We have all heard of commercial pilots, who are absolutely critical in the aviation space. After all, we cannot imagine the aviation industry without pilots, can we? There is another category of pilots whose contribution is invaluable to many — drone pilots.
For Aarav Unmanned Systems (AUS) — a manufacturer of post processed kinematic (PPK) technology drones in India — drone operators or pilots are the most critical talent.
Apart from pushing the technology benchmarks and boundaries for enterprise-grade drones, AUS has intensively worked on data collection, processing and analytics techniques to increase the meaningful impact and value addition of the data collected by survey-grade drones. The Company offers these services to solve critical problems for state governments and private players in the country.
For carrying out such operations, AUS needs drone operators to travel to the field and visit remote locations such as coal mines or government development sites, where they fly drones and help them collect various useful data. No wonder, drone operators are the most critical talent for the Company, as they are the ones who actually visit the sites and collect the data for processing.
A career as a drone operator or pilot is very new and an emerging career path for many in India. Being an unconventional career path and way of earning a livelihood, it is quite difficult to find talent for this kind of a job.
“If I say I want 100 drone pilots, I may not get them so fast from the Indian talent market,” says Vipul Singh, co-founder & CEO, AUS, who goes on to share that the demand for such talent is rather high.
“We generally look for freshers for drone operator roles — students who have just completed their diploma in engineering”
Vipul Singh, co-founder & CEO, AUS
“Currently we do require talent to fill 300 plus positions for drone pilots,” shares Singh.
Another critical aspect is that, in India, no formal training is being imparted by any institutes to drone pilots.
So how does AUS go about hiring such talent?
“We generally look for freshers for such roles — students who have just completed their diploma in engineering,” shares Singh. The Company notifies engineering colleges and institutes about its requirement of drone pilots, and that is how students apply for these jobs.
It is not mandatory for a person to have an engineering background to make a career in this field. “It is enough to be just tech savvy,” asserts Singh.
However, Singh also mentions that for a drone operator, psychological preparedness is more important than technical skills.
Drone operators need to be high on emotional intelligence too, since they may have to take some critical decisions while out on the field.
Candidates also need to be physically fit, as they have to travel to remote locations and work in unfavourable conditions at times.
Being a fairly new profession, AUS finds it difficult to get ready-made talent for these roles. “We induct the individuals and train them for 32 days on the technical aspects of operating drones. They are then assessed before being declared fit to be sent out into the field,” says Singh.
The Company actually provides certification courses in drone operations to the selected candidates. They are also given a drone pilot license, which is approved by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
Singh believes that anyone with a little interest can look forward to a great career as a drone pilot. “A certified drone pilot holding a licence can expect to earn anywhere between Rs 30,000 to 35,000 a month. Moreover, with increased experience in field operations, there will be opportunities to move into managerial positions or head operations in the field,” says Singh.
Drone operators are also expected to ensure and look into the maintenance of the drones. “I think it is quite an exciting and adventurous career. Drone operators get to travel to remote places and fly drones in different locations and terrains,” points out Singh.
In addition to people working in the field and collecting data for the firm, there is also a need for people who can analyse and interpret this data. This data cannot be used unless skilful people can make sense out of it and derive meaningful information from it.
Apart from drone pilots, another critical talent for the Company are the hardware design engineers, who help design and manufacture new drone technologies.
Other software engineers, data scientists, cloud architects and people with data analytical skills are also vital for the Company.
According to Singh, AUS prefers to hire a mix of freshers and experienced talent.
However, many a time, it makes sense to hire experienced talent as hiring freshers comes with the challenge of longer onboarding time. It may take three to six months for a fresher to actively start working and contributing.
While core competencies are definitely vital for the job, Singh shares that AUS evaluates people primarily on their aptitude. “We have five levels of aptitude rounds, because we need people who can work on complex projects and operations,” enunciates Singh.
Given the high demand, good talent is hard to come by in the tech talent market, and remains a challenge for AUS. However, Singh points out that it is the purpose of the job, which attracts people to AUS.
“The thought of serving a much larger purpose and solving a critical problem for people actually drives people to work in a challenging environment,” states Singh.
The future of the drone technology sector is rather bright and is expected to grow at 40 per cent in the coming years, reveals Singh. Aarav Unmanned Systems itself is witnessing a lot of profitability. This makes it the right stop for people looking to make a career in an emerging sector, which can take them to new heights.