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Jhon Lewis

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I’m a second semester freshman at a college which has an aerospace program. I am in the pilot program right now, but I’ve heard it’s cheaper if I get it outside of class, so I’m probably going to move majors. While flight dispatch would be the safest option since it provides a stable amount of money, I am just not interested in working from an office. However, my school also has a UAS degree, which I am very interested in. I really want to take it alongside flight school, but there are two major drawbacks I wanted to bring up, and I wanted to ask the opinion of those within the industry itself, either to calm my fears or steer clear of a bad decision.

Here are the two major things I worry about:

  1. Getting a degree in something I could just learn from YouTube:
While I am not in the program, I can still get into technical conversations with those within the industry, even though all I’ve done is watch a lot of YouTube videos on it. The only real point in a degree in it I see is that it would be easy and it would make me more hireable.

2.Oversaturation and lack of job security:

This to me is the much bigger worry because the truth is drones are incredibly easy to fly. I clearly remember a Walmart advertisement in which a mom buys her 3 year old daughter a phantom 4, and she flies it around no problem. The fact that the most unrealistic thing about that is that the mom got her daughter what was essentially a 1500 dollar toy and not the fact that a 3 year old could easily fly a drone troubles me about the future of this business. The whole industry itself, at least for drone pilots, seems to be run on the ignorance of clients that pay 300$ an hour for a job they could give a minimum wage worker for a similar product. We are starting to see it with real estate pilots as companies like dronebase turn what were once 200+$ jobs into 15$ jobs and I am worried this kind of mindset will spread throughout the industry. Now granted cameras in general are easy to operate and there’s a difference between billy on his IPhone and an expert cinematographer, but for most people it’s hard to tell the difference between an amateur and professional drone shot. There’s also a chance the FAA could also regulate it to hell and make it similar to airline pilots making the pay go up, but with that there are no guarantees and there would be a major pushback from hobbyists.

Now I can’t predict the future, and I’m hoping there is something I’m missing, because if there was security in the business I would hop on board in a heartbeat, but so far I just don’t see it. I want to be proven wrong, but I also want to make the right decision for my future. Is it financially safe to invest in becoming a drone pilot full time? Or should I just keep it as a side hobby and go for the safer route of flight dispatch? I am looking for any and all opinions.
 

BigAl07

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Hello and welcome to the Commercial Drone Pilots forum. We are glad to have you on board. I'm confident you'll find lots of helpful and enlightening information throughout this forum.

If you haven't already done so, consider adding your LOCATION to your forum profile to help us know where you are when you post suggestions or ask for assistance. It helps a lot more than you might think especially because this is an international forum with members from all parts of the world. Here's a direct link to yours:

https://commercialdronepilots.com/account/personal-details

I'm afraid #2 is the key thing here.

I'd add a #3: Possible heavy regulation in the future. It's still a fairly new and untested market and we don't really know what's going to happen 3 years, 6 years, 9 years down the road.

While I think getting an additional degree in sUAS is an excellent idea I would suggest it not be your major money maker just in case the bottom falls out.
 

R.Perry

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Well I'll give you my two cents, and that is all it is probably worth. I'm and ex commercial pilot, started flying in 1978 so I have just a little experience. Today there is a real shortage of airline pilots, and if you can deal with the boredom and the seniority board of the airlines it is a good career, or has been. However don't expect to fly the aircraft much, auto does that for you, just don't fall asleep.
If your single there are a lot of social opportunities in the airlines as well.
I did crop dusting long enough to use up eight of my nine lives then got out of it.
Is there going to be drone work, sure, how much is anybody's guess. If you really love the drone work, you can do it on the side while making a good living in commercial aviation.
When I got into the industry all the Vietnam pilots were getting out with tons of hours, and the old WWII pilots hadn't retired yet so the industry was saturated with pilots, today is a different story.

