'$100,000 a year': Headhunt for drone pilots in USA
Drone pilots and engineers are certainly careers with a future in
the US. Although commercial drones aren’t legal yet, reports
reveal that companies are already willing to pay unbelievably
high salaries, in the expectation of rules softening.
International corporations, such as Amazon, have recently started headhunting experienced engineers, who can build the unmanned aircraft. They will also need pilots to operate them.
“Amazon Prime Air is looking for flight operations and certification personnel for flight testing our UAS technologies,” the Amazon job offer states. “You can expect to collaborate on test plans, plan the test evolution, and execute the flights while working closely with our flight engineering and flight test teams in Seattle.”
According to a 2013 report from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, as many as 100,000 new jobs will be created in the first 10 years after the use of drones becomes legal in US airspace.
Currently, only drones used for recreational and filmmaking purposes are allowed. However, industries, such as farming, security, oil and gas exploration and construction, are eager to use them.
For the moment, federal regulations prohibit the use of commercial drones. Highly anticipated for nearly six years, new rules are expected to limit such flights to daylight hours, below 400 feet and within sight of the person at the controls, who must also have a license, The Wall Street Journal reports.
US universities are trying to meet the demand. Since 2008 the University of North Dakota has run a bachelor's degree course in unmanned aircraft systems and has received a $25 million endowment. It also trains its engineers to operate drones.
Students are lured by high future salaries and over 60 graduates are already employed at major drone manufacturers. According to Al Palmer, director of the center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems at the University of North Dakota, drone pilots are paid about $50 an hour, CNN reported.
“We keep inventing courses that have never been taught before,” Jerry Lemieux, president of the Unmanned Vehicle University in Phoenix, told the MarketWatch website. He recalled one graduate, now working as an unmanned aviation vehicle analyst at an aviation manufacturing company in Florida – and he is earning $100,000 a year.
Amazon is aiming at delivering small packages within 30 minutes flying distance. The Seattle-based company intends to test a fleet of unmanned delivery drones overseas – in the UK and Cambridge. Some tests will also be carried out in Australia.