The Delivery Drone Pilot
If you’ve spent some time exploring Trade Five, you’ve learned about skilled trades that have existed for thousands of years… and are still going strong.
Now for something completely different — here’s a skilled trade that’s so new, the industry is still writing the rules on how it’s done.
The very first legal drone delivery happened in 2015. The following year, the FAA took important steps toward developing a standard rulebook for drone operators, making it a lot easier for the average person to get a drone license.
The future of delivery drones is still unclear, but most experts agree that one day in the not-so-distant future, the skies will be filled with drones, buzzing overhead and completing thousands of tasks, large and small.
The world market for piloted drones is forecast to double by 2022. Another study predicted more than 100,000 drone jobs by 2025. Many of these flights could be for the specific purpose of making commercial deliveries.
So if you’re interested in robotics and flight, a drone license is a fantastic way to get started and will help you pursue one of tomorrow’s hottest jobs: drone pilot.
Right now, the big money in delivery drones is coming from Fortune 500 companies that are interested in developing drone delivery routes. Amazon, Google, Walmart and Apple have explored using drones to make deliveries; so have Dominos and 7-Eleven.
But experts are also interested in the possibility of using drone delivery as a kind of courier service for one-time, high-value deliveries. For example, getting a vial of life-saving medicine to a rural town; transporting a crucial machine part to a remote outpost where workers are conducting research; or delivering emergency supplies to a ship at sea.
Jobs like these will probably be the first regular work for delivery drone pilots.
IMPORTANT: For the most part, delivery drone pilot is not a job that’s currently hiring. There are still some challenges that need to be solved before drone delivery is an everyday thing.
So if you need to get hired immediately, this probably isn’t the job path for you. But if you’re a younger person exploring your options for the future, drone jobs could be a great opportunity — and you can lay the groundwork now for an amazing career.
Plus, while deliveries via drone are still mostly hypothetical, drone pilots can also put their skills to work right now in other ways, including:
- Taking aerial photography and film for real estate companies, construction firms and the movie business
- Inspecting crops from above in the agricultural field
- Assessing weather and environment conditions for scientific research
- Aiding search and rescue operations
- Assisting law enforcement and firefighters
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A DELIVERY DRONE PILOT IN GEORGIA
When you have a fleet of flying robots at your command, you never know how things will go. Here are some tasks that will probably occupy your average delivery drone pilot from day to day.
- Plan routes for the UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle)
- Run tests and conduct maintenance on the drone system
- Pilot drones on test flights
- Do demonstration flights for potential investors or customers
- Monitor weather and other environmental conditions
- Remotely operate a drone to deliver items and packages in a variety of conditions
- Stay up-to-date on all FAA rules and regulations
WHAT IT TAKES TO BECOME A DELIVERY DRONE PILOT
This futuristic gig isn’t for everyone. To succeed at drone pilot jobs, you’ll need to be…
- A great multi-tasker. Experts predict that when drone delivery systems are fully operational, each drone pilot will be responsible for overseeing several drones at a time. Drones will be designed to avoid obstacles, but you will still need to remain alert while monitoring several UAVs at once.
- A team player. Using a drone to deliver a valuable package to a far-flung location will take coordination with lots of folks at all points in the supply chain. So, participating in a fully developed drone shipping network requires big-time cooperation and collaboration. You need to be the kind of person who can work well with others to get the job done.
- A lot of people depend on drone pilots to do their jobs safely and well. You will have to be the reliable type and always follow safety procedures to the letter.
- Commercial UAV operations are a new and fast-changing field. No one knows exactly what the future will hold! This is a good career for the gutsy type, who’s excited to navigate the twists and turns of a cutting-edge technology and follow the future wherever it leads.
IS THIS YOU?
Here are a few aspects to consider as you decide whether a career as a delivery drone pilot might be right for you.
- A leg up. With billions in new investment and experts predicting that “drone pilot” is the job of tomorrow, getting started now will give you a big advantage and help you secure great job opportunities in the future.
- UAV pilots are needed in many fields, and those opportunities are increasing by the year. If logistics and delivery aren’t the gig for you after all, you can put your FAA 107 drone license and your flight skills to work in a whole bunch of other industries — filmmaking, photography, agriculture, construction, law enforcement, disaster response, telecommunications and more.
- Legal uncertainty. It’s not entirely clear where this whole drone delivery thing is going in terms of the law. Under current U.S. regulations, drone pilots are only allowed to fly their drones as far as they can see them — which makes delivery pretty limiting. (Which explains why all the currently hiring U.S. drone jobs use UAVs for birds-eye views rather than long travels.) But the laws around UAVs are changing fast, and the investors backing them are hopeful that big companies will soon get permission to fly drones beyond pilots’ lines of sight.
A FEW DETAILS OF INTEREST
How much do Delivery drone pilots make?
There are not yet reliable salary statistics for drone pilots. According to Monster.com, “Drone pilot jobs have a wide salary range. Entry-level salaries in this field typically start around $30,000 per year, while salaries for experienced candidates can reach $150,000 or more.”
How do you become a delivery drone pilot?
Before you can fly a drone for work, you need a drone license. This license is called the FAA 107, and it’s administered by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). You can take the FAA 107 test at testing centers all across the country.
Here’s what Wired.com said about the test in August 2016:
“The test covers heavy-duty aeronautical know-how, with topics like aviation weather sources and evaluation, maintenance and pre-flight inspections, drone performance, and official radio communication procedures, since pilots will occasionally have to call into air traffic control towers.”
(See “HOW TO ACE THE FAA’S NEW TEST AND BECOME A PRO DRONE PILOT,” by Aarian Marshall in Wired. Important reading… for obvious reasons!)
For help with that test, you can get training at private training centers. Tuition will probably run you about $3,500. And while you don’t need a college degree to take or pass the test, some college education in aviation will definitely help — and improve your chance of getting the best drone pilot jobs.
FIND PILOT DRONE TRAINING
HELP WITH THE FAA 107
APPLY FOR A SCHOLARSHIP
If you’re a high school senior and want to learn how to become a drone pilot at one Georgia’s aviation training centers, why not apply for a Trade Five Scholarship? Scholarship? Yes! Take me to the application >
OUTLOOK FOR DRONE PILOT JOBS
There are no hard and fast numbers on the outlook for drone pilots, but with the global market for drones expected to double by 2022, a wave of new jobs is coming.
In 2013, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International predicted 100,000+ new UAV jobs by 2025.
PricewaterhouseCoopers, a firm with lots of expertise in the economy, says the global market for commercial drone technology could get to $127 million by 2020.
Point is, the outlook seems bright!
THIS IS HAPPENING
Watch this quick news story on how a clever team of drone pilots & business founders are using UAVs to deliver life-saving medical products to remote villages.
LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
Download this handy PDF for some facts on-the-go.