Good luck
 

MapMaker53

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Simply based on the current state of the industry and unknown future UAS professional requirements that may be needed for employment opportunities, my recommendation would be to major in something that you know you will provide a well-paid career and minor in the UAS program, if that is an option for you. That way you have the best of both worlds and have a leg up on those who have no UAS degree at all. Personally, I feel any UAS curriculum should include drone building and racing because mechanic & electronic knowledge for UAV repairs and great flying skills will be what any future employer will be looking for.
 

mick

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As others have said you are best off doing something that will ultimately guarantee stability in the future. I have a degree in manufacturing engineering myself and i am time served as a toolmaker. I left that sector to pursue this but always have it to fall back on ultimately.
 

flockshot

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I suggest that you look at the curriculum for the UAS program, and from that you will see what that degree is preparing you to do. Also, look at what people with that UAS degree are finding in the marketplace relating to job availability and wages.
No mater what line of work you go into, it must fit you. Remember, you will be doing it for a long time.
I expect that the guy who can bring in the most paying customers, will be the guy who can demand the best pay.
Good luck.
 
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Gord955

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I believe professional, properly trained sUAS pilots will be in demand, it's my opinion that you need to find an industry that interests you and specialize, sUAS may not be your core business but a big part of it. In my case I'm a property and building inspector, I can do my job without a sUAS, by adding a sUAS to my tools has put me ahead of the curve, I get a lot of inspection jobs because of it. All industries are so saturated now, we need to find ways to set us apart from the competition. You see so many great people on this forum who are killing it, just look at what Outta Control is doing, simply amazing.
 
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Outta Control

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...just look at what Outta Control is doing, simply amazing.

I appreciate the complement but I am like all of y'all. Struggling and scratching for the that next job.

In fact, professionals like you inspire operators like me who would go the next mile to learn and be educated in your craft. An operator much partially be in your shoes and understand their work that would make other professionals' job more efficient.

I meet all sorts of professional when I teach at DUU. I've met roof inspectors, solar panel designers and inspectors, commercial building contractors, infrastructure maintenance professional and the average Joe's that seek to move into sUAS. There is no University research paper that I have read nor some article from a sUAS software company that could replace the genuine experience of a professional doing their job without sUAS.

Another fact is that, on our structure inspection course, I do not teach my students. I guide them through a "firehose" of information but we also share each other's knowledge and experience to benefit the whole class. The results is that student come away with new friends they can connect on and I come off with further knowledge and draft ways sUAS can make it more efficient.
 
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Gord955

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Another fact is that, on our structure inspection course, I do not teach my students. I guide them through a "firehose" of information but we also share each other's knowledge and experience to benefit the whole class. The results is that student come away with new friends they can connect on and I come off with further knowledge and draft ways sUAS can make it more efficient.

So very true, collaboration and innovation will keep us ahead of the game.

As Bruce Wayne said to Cat Woman " I was told that safe was unbreakable" she replied "No one told me it was unbreakable" haha!
 
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GadgetGuy

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The most overlooked skill set needed to run any business is marketing and sales. Master those skills first, and you can successfully run and thrive in any business! :cool: Only those successful at marketing and sales are making any money as commercial drone operators, and even they are now struggling. Learn marketing and sales in any way you can, and you can then write your own ticket in whatever field is most lucrative at the time! :)
 
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LUIS MARTINEZ

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I’m a second semester freshman at a college which has an aerospace program. I am in the pilot program right now, but I’ve heard it’s cheaper if I get it outside of class, so I’m probably going to move majors. While flight dispatch would be the safest option since it provides a stable amount of money, I am just not interested in working from an office. However, my school also has a UAS degree, which I am very interested in. I really want to take it alongside flight school, but there are two major drawbacks I wanted to bring up, and I wanted to ask the opinion of those within the industry itself, either to calm my fears or steer clear of a bad decision.

Here are the two major things I worry about:

  1. Getting a degree in something I could just learn from YouTube:
While I am not in the program, I can still get into technical conversations with those within the industry, even though all I’ve done is watch a lot of YouTube videos on it. The only real point in a degree in it I see is that it would be easy and it would make me more hireable.

