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In-Depth Jobs


Issue no 45, 5 - 11 February 2022

 

Career Opportunities In Drone Sector

Nidhi Prasad

The use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems/Unmanned Aerial Vehicles most commonly known as Drones for a variety of applications in military, civil and commercial domains has become common. In India, the military forces have been using drones for a variety of missions including surveillance and reconnaissance, border patrols, tracking enemy movements and to conduct search and rescue missions. In the last few years, use of drones in civil and commercial sectors for a diverse set of applications has gained traction.

The drone space reached its inflection point in 2013 when Amazon announced that it would seek to experiment with drones to make deliveries. Since then, we have seen an explosion in the usage of drones and drone based services in the retail and commercial space. Drones are being explored extensively across an array of industries, including, but not limited to, construction, real estate, ecommerce, agriculture, utilities and energy, financial services, and media and entertainment.

Exploration of commercial drone solutions – catching up with global trends

The drone space in India is catching up with that in other nations and gaining considerable momentum. According to 6 Wresearch, the Indian UAV market is poised to grow at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 18% during 2017–23 in terms of revenue. Although these numbers will continue to be led by the long range UAV segment, medium and mini-UAVs are also poised to register healthy growth. Data provided by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) indicates that with 22.5% of the world’s UAV imports, India tops the list of drone-importing nations. These are numbers primarily for military purposes, but commercial drones are showing healthy growth as well. A study conducted by BIS Research had predicted that the market for commercial end-use of drones might supersede the military market by 2021, cumulatively hitting approximately US$ 900 million.

While business enterprises have jumped to the opportunity of manufacturing and operating drones, the need for skilled manpower to propel this emergent industry has also grown by leaps and bounds.

TYPES OF JOBS IN DRONE INDUSTRY

Drone Pilot/Remote Operator: If you want to become a drone pilot, you need to get your training from a training centre approved by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). Upon completion of the training and upon submission of required documents, you will be registered as a ‘Remote Pilot’ with a ‘Pilot Identification Number’ as well as ‘Unmanned Aircraft Operator Permit.’ Eligibility: You need to be 18 years of age and have a 10th pass certificate. You will also have to clear a medical examination as specified by the DGCA, and a background check. The maximum age limit for a remote pilot licence for commercial activities is 65 years. No pilot licence is required for operating nano drones and micro drones for noncommercial use. But to operate any other type of drone you need to get a licence and training. Duration: The duration of courses varies according to the types of drones you want to operate. Most drone training programmes are less than two weeks long. To get trained, you do not need to own a drone. The training institutes provide all necessary training kits, including the drone.

Training Institutes: Currently, there are 8 training centres authorised by the DGCA in India from where one can study and get trained in drone technology: 

·         Alchemist Aviation Pvt. Ltd, Jamshedpur 

·         Ambitions Flying Club Pvt. Ltd, Aligarh 

·         Flytech Aviation Academy, Secunderabad 

·         Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Udaan Academy, Amethi

·         Pioneer Flying Academy Pvt. Ltd, Aligarh 

·         Redbird Flight Training Academy Pvt. Ltd, Baramati 

·         The Bombay Flying Club, Mumbai 

·         Telangana State Aviation Academy, Hyderabad Course

Fees: The fee varies depending on the type of course. Course fees start from Rs 30,000 and may go up to around Rs 1 lakh, depending on the type of course and institute.

Skills Required: Even though the basic requirement is just a 10th pass, one must also have basic understanding of avionics, weather, wind speed, and other mechanics. Drone operations are rapidly expanding in various sectors, and each sector has its specific requirements. Therefore, drone pilots looking for jobs in specific sectors like filmmaking, geosensing, construction, mining, real estate, agriculture, and telecommunications should ideally have sound understanding of the sectors of their interest.

Institutes: Other than the institutes approved by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) as well as other technical universities in association with private organisations offer courses on the design and development of drones.

Drone Pilot Trainers: Certified trainers shall be required to train people who aspire to be drone pilots and undergo the certification process. This role assumes great significance as good training will lead to safer flying of drones.

Hardware Engineers and Technicians: Drone manufacturing and maintenance has become a growing industry and many tech enterprises including Startups have opened up job opportunities for design engineers, mechanical engineers, aeronautical engineers, Research and Development teams, assembly engineers, on-field support engineers, analysts and instructors.

