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Drone Pilots

The Job

Drones (although many in the industry prefer other terms such as unmanned aircraft systems) are used in a variety of areas. In the next decade, companies will develop many more uses for these handy aircraft. Drones are currently used for:

  • crop monitoring
  • military operations
  • power line inspection
  • border patrol surveillance
  • filmmaking
  • endangered species protection
  • package delivery
  • aerial photography
  • sports broadcasting
  • real estate marketing
  • oil and gas exploration
  • disaster relief
  • forest fire detection and fighting
  • land and archaeological surveying
  • weather monitoring

Typical duties of drone pilots include:

  • conducting pre-mission planning meetings with flight directors and/or customers
  • developing flight plans, checking any notices of potential flight hazards filed with the FAA, re-checking weather conditions, and coordinating airspace integration with any affected controlling agencies or owners of private property
  • launching drones with the assistance of a catapult, by throwing them into the air, or by release from a manned aircraft
  • piloting the drone to fulfill the goals of the mission (e.g., military reconnaissance, checking the degree of flooding in a particular area, monitoring a national park for signs of poachers, delivering a pesticide treatment to a field of soybeans, checking the condition of power lines in an inaccessible area, etc.) 
  • performing preflight, in-flight, and post-flight checks and procedures
  • completing safety risk assessments prior to flight and after action reviews post-flight
  • troubleshooting, diagnosing, and repairing drones in the field (for some positions)
  • recovering the drone at the end of the mission (for some positions)