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Posted at: Sep 12, 2018, 12:11 AM; last updated: Sep 12, 2018, 12:11 AM (IST)DRONE TECHNOLOGY

Flight plan for success

Almost 1,00,000 drone-related careers like aerial photography, mapping and modeling are set to flood the jobs market over the next few years

Gauri Chhabra

Do you wish to be a part of an industry that is about to become an important part of our daily lives? Drones or unmanned aerial vehicles are going to be as important as automobile industry in the next decade. Job opportunities in this field are also going to increase substantially. 

UAVs have already become an important source of aerial surveillance and are finding  increasing applications in civil as well as military fields. The military use of UAVs is pretty obvious as these provide an enormous amount of intelligence without harming any human being. The military’s effective use of UAVs in recent conflicts has highlighted their successes.

Currently, it is a fast growing research area in the defence sector. 

A drone, also known as an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) or an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), is an unmanned aircraft that is flown remotely, and can range from a small personal aircraft that can be lifted by one person and cost a few hundred dollars, to military surveillance and attack aircrafts that cost over $21 million, can have a wingspan of up to 130-ft and can be equipped with missiles.

Roles and responsibilities

Although at face value flying a UAV seems remarkably similar to playing a video game, the consequences of every ‘pilot’s’ actions are  serious. Unmanned planes are at the forefront of gathering aerial intelligence around the globe, so in addition to being a skilled operator, the pilot must be able to analyse intelligence imagery in order to make quick decisions about when to pursue a lead or get out of dodge. Each UAV pilot must have the mettle to decide if and when to pull the trigger on someone half a globe away.

After completing a course with specialisation in UAVs, students can get placed in top aeronautical industries and government agencies in India with the following roles and responsibilities:

  • Conduct air reconnaissance, surveillance, targeting and acquisition missions.
  • Plan and analyse flight missions.
  • Perform pre-flight, in-flight and post-flight checks and procedures.
  • Launch and recover air frame from runway.
  • Perform maintenance on communications equipment, power sources, light/heavy wheeled vehicles and crane operation.
Career scope

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or drones are usedbasically for aerial photography, search and rescue, traffic control, environmental and wildlife monitoring, surveillance and reconnaissance, precision agriculture, air sampling, firefighting, power line inspection, postal delivery and many more applications. The unmanned systems industry is presently having tremendous growth. As a result there is an increased demand for unmanned vehicle systems designers. 

Almost 1,00,000 drone-related careers are set to flood the jobs market over the next few years. These will range from aerial photography and/or cinematography to mapping and modeling, not to miss thermography. These careers range from full-time to contract-based work, even internships across many  industries and varying levels of experience required.

Drone Pilot

This role is probably the most straightforward one to understand. Many potential employers do ask for a candidate to hold a suitable UAV certificate and knowledge of rules and regulations for flying things in the air. You will obviously control the drone to perform a wide variety of tasks and services that a particular company offers. This could be aerial photography or remote-aerial survey for instance. Flying the drones is the simple bit, but the skills that wrap around this are a bit harder to define. One needs to be clear on the following: Why is the company using drones? For what purpose? If for surveying or inspection do you have other skills that would “guide’’ how you operate the drones.

Many other companies will also consider existing field engineers and technicians and train them on the job. Depending on who you ask, this is likely to become the norm in the future of this industry. 

Other trends in the ‘business’ strongly show that companies are bringing drone technology in-house to supplement their existing services. For instance, bridge inspectors use 3D scanning for remote monitoring etc. The types of jobs are huge, ranging from wildlife conservator to package delivery. 

Development

Obviously with a large demand for drones at the moment, the actual physical supply of these is another potential career. One can pursue career as a drone developer. These positions will clearly require some education in relevant fields like aeronautical engineering, robotics, mechanical engineering etc. Experience is, of course, always a bonus, but you could start out as an intern and work your way up from there. Pursuing a career with drone producers will obviously require key skills in STEM.

Marketing

Clearly, one could try to develop one’s own flying machines and try to sell these. Or consider becoming a drone merchant . If you are looking for employment rather than building your own business, then you could consider becoming a sales rep for manufacturers or suppliers alike. They often ask for experience in the use of drones. Of course, you could also work for defence contractors to build the ‘war’ drones of the future. 

Maintenance and customisation

Massive growth in the demand for drones, especially leisure ones, will inevitably lead to demand for spare parts and maintenance. Obviously many users are likely to want to do as much maintenance and repair as they can. But everyone’s skill base ends somewhere, plus they will need spare parts. As with any new technology, the lust to customise will inevitably lead to career opportunities designed customisable pieces for the existing models.

Training

Careers in education crop up a lot. Obviously, youll need experience in operating drones in the first place, not to mention teaching, but this could be a very rewarding route. If you have other skills that can be ‘wrapped’ around the operation, all the better. Drone operators of the future will need tuition from someone. Why not get ahead of the curve and position yourself to deliver this vital service.

Summing up

The drone industry encompasses many other industries. Savvy entrepreneurs are likely to be able to exploit niche domains in the market and expand the diversity of career opportunities. You may be able to think up a novel use for drones and carve your own career path. At the end of the day, it is ...your call.

Course Content

The basic course in this field is the MTech being offered to engineering graduates. This course introduces the initial designing and sizing process for rapidly growing fixed- wing UAV technology, integrated with its performance and stability analysis and prototype testing.

In the course students learn about creating agile micro aerial vehicles that are able to operate autonomously in cluttered indoor and outdoor environment. Besides, they also get an introduction to the mechanics of flight and the design of quadrotor flying robots and be able to develop dynamic models, derive controllers, and synthesize planners for operating in three dimensional environments. 

Institute watch

Colleges in India and across the globe are meeting the demand for commercial drones by offering certificates, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees on piloting, engineering, and repairing drones.

  • School of Engineering, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, UPES, Dehradun, is offering MTech in unmanned aerial vehicles
  • Hindustan Institute of Technology and Science, Kelambakkam, offers MTech in Avionics with specialisation in unmanned aerial vehicles
  • Vel Tech Dr.RR & Dr.SR Technical University, Chennai, offers  two-year Master of Technology Programme on Unmanned Aerial Vehicle to provide  graduate engineers knowledge and skills to develop their own unmanned systems for typical applications and need.
  • Indian Institute of Drones, Noida, affiliated to the Consortium of Unmanned Vehicle Systems(CUVSI) India, under the aegis of International Foundation for Aviation and Development (IFFAAD), offers a Diploma in Multirotor Pilot Course and Diploma in Fixed-Wing Pilot Course
  • TechEagle,Lucknow is developing DRONEs/UAVs of 1-5 meter( wingspan), 1-10kg(Payload), 1-5 Hours(Flight Time), and Modular for Companies, Research Institutes and individuals and also imparting technical and practical knowledge in the field of UAVs.

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