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With much of the global economy in turmoil and many previously safe blue-chip employers and industries having to pivot and reinvent themselves, the job market has been radically disrupted in the past 12 months.

As careers are consigned to history and as new roles emerge that even the most ambitious futurist would struggle to define; one industry that keeps growing exponentially is the small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (sUAV), or commercial drone sector.

Expected to be worth an estimated US$92 BN by 2030 according to ABI Research, the small commercial drone sector will provide key services and new jobs across every major economic sector.

From healthcare to mining, real estate, telecoms, agriculture, oil & gas, retail, sports, entertainment, law enforcement and more, the future for drone pilots, operators and industry professionals is specialized and plentiful. With so many applications being rapidly developed and now possible with improving legislation, which enables beyond line of sight and flying above urban and populated areas in certain countries; new future careers are emerging daily.

While the sector also promises to open multiple roles in development, operations and marketing and design, we’ve focused on pilot roles, as we believe everyone working in the field should be qualified to operate drones first to give you a greater understanding of the opportunities in the industry.

Here’s a list of some of the most exciting career fields for drone pilots available now and in the future.

Wildlife Conservation

You can protect African and global wild spaces as a drone pilot. As wild refuges and animals come under threat from poaching and human population growth; drones equipped with modern sensors can survey, track and monitor animal populations and environmental health more rapidly and more cost-effectively than ever before.

Energy Inspection and Maintenance

The global energy sector needs drone pilots specializing in energy systems to help conduct inspections on oil pipelines, as well as emerging energy sources such as wind farms and solar farm. These massive and billion-dollar investments are vital to economic growth; and drones mounted with thermal imaging detection sensors are being used to check for leaks, cracks and other maintenance issues quickly and at a low cost.

Fireworks Displays

As more and more, traditional fireworks displays come under pressure from social and civic groups, organizers are turning to drone light displays. This is limited to specialist crews, due to the need for a fleet of drones and sophisticated AI technology to host these engaging and interactive displays. While this is a niche field, learning to operate swarms of drones will prove to be invaluable experience in the future where pilots and operators will have to manage multiple drones.

Search & Rescue

Drones have become popular with Search and Rescue (SAR) teams, who have to operate in isolated areas or at the scenes of natural and man-made disasters. A simple camera provides SAR teams with a faster way of conducting searches, while thermal imaging can help locate survivors trapped under rubble in disaster zones for example.

Media & News

Since drones have become accessible in the last five years, they have become an important part of a news team’s arsenal for story gathering, fact-checking and providing a new perspective on critical issues of poverty, urbanization, land use and more. One of the pioneers of this sector is Code For Africa, an African Founded and Google supported non-profit active in 10 African states.

Agriculture

Precision farming powered by drones is becoming one of the fastest growth sectors for the commercial drone industry and in 2019 was worth $9.9 BN. By using multiple sensors depending on mission objectives, drones can be used for livestock monitoring, spraying, soil analysis, plant health and numerous other applications, the sector is growing fast with numerous opportunities for specialization.

Mining

As one of the largest employers of drone pilots, the mining industry has been at the forefront of employing specialist drone pilots to provide a range of surveying services to improve safety and efficiency on mining sites. Currently, drone pilots provide the following services: stockpile management; before and after blasting and drilling assessments, hazard identification and risk mitigation, exploration and more. As technology develops, mining companies are increasingly reliant on using drones to gather more data to make better decisions and drive mining into the future.

Policing and Security

Drones can have a critical impact in helping police fight crime by providing an extra pair of ‘smart eyes’, and can perform a variety of roles depending on how they are equipped and what sensors they carry. Cheaper than helicopters and able to provide data for real-time analysis, drones are becoming a vital tool in the fight against crime. Currently used mostly for search and rescue, accident and crime scene photos, security and policing applications for drones will become widespread as legislation and privacy concerns are improved around their usage.

Urban and Town Planning

By using drones, urban planners can better understand their environments and implement data-driven improvements. Engineering consulting firm Arup has used drones to gather data in population-dense areas. With many municipalities operating on limited budgets, drones can provide a relatively low-cost way to capture invaluable urban data. For example, drones have helped city planners determine which areas may benefit from green space.

Real Estate

As the largest asset class in the world, estimated to be worth $228 trillion globally, there are a lot of opportunities in both the commercial and residential real estate markets. From aerial photography to roof inspections, insurance, evaluations, master planning, architecture and more, a skilled and qualified drone pilot can provide a significant amount of value to homeowners, asset owners, developers, tenants around maintenance and security.

Cinematography

Drones have transformed video and film production. A specialist skill, the need for competent and skilled drone cinematographers for a fast-growing video on demand industry provides significant opportunities for pilots with an artistic edge. From high profile YouTube stars to movies, television and commercials, drones give new vantage points and techniques for filming, which were previously only available to big-budget productions.

Retail Delivery

While not the most glamourous sounding position, the role of delivering packages via drone will become increasingly important and provide pilots with a unique skill set in what will be a complex and multi-layered industry. With some of the world’s leading companies invested in this process, including Amazon and Google, the future of package deliveries is coming and will require skilled pilots.

Drone Racer

Highly skilled and qualified drone pilots are competing for serious prize money. A global sport, drone racing along with e-sports is set to be one of the world’s most popular and extreme sports in the next ten years.

Medical Pilot

Already being used to deliver blood transfusions in Africa in remote locations, the growth of applications for skilled medical drone pilots is a niche, but evolving sub-sector. With successful applications being developed for organ transport, cardiac support, emergency response and more, the opportunities in medical support, especially in remote and underserved locations is significant and likely to be accelerated post-Covid-19.

Drone Assisted Avalanches

To reduce the risk of avalanches occurring naturally and to prepare ski slopes, controlled explosions are used. However, it’s a risky job, and now drones are being used to deliver explosives more efficiently, safely and more accurately.

Shark Attack Prevention

In Australia, drones are being used to prevent shark attacks. In busy beaches in New South Wales, drones are used to monitor for sharks and when large sharks are spotted close to beachgoers, a pre-recorded message is broadcasted advising the beachgoers to return to shore.

Telecoms and Internet Services

Drones are being used to monitor telecoms stations for damage and maintenance issues and in some cases provide an emergency signal in disaster areas. Facebook is also funding a way to provide internet services via drone but this has proved to be challenging.

Shark Attack Prevention

In Australia, drones are being used to prevent shark attacks. In busy beaches in New South Wales, drones are used to monitor for sharks and when large sharks are spotted close to beachgoers, a pre-recorded message is broadcasted advising the beachgoers to return to shore.

Get Ready For The Future
With Drone Safety & Legal

As you can see the opportunities for employment in the fast-growing drone sector is almost limitless for qualified and experienced pilots. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in this exciting industry, please get in touch with our team today. Go on and invest in yourself and get future ready!

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IN COLLABORATION WITH

UNIVERSITY OF PRETORIA

In collaboration with the Enterprise Division of the University of Pretoria, DSL is excited to offer you a range of specialised RPL short courses in the mining, agricultural and construction industries. Through these courses students will not just achieve a specialized accreditation, but also a SACAA-issued RPL that they can take into the real world and apply immediately.

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