Job opportunities abound for drone pilots, an untapped sector ready and waiting to train students, address the lack of skills in the industry and boost the country’s employment rate.
Statistic South Africa’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) in February indicated that employment grew by 235 000 and the number of jobseekers declined by approximately 92 000. This means the country’s overall unemployment rate dropped by 0,6% to 26,5%; slightly down from 26,6% last year.
According to Sean Reitz, CEO of United Drone Holdings (UDH), the drone industry could contribute further to job creation.
He says a wealth of employment opportunities exists in the drone industry, provided candidates are the “right fit” and that suitably structured and compliant companies are authorised to trade by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
The drone industry has the potential to create around 1 000 commercial job opportunities in a variety of sectors, he says. However, according to Reitz, a “limiting factor” companies face is the red tape involved in the regulation process, which makes it challenging to get licensed.
A PwC Report titled: PwC global report on commercial applications of drone technology, published in 2016 estimates that the global market opportunity for drone applications sits at $127-billion. Applications for drones to reduce cost, improve efficiency and most of all increase safety exist in most industrial sectors and it is here that significant job creation can be achieved.
Reitz says running a drone business in South Africa is not the domain of the “sole trader” and this is where the challenge lies. “One needs to think about drones in a similar light to an airline company, where people, capital and expertise come together to create an organisation that can deliver on the safety mandate of the CAA,” he says.
UDH offers solutions to commercial and industrial industries looking to optimise workflow, security, and fundamental business functions by using drone technology. One of its core focus areas is on training drone pilots.
“Training is important, but so is recruiting the right candidates for this training. It starts with the individual. Much thought needs to go into whether you are suited to becoming a drone pilot. It’s not an easy job, it’s not a 9-5 job and it’s not always glamourous either,” Reitz says.
UDH’s RPAS Training Academy offers the Gold Standard in Drone pilot training and guarantees that students will undergo a programme that is endorsed by the CAA. Since 2016 UDH has trained 130 students to qualify as drone pilots. It has also added industry-specific courses aimed at creating capable and competent operators that can successfully be deployed into a team on site.
“Through our training we ensure our graduates are ready to tackle problems and conditions in this complex field. For our own operations, we aim to enlist the right people with the right level of commitment for this programme. And with a drone license, the right attitude and capability, candidates are likely to manage a team and run a full operation within a year. The opportunities for growth are endless,” he says.
Candidates require no past experience as drone pilots to enlist in the programme as initial training comprises of how to fly an AKY-6 Kopter (6,5kg) and a Discovery Aircraft with a 1,5m wingspan under the guidance of experienced drone pilots. Once the RPL course has been completed, students proceed to complete task-specific courses which include the use of specialised software and sensors.