Drone jobs likely to fly into agriculture, mining industries

WINNEMUCCA, Nev. — Until recently, drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) were used primarily by the military.

However, increased interest in drone usage has led to increases in usage in industries such as mining, agriculture and real estate. Along with that growth comes the need to pilot these vehicles. 

While the drone industry is still in its infancy, the demand for drone jobs will grow in areas such as piloting, manufacturing, maintenance, research and design.

The predicted wave of new jobs is expected to spread beyond the usual tech hubs as companies like Amazon look to build logistics infrastructure.

Drone-related hiring appears concentrated in big cities — not just in traditional tech hubs like San Francisco and Seattle, but also near Phoenix, Atlanta and Minneapolis.

However, the biggest growth may come in areas such as agriculture and mining where the work can be dangerous or employees scarce in locations far from urban areas. 

According to Future Farming, the agricultural drone market is expected to grow from $1.2 billion in 2019 to $4.8 billion by 2024. The rate of growth in the agricultural industry is 172% year over year.

Drone researchers say that drones allow real-time monitoring with more precision previously used satellite imagery, is more cost-effective and safer than conventional monitoring. North America is expected to hold the largest share of the agriculture drone market.

Because of technology like infrared thermal imaging, advocates say drones are capable of acquiring images with high resolutions that are ideal for detecting various crop issues more quickly than human field detection. 

Another industry seeing growth is the mining industry. The mining industry's adoption rate is 198% year over year.

The mining industry uses drones to monitor stockpiles, and pit surveying, and future exploration projects. In fact, recent job descriptions for two mining surveyor positions in Nevada required experience using drone technology and the ability to obtain a drone pilot license. 

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires that commercial drone pilots have a license, which costs $150 and must be renewed every two years.

The FAA Aerospace Forecast released May 2019 (covering fiscal years 2019-2039) reports that about 116,000 remote pilots held certificates by the end of 2018, approximately 10,000 more than the agency expected.

At present rates, Part 107 remote pilots will outnumber instrument-rated pilots (of all certificate types) by 2023.

The FAA estimates that with more than 900,000 individuals now registered to operate one or more drones weighing .55 pounds or more, about 1.2 million small drones are being flown for non-commercial purposes.

The number of hobby drones (always an estimate because an individual hobbyist can register any number of aircraft under the same number), grew 13% year over year.


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