Courses: Courses on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) design introduce the designing and sizing process in simulated conditions, stability analysis and prototype testing for UAV technology. Added knowledge of electronics is always a big plus in this domain. Anyone from any background can pursue a course on UAV design.

Software Engineers: To effectively fit in various industries, there has been increased development of software for drones. By integrating image optimization software and machine learning with drone technology, operators can inspect assets in real-time quickly and efficiently. Software development team include industry-specific technology specialists who create custom drone software solutions for use in construction, agriculture, land surveying, media, aviation, real estate, mining, forestry, and other drone mapping services fields. The most common type of software used in the drones include drone mapping software, drone inspection software, drone swarm software (facilitates simultaneous controlling of more than one drones for purposes such as missionbased or choreographed aerial light shows), enterprise drone solutions for data analysis, software for AI capable collision avoidance and landing calibration, photogrammetry software that transforms imagery into maps and 3D digital terrain models into custom drone surveying solutions. In addition to this, all enterprises engaged in the drone business have their internal Program Management Software as managing a drone program is a complex operation, covering many functions. Looking across the drone software market, you will find a plethora of products targeted at one or a few of these functions. For example, there are popular software products focused only on flight logging, or only on equipment management, or only on data management. However, using a single software solution for as many functions as possible - work ordering, resource management, flight planning and tracking, program reporting, compliance, and data management – helps the company streamline operations and manage their program more efficiently. Therefore, software developers and software maintenance and support staff play crucial role in the drone industry.

Maintenance & Repair Staff: For an enterprise involved in drone business, having a structured drone maintenance and repair setup will eliminate many potential safety hazards in the field, reduce unproductive downtime due to malfunctioning equipment, and lessen instances of poor quality data acquisition. Maintenance staff handle procedures ranging from preflight inspection to internal aircraft inspection to bench testing to complete overhauls, dictating the frequency with which these should occur.

Data Processors & Analysts: There are many different ways to use drone data. Sometimes, simply capturing a few pictures and reviewing them on-site is all that is required. But, to get the most value out of drones, many images need to be captured and have them processed and analyzed. In other words, a company needs to create a data product. There are many different data products. In some cases, a company uses industry-specific software platform and an internal data team to process and analyze the data. In other cases, they will send the captured data out to a third party. The role of data analysts is to create such data products by properly organizing and uploading the data collected by the drone for processing. Depending on the type of inspection, data may be organized by location, mission, flight number, and/or an asset identifier system (for example, solar fields may use row numbers; wind farms may use turbine and blade numbers, etc.). Such data may be saved to a cloud storage system and shared with the client.

Drone Operations Manager: Most companies will designate someone to lead the charge, be an internal champion, and most importantly, manage the many aspects of the program. Depending on the size of the organization and how it is structured, this can be one person from a central location, or it can be several people managing operations in their region. Typically, this would be the Drone Operations Manager who is responsible for ensuring all the functions of the program are running smoothly, whether accomplished in-house or outsourced. The Drone Operations Manager must be an excellent communicator as the job will require coordination between many different parties. Also, the ability to respond to emergency situations and high-pressure events is important. Managing a corporate drone program requires the coordination, oversight, and execution of a wide range of tasks and functions. The Drone Ops Manager will work with a team that might include fulltime and/or contract pilots, trainers, drone engineers, and data analysts, among others.

Drones have recorded increased adoption in the recent years owing to their widespread capabilities—from simple photography to surveillance, monitoring roads and railway lines and even delivering essentials to customers and to remote locations. Moreover, even amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, drones played a crucial role in carrying out a host of activities—from surveillance and sanitisation to temperature checks and public broadcasting—across the country. This not only helped in minimising the risk of virus spread, but also helped authorities in ensuring the safety of healthcare and police personnel. Moreover, the liberalised norms have helped in increasing the application of drones that were previously limited to government agencies alone. With this, more companies and startups have geared up their investments in this sector. India is focusing more on being ‘Aatmanirbhar’ (self-reliant). With the waiver of pilot licenses in certain categories, reduced formalities; launch of new drone corridors and incentivising local manufacturers, drones could change the scenario across various sectors in the country as well as generate large-scale employment opportunities.

 

(The author is Counseling Psychologist & Career Consultant. She can be reached at nidhiprasadcs@ gmail.com)