2.Oversaturation and lack of job security:

This to me is the much bigger worry because the truth is drones are incredibly easy to fly. I clearly remember a Walmart advertisement in which a mom buys her 3 year old daughter a phantom 4, and she flies it around no problem. The fact that the most unrealistic thing about that is that the mom got her daughter what was essentially a 1500 dollar toy and not the fact that a 3 year old could easily fly a drone troubles me about the future of this business. The whole industry itself, at least for drone pilots, seems to be run on the ignorance of clients that pay 300$ an hour for a job they could give a minimum wage worker for a similar product. We are starting to see it with real estate pilots as companies like dronebase turn what were once 200+$ jobs into 15$ jobs and I am worried this kind of mindset will spread throughout the industry. Now granted cameras in general are easy to operate and there’s a difference between billy on his IPhone and an expert cinematographer, but for most people it’s hard to tell the difference between an amateur and professional drone shot. There’s also a chance the FAA could also regulate it to hell and make it similar to airline pilots making the pay go up, but with that there are no guarantees and there would be a major pushback from hobbyists.

Now I can’t predict the future, and I’m hoping there is something I’m missing, because if there was security in the business I would hop on board in a heartbeat, but so far I just don’t see it. I want to be proven wrong, but I also want to make the right decision for my future. Is it financially safe to invest in becoming a drone pilot full time? Or should I just keep it as a side hobby and go for the safer route of flight dispatch? I am looking for any and all opinions.

I would answer you with another question? What do you want to do as a career?

If it's flying manned aircraft, get your degree and join the military. The USAF has a pilot shortage, guessing all service branches do at the moment. Aviation is all about flight hours in your logbook; let Uncle Sam pay for them. Get a ton of hours flying heavy transports or bombers and the airlines will trample over each other to hire you after you fulfill your obligation.

If you want to be a professional UAS aviator, you have a few options. Colleges are very good at following trends; seems like every Hicksville Community College is offering UAS degrees using DJI drones. That is not where the big money is. The USAF is taking college graduates, making them second lieutenants, putting them through Phase one of their undergraduate pilot program (essentially a private pilot license in Cessnas), then training them to fly the big boys (Predators and Reapers). Bonus: you'll likely stay stateside (but not guaranteed:rolleyes:) flying over Afghanistan and assorted locations from a comfortable air conditioned trailer in Nevada and other stations. Keep in mind, the UAS take-offs and landings are done by a pilot on-site; once the bird is up, the stateside pilots take over and fly the mission. So some "lucky" UAS pilots do get to go to where the bullets and bombs are...

Another option for non-college applicants is the Army. They are training enlisted men/women to fly the big boys at Ft. Huachuca(AZ). Of course, it is the Army so you can find yourself dodging bullets in sandland flying smaller UAVs. The payoff is you get to build up your logbook with heavy UAS hours, not DJI drones. Once you leave the service a career with the big boys in the UAS industry (Boeing, Grumman, Northrop) is very achievable. These big companies usually want heavy UAS experience AND an FAA Commercial Pilot Certificate w/instrument rating. You can easily complete this during your enlistment w/ GI Bill.

AND there's always civilian government work, CIA, DHS, and contractor work (at Ft. Huachuca the bulk of instructors are ex-military contract civilians, making big bucks).

I envy you...to be young again.....:(
 
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R.Perry

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Luis gave you some very good advice. Military aviation if you are qualified for it is a great way to get started. Lets face it, the military now has pilots flying drones and hitting targets and that is a pretty cushy job, don't need to worry about getting shot down, dealing with the boredom of long flights, go home every night ans sleep in your own bed, not bad deal.
If you have an aggressive nature then there are always the option of fighters, lot more fun. If you want to be a real aviator, join the Navy then you can land on aircraft carriers, fun with a lot of pucker factor.

The thing is the military is very strict on medical. you must have 20/20 vision, that is the big issue and I honestly don't know why.

As for commercial aviation such as the airlines, if you can sit stagnate for hours at a time, then it is a good career, for me, I couldn't do it. I suppose if you stick with short commuter flights it could be ok.
 
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