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Have Your Part 107? Drone Service Companies Are Actively Looking for Drone Pilots Right Now

BY Zacc Dukowitz
30 September 2021

Drone service companies are eagerly searching for drone pilots right now.

The problem?

They’re having trouble finding enough qualified candidates to fill all their open positions.

According to data in Drone Analyst’s recent 2021 Market Sector Report, one of the outstanding issues inhibiting drone service providers this year is “Difficulty finding pilots.”

issues-drone-servivce-providers-pilots
Source: Drone Analyst

In 2018, “Difficulty finding pilots” was only an issue for about 6% of respondents, and in 2020 it was 7%.

But in 2021, the number has shot up to 12%.

While regulatory challenges remain in the top 5 list for both sides of the market, we have seen a proportional rise in issues related to sourcing qualified pilots.

– The Drone Analyst

The implication is that there are a lot of companies out there looking to hire drone pilots—but not enough qualified pilots filling those positions.

In addition to service companies, those running drone programs have also had trouble finding pilots, further strengthening the idea that there may be a shortage of qualified drone pilots, or possibly that there is an issue connecting drone pilots with those who want to hire them.

issues-drone-prorgams-pilots

Source: Drone Analyst

As you can see in the chart above, Drone Analyst’s data on issues that inhibit drone programs shows that “Sourcing qualified pilots” shot up from around 6% in 2020 to about 16% in 2021.

The increase mirrors the shortage seen in drone service providers, and implies that there could be lots of companies and public safety organizations trying to hire drone pilots, and not having any luck.

Wondering where the data came from? This year, Drone Analyst’s Market Sector Report drew responses from 1,800 people located in 110 countries, who work in 39 different industries. The report also drew from a series of qualitative interviews.

A Skills Gap or Just a Licensing Gap?

Another interesting data point from Drone Analyst’s report is that drone service providers have seen a sharp rise in sourcing training over the last four years.

issues-drone-servivce-providers-training
Source: Drone Analyst

From 2020 to 2021, “Sourcing training” rose as an issue of concern for service companies from about 2.5% to 9%.

This data might be connected to the hiring challenges that service companies are facing.

As drone adoption grows, so grows the demand for specific skill sets in drone pilots. This means that just having your Part 107 may not be enough to get some of the more demanding—and higher paying—drone jobs out there.

In addition to holding a Part 107, it could be that some drone service companies need pilots with experience in specific types of work, such as roof inspections or inspections in confined spaces.

confined-space-inspection-drone
Source: Flyability

And some of these more niche applications could require special certifications or training. Further, they might call for drone pilots to master specific drone platforms suited to the work, in addition to mastering the skills needed for that work.

As we noted in a recent post highlighting DJI’s loss of market share in commercial drones last year, the commercial drone market is becoming increasingly specialized as it matures. (That article also relied on data from Drone Analyst’s 20201 Market Sector Report.)

In some cases, there are only a handful of drones that can do a certain kind of job, and pilots will need to know how to fly those drones to get those jobs.

So it could be that the pilot shortage shown in Drone Analyst’s data isn’t actually a shortage of Part 107 pilots, but is—at least in part—driven by the need for new, specialized training and skill development among those who are already FAA-certified to fly drones.

Other Key Takeaways from the Data

According to the data, here are the top six concerns for drone service companies in 2021, listed from most to least important:

  • Limited working capital
  • Regulations on Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) operations
  • Illegal operators
  • Difficulty obtaining waivers
  • Slow adoption by industries
  • State + local restrictions

issues-drone-servivce-providers-top-issues
Source: Drone Analyst

Looking at this data captured over the last four years, it’s interesting to see the changes that have taken place in the drone industry.

Back in 2018, we can see that obtaining waivers was a big pain point for drone service providers. As instant airspace authorizations were rolled out via LAANC this issue has subsided, but it’s surprising to see that it still holds such a big position on the list.

It could be that the waivers people are thinking about are for BVLOS—which would make sense, given that BVLOS is second on the list.

Two interconnected issues you see in the data that went away for a few years but then came back again this year are concerns around privacy and data security.

Our guess is that the privacy concerns many service providers faced back in 2018 had more to do with battling negative public perception of drones, while the privacy concerns more on people’s minds these days has to do with worries about whether Chinese drones are secretly recording user data, given how prevalent that topic has been in the media over the last year or so.

demand-drone-jobs-2021
Image source

Looking for work in the drone industry? Check out our in-depth guide to drone jobs for a list of ways you can make money as a commercial drone pilot, and advice on how to break into each one of them.

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