How to Become a Professional Drone Pilot

What Is a Drone or a UAV?

A drone, or an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), is an aircraft that flies without a human pilot on board, and is instead flown by a pilot on the ground with a controller. The complete system is know as UAS, or an Unmanned Aerial System.

Drone is the most commonly used term, and it covers a wide range of unmanned aircraft from small ones to large ones like the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle shown above.

Reapers are remotely piloted and can linger over battlefields, providing persistent strike capabilities to ground force commanders. This Reaper is deployed to the 46th Expeditionary Reconnaissance and Attack Squadron from Creech Air Force Base, Nev. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Erik Gudmundson).

The use of the drones in military began in World War II and have become increasingly relied upon by many countries around the world. The Israelis have successfully used UAVs as decoys and reconnaissance and to jam the enemy’s communications.  In addition to military use, the drone has become important in civilian use as well.

The challenge for the FAA and NASA, with increasing commercial and recreational drones use, is managing airspace.

Michael Huerta of the FAA recently said “One of the many things we have learned during the past few years is that when it comes to drones, the future can become the present in the blink of an eye. With this in mind, we have to figure out how to manage drone traffic in airspace that is shared with manned aircraft. Toward that end, we’re working with NASA to develop a concept for an unmanned aircraft traffic management system – an effort called UTM.”

His full speech can be read here: “Drones: A Story of Revolution and Evolution”

Commercial Use

Initially, the most common use of drones was by photographers and videographers, largely for marketing purposes. But, there are many other businesses that can benefit from using drones. There is a huge market for drones in agriculture, construction, environmental concerns, engineering, media coverage, real estate, internet and more.

Employment Opportunities

According to the Insurance Journal, “U.S.aviation officials believe that as many as 2.7 million drones will be used for commercial purposes. These same officials predict that small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) or drones ‘will be the most dynamic growth sector within aviation within a few years’ “.

These facts indicate that employment opportunities involving the use of drones will explode as well. Predictions have been made that 100,000 new jobs will be created in the coming years.

Drone use in farming, firefighting, law enforcement, surveying, cinematography, aerial photography, real estate marketing and the insurance industry are a few examples of the new job opportunities.

Pilots, those with engineering degrees, and UAV operators with varied experience will have new career opportunities. An estimate of starting salaries for drone operators, although they vary, will range somewhere between $50,000 to $60,000 per year; although UAV operators willing to work overseas can make much more.

There is a high demand for drone pilots! Find UAV/UAS pilot flight training near you here.

NEW FAA RULES

Brian Wynn, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International and Tony Carmean, of the cinematography firm, Aerial MOB, helped the FAA establish new rules for UAV operation. Below is an explanation, according to these new rules, of the requirements for becoming a drone pilot:

How Do I Receive Certification to Be a Remote Pilot?

Effective August 29, 2016, the FAA has created its first and only airman certificate specifically for the use and operation of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), called the “remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.”

For Commercial Work:

  1. A Part 107 drone airman or remote pilot certificate
  2. Must speak, read and write in the English language
  3. Must be at least 16 years of age
  4. Must not have or not be aware that he/she has a physical or mentalcondition that would make operating a drone unsafe.
  5. Must pass an aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved testingcenter, or hold a current Part 61 private pilot certificate or higher and complete an UAS online training course provided by the FAA.

Government and Military:

UAS pilots in governmental and military settings may need the usual commercial pilot requirements. Bachelor of Science degrees in UAS piloting are offered all over the world. There are several colleges, which are accredited by the Aviation Accreditation Board International, and offer courses in UAV operations.

For the Film and TV Industry:

Pilots must have at least a current Part 61 private pilot certificate.

Recreational Use

You do not need any training to fly a drone for fun. Recreational use has drones flying off the shelves, but the a safety campaign instituted by the FAA has imposed safety guidelines for their use.

In December of 2015, the FAA regulations for UAVs require that drones weighing 0.55 to 55 pounds be registered online. Register you recreational drone here.

They must fly at 400 feet or below, be in line of sight at all times and not be flown within five miles of an airport.

Remember, always avoid flying drones wildfires with aerial firefighting!

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