The use of drones has a disruptive effect on many established industries. Starting with aerial photography and videography. What makes a professional drone pilot and how to become one.
Today’s drone pilots therefore come from a wide variety of industries or are career changers, for example with background knowledge in aircraft model making or flying or the respective industries in which they are now active. A classical training consisting of theory and practice as a drone pilot does not yet exist. The proof of knowledge, which is offered in many places and is required at least for drones with a take-off weight of more than 2KG (in Germany), offers at least the necessary theoretical basic knowledge to be able to operate a drone legally (at least in Germany).
1. What are the requirements to become a drone pilot?
First of all: drone pilot is not a “real profession”!
There are professions in which it makes sense to fly with drones, for example in industrial maintenance in power plants and industrial facilities or as a site manager on construction sites or as a surveyor in road construction.
Unlike in manned aviation, drone pilots (in Germany) do not require a medical examination (Medical). However, this may change in the future, possibly for the operation of larger and heavier drones in 2020 or 2021.
In principle, there is no such requirement to date. In Austria, however, the situation may be different.
Anyone who wants to operate drones professionally and under difficult conditions should
- nicht fehlsichtig sein, bzw. eine gute Sehkorrektur haben
- körperlich und geistig fit und belastbar sein (da Einsätze teilweise in schwierigem Gelände oder auch in engen Industrieanlagen stattfinden können.)
- über überdurchschnittliche feinmotorische Fähigkeiten verfügen
- überdurchschnittlich geistig leistungsfähig sein
- über perfektes englisch in Wort und Schrift verfügen (die meiste Spezialsoftware ist in englischer Sprache)
- über einen Kenntnisnachweis (Drohnenführerschein) verfügen
2. Theoretical training as a drone pilot
The previously mentioned drone driving licence allows you to move drones with a take-off weight of more than 2KG (regarding to German law) in public airspace (as of 2019). The UAV operator licence is not standardised, i.e. each training company has an individual catalogue of questions which is approved individually by the LBA (Luftfahrtbundesamt). Therefore the theoretical training differs greatly. To get started as a professional drone pilot, the drone operators licence is at best a first step.
Drone pilots must be perfectly familiar with the equipment used:
- Aircraft and remote control
- the batteries.
- the individual controllers / flight control
- the sensors.
- up to the used camera system
As a rule, a handful of drones is needed to be able to work, depending on the area of application.
Besides the knowledge about the drones, it also plays a role what is to be inspected. If you constantly inspect corrosion on bridges, you should have at least a superficial knowledge of bridges, even if you don’t want to become an expert. The same applies of course to roofs, GIS models or thermography. Especially the function of the sensors plays a dominant role for professional drone operations. In the vicinity of reinforced concrete structures, power lines, transmission masts, etc., compass and GPS sometimes do not function or no longer function reliably. In other environments other sensors or the radio transmission between drone and ground station do not work anymore. A professional drone pilot always has to deal with details. This makes the job challenging and equally interesting. Oh well: Nothing works without English knowledge!
3. Practical training as drone pilot
4. Professional qualification
Like I said, drone pilot’s not a “real” profession!
Most of the drones fly more or less by themselves. The crucial thing is to be familiar with what you want to inspect – or to be able to create some other added value for the customer.
5. How long does it take to become a drone pilot
6. What are the job opportunities
Basically, there are countless areas of application in which drones are used and good people are always wanted. However, getting into the job is not easy and requires great flexibility, willingness to learn and travel, as the missions often take place at changing locations.