I receive calls or emails frequently from people who love aviation and want to convert their love of aviation and their manned piloting skills into a career in the exciting and growing field of unmanned aviation.  You’ve come to the right place!

I recently received the following well-organized email and wanted to share my response with all of you because I know many of you are wondering about the answers.  Please understand that these responses are generalized and may differ based on a person’s skills, background, and career goals.  These answers are also based on my experience working daily with job seekers and clients in this career field, not on a scientific or formalized study.

I hope the following information is helpful to you.  If you have additional questions regarding this general information or more specific information related to your career goals, please submit your resume, send me an email or give me a call.  All contact info can be found on the website at UnmannedPower.

Hello Whitney,

I am interested in utilizing your service to find employment in the field of unmanned piloting. The problem is that I’m not sure how one gets started in this field. There isn’t exactly a wealth of information on the subject. After spending some time on your website, I was really hoping you might be willing to answer a few questions that came to mind:

1. What are the minimum educational and/or certification requirements for the majority of careers in this field?

Today, the three primary differentiators for employment as an unmanned pilot or operator are experience, clearance, and credentials.  Companies who hire pilots prefer to hire people who have been trained in a specific platform, or in a platform similar to the one being operated.  While companies are still willing to certify or train an inexperienced pilot, they may not have to do so.  With the draw down of the war, the supply of employable and trained pilots is larger than it was just a few years ago.

Second, since most of the current flight operations are still supporting the military and defense related activities, most positions require a security clearance or the ability to obtain a clearance.  (You can get some answers to your questions about security clearances here.)  

Third, credentials are becoming more important as differentiators in a market that has an excess of trained personnel.  While currently there are no industry-wide minimum education requirements, employers may look at education as a key discriminator in otherwise similarly-qualified candidates. Credentials can apply to either specific UA systems or to broader applications such as FAA licensing.  Many UAS have manufacturer-specified training requirements for qualification and currency.  For FAA licensing, please see the answer to #4 below.

2. Are there many available positions all over the country? Specifically, how is the market in Arizona at the moment?

While UAS employers are located throughout the country, most of the positions require the pilot to deploy.  Deployments can range from 6-12 months depending on your contract.  The FAA does not, except in very limited and specific circumstances, allow unmanned aircraft to fly in the national airspace (NAS).  I predict the demand for pilots to operate vehicles in the US will increase exponentially once the NAS is opened to UAS.

3. Are you familiar with education/training opportunities?  What is their value in applying for positions?
Yes, I am familiar with some of the training opportunities that are available.  I think these courses are filling a niche and may offer a competitive advantage in the next phase of our industry.  I encourage you to talk with the course administrators, recent graduates, and hiring managers to ascertain the potential value for you.

4. How often is having a private pilot’s license a requirement for employment?

A pilot’s license is not usually required for pilot’s who are deploying and operating unmanned vehicles overseas.  Current FAA guidance requires that, in most cases, professional UAS pilots that fly here in the US must hold at least an FAA Private Pilot License.  Many experienced military UAS pilots who wish to transition to professional positions here in the US will need to complete the FAA licensing requirements to stay competitive in the commercial space.  For those just entering the industry, FAA credentials can be a key differentiator for those employers who are open to hiring and training new UAS pilots. 

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