and find a mentor – don’t sit around! You’ll need insurance too, for this we highly recommend Skywatch.ai – tell them we sent you.
Having a career as a successful, commercial drone pilot is very real and achievable as long as you understand the true requirements to enter the industry. Make a plan and stick to the plan, create habits that lead to processes that will lead to success. Oh yes, and never quit on yourself!