Career Advice Needed

Jun 4, 2017
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I need some career advice when it comes to the drone industry. About 10 years ago, I was persuaded by a family member to get into the drone industry. He got me into trying for a private pilots license, since the FAA had not yet established Part 107. After doing some flight lessons, we learned that a medication that I was on at the time was an automatic disqualifier. My family then suggested that I go to graduate school to study drones and then we would get a waiver from the FAA during my studies so I could fly drones and I would then get the necessary knowledge, training, and experience while in graduate school. Unfortunately, things did not go as planned or promised at the university I attended. The entire university graduate program was cut from 16 weeks to 8 weeks, which I deemed insufficient for certain courses, the UAV program fell into a terrible state due to certain staff leaving, and, at least for part of my attendance, I could not participate in most drone activities due to not having a private pilot's license. I did not get the training and experience that I was promised. All I got to do was write a bunch of drone papers and focused on making it out of graduate school alive.

About two years into my attendance at graduate school, I did get my Part 107 certificate, but it was from a service outside the university. I managed to get a little bit of drone flight time in, but because of the poor state of the graduate program and its compressed schedule, I had to prioritize studying over flying. My time availability for drone flights for the next 18 months to 2 years before graduating was very limited due to study priorities. Many of my graduate studies focused on drone propulsion and ways to extend drone flight time and range. My graduate thesis focused on possible propulsion solutions to extend drone flight time and range. I graduated with a Professional Masters in Technology degree focused on unmanned aircraft. I graduated in 2019, just six months before COVID arrived in the western half of the USA. Due to a combination of school burn out and the pandemic, I had not flown my drone for about 3 years.

Late last year and early this year, I studied and recertified my Part 107 and started flying again. I also took a look at the condition of the drone market after the pandemic. According to my research, it looks like the drone field has mainly succeeded as being an add-on tool or service to existing industries such as oil & gas, inspections, and aerial video and photo shoots. Upon further research and from what I am seeing on job postings, it looks like the drone pilot jobs require pilots to have knowledge or skills in the job fields that the drone pilot positions are posted at. Only a small number of job postings stated to provide training for missions like thermals and 3D mapping. Many of the job postings seem to be contract positions. Also, many of these job postings also require national and/or international travel for weeks-long durations which I am not too crazy about.

I wish to add that during the pandemic, I refreshed some of my computer knowledge and computer building skills since computer science was the field I was into and studied for my my Bachelors degree before pursuing drones. I believe that some of my computer-related skills would be transferable to drones. I was not very good at software or HTML coding.

I never received any training for drone operations such as video and photo shoots, thermals, or 3D mapping. I have experience flying a drone. I am open to taking a job position that provides training for such operations and open to local travel, possible close regional travel, and occasional national or international travel. However, I am not interested in drone pilot jobs that require me to spend 90% of the time doing non-drone tasks such as oil & gas work, climbing radio towers, or planting crops or requiring constant national or international travel. I would like to find a job in the drone field as a researcher, analyst, or other appropriate job position, where I could research and study how new and existing technologies both inside and outside the unmanned aircraft field could be either applied to or adapted for use on drones that weigh under 55 lbs. I am also looking for computer related jobs such as building, setting up, and supporting computers for clients as an alternative job option.

I do enjoy flying drones. My question is, are there any good paying drone job positions that I should look at applying for based on the information that I provided, should I look at additional training for missions such as thermal and 3D mapping, or should I focus my job search on the computer field instead?


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