How to become a professional UAV Operator

What makes a professional drone pilot and how to become one

UAV Operators today

The use of drones has a disruptive effect on many established industries. Starting with aerial photography and videography. Today’s drone pilots therefore come from a wide variety of industries. A classical training, consisting of theory and practice to the drone pilot does not yet exist so far. There are different “drone operator’s licenses” in many European countries, but a European directive is to be expected in the near future. Even with a PPL, you can’t operate drones in most countries.

Steps to becoming a professional UAV operator

What are the requirements for becoming a UAV Operator?

Other than in manned aviation, drone operators (at least in Germany) do not need a medical examination. However, this may change in the future, possibly for the operation of larger and heavier UAVs. Basically there is no such requirement so far. But the job demands a lot from the operator. If you want to operate drones professionally and under difficult conditions, you shouldn't be visually impaired / have a good vision correction, be physically and mentally fit and able to work under extreme pressure, as missions can sometimes take place in difficult terrain or in narrow industrial facilities. In addition to the physical constitution, especially above-average fine motor skills and mental performance also plays a dominant role. The control of the drone is a thing that takes place to 80% in the mind. The other 20% are fine motor skills. A professional drone pilot should also have a certificate of knowledge (drone operator's license).

Theoretical training as a UAV Operator

In the vast majority of countries one has to pass an exam to be allowed to operate drones in public space. The local laws are extremely different. There are also countries where a pilot licence is required for larger drones. Beyond these legal requirements, drone pilots must be perfectly familiar with the equipment. Starting with the aircraft, the remote control, the batteries, the individual controllers, sensors and the camera system used. As a rule, you need a handful of drones, depending on the application. In addition to the knowledge about the drones, it also plays a role what is to be inspected later. If you constantly inspect corrosion on bridges, you should at least be familiar with bridges, even if you don't want to become an expert. The same applies to roofs, GIS models and thermography. In particular, the function of the sensors plays a dominant role for professional drone missions. In the vicinity of reinforced concrete structures, high-voltage power lines, transmitter masts, etc., compasses and GPS may no longer function reliably or at all. In other environments, other sensors or radio transmission between drone and ground station no longer work. A professional drone pilot always has to deal with details.

Practical training as a drone pilot

Although there are practical flight training schools, in our experience practical training is not a process that starts and ends at some point. Many talented UAV Operators come from the field of FPV racing and know the technical details and operating limitations of their equipment down to the smallest detail. If you want to learn the practice, you start with a "toy drone". For example, a drone like the Hubsan X4 is suitable. But there are numerous other suitable, small and inexpensive drones. These drones are usually much harder to fly than the larger drones that are used professionally later. After some time the control of the drone takes place completely subconsciously, as if one would ride a bicycle. There are many model airfields where you can practice. In winter there are many places where you can fly in sports halls. With some drone pilots the practical training goes faster than with others and there are also some, which come with still so much practice never on a good level to be able to operate the drone in each situation surely. After some time the control of the drone takes place completely subconsciously, as if one would ride a bicycle. There are many model airfields where you can practice. In winter there are many places where you can fly in sports halls. With some drone pilots the practical training goes faster than with others and there are also some, which come with still so much practice never on a good level to be able to operate the drone in each situation safely.

Qualification for specialist areas

Professional qualification is an important issue: the drone only carries a payload. A payload can be a camera or a sensor or a combination of both. Different payloads and possibly also different drones are used, depending on whether you want to photograph, film, inspect or measure. Every drone, every payload and every environment in which a flight is to be carried out has its individual requirements for pre-flight preparation, mession execution and post-mission processing.

How long does it take to become a professional UAV Operator?

If you have previous knowledge and are ambitious, you can complete the necessary theory lessons within 2-3 weeks and acquire your first practical knowledge at about the same time. As a UAV Operator there are many potential areas of application. Beginning with aerial photography and aerial videography, over surveying and cartography up to thermography and inspection missions. Each field of application requires specialist knowledge, which must be acquired either on one's own or through training courses.

What are the job opportunities as a UAV Operator like?

Basically there are countless areas of application in which drones are used and skilled people are always wanted. However, getting into the job is not easy and requires a high degree of flexibility, as the missions often take place at different locations.

Professional Operator Team
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Confined space inspection in a power plant
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UAV Tank Inspection
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