Career as a drone pilot

The increasing use of drones across different sectors has resulted in exciting career prospects

September 30, 2023 02:47 pm | Updated 02:47 pm IST

Drones are utilised in various fields from agriculture to defence.

Drones are utilised in various fields from agriculture to defence. | Photo Credit: Freepik

Of late, there has been a sharp rise in the demand for drone technology. Drones are unmanned aerial devices or UAVs that are computer operated. There are many types of drones such as multirotor, fixed-wing, single-rotor helicopters, VTOL, and drones in a box or autonomous drones. Each has a specific function and is utilised in various fields from agriculture to defence. Their essential functions are surveillance, mapping, photography, search-and-rescue operations, and delivery services. The increase in demand for drones has opened a new career opportunity as a drone pilot.

The drone market is expected to reach a turnover of ₹12,000-15,000 crore by 2026. The Government of India has launched multiple schemes to promote the the sector and aims to position the country as a global drone manufacturing hub. The drone training and education market is estimated at $12 million in 2022 and is expected to reach $349 million in 2030.

Getting licensed

To be a drone pilot, one requires a Remote Pilot License (RePL), authorised by the Director-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). The DGCA also approves Remote Pilot Training Organisations (RPTOs) to conduct the training. India has 52 approved RPTOs. A candidate has to submit documents such as the Aadhar details, Class 10 or equivalent marksheet and passport. The training process is divided into two parts: theory and skill. The first includes drone rules, basic principles of flight, radio telephony, aerodynamics of hybrid, rotorcraft and aeroplane, drone data and analysis, and so on. The candidate has to complete the ground training and clear the theory test to start the second phase. This depends on the type of drone such as rotorcraft, hybrid or aeroplane, and includes simulator training and test, flying with an instructor and solo, basic assembly and maintenance. Both theory and practical tests are based on the type of drone the student chooses.

Eligibility and categories

The minimum qualification to enrol for an RePL training course is Class 10 pass with at least 50% marks. The minimum age is 18 years. The training is classified into three categories: Basic, Special and Advanced. In the basic category, maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) must be less than 25 kg. The drone can only operate in a green zone with a 400 ft vertical limit. In the Special category, the MTOW must be less than 150 kg and the drone can operate in all zones of the airspace map and can fly beyond the 400 ft vertical limit. In the advanced category, the MTOW is more than 150 kg and the drone can fly in all zones of the airspace map and more than 400 ft. The remote pilot is also expected to operate in aeronautical bandwidth.

The Government of India has given the drone segment the required push for it to emerge as an exciting career option. With many institutes offering excellent courses and eligibility criteria being fairly simple, the demand for drone pilots is increasing, as drones are being employed in many areas.

The writer is CEO, ICRI.

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