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A profession is born, jobs arise, and talent hunt begins

By Fan Feifei | China Daily | Updated: 2020-03-02 09:11
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Pilots navigate unmanned drones to spray pesticides over a wheat field in a village in Bozhou, Anhui province, on April 18, 2018. [Photo by Zhang Yanlin/For China Daily]

The demand for skilled unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, pilots will continue to rise, as more enterprises and organizations are adopting drones in their operations. This has sparked a boom in drone training schools.

With tech advancement and policy support from the government, drones have been widely used in several fields of late. These include, but are not limited to, aerial photography, agriculture, geological surveying and mapping, mineral exploration, electricity, oil and petroleum pipeline inspection, traffic administration and disaster relief.

Last year, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, the State Administration of Market Regulation, and the National Bureau of Statistics had jointly announced 13 new job titles in the country. Drone pilots are among the new jobs recognized by the country.

Chinese drone maker DJI has seen both a need and an opportunity to provide dedicated training curriculum and training services at scale. It founded the Unmanned Aerial System Training Center in 2016. Called the UTC, it is designed to offer individual and commercial drone operators with professional in-classroom and on-field training.

The UTC program has since rapidly expanded to over 200 training centers, training over 40,000 pilots worldwide, including China, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands and the United States.

Training courses cover agriculture, aerial photography and filmmaking, security, surveying and mapping. Each program consists of theoretical knowledge, flight operations and industrial applications in infrastructure, power lines and power plants, and emergency response situations. Prices tend to vary depending on drone types and the length of individual courses. At the end of each course, participants will need to take part in knowledge and flight tests. Once they successfully pass the tests, they will become eligible to receive UTC certification.

UTC also operates with two independent partners in China: the General Aviation Committee of the China Air Transportation Association and the Aviation Service Education and Training Committee, which is part of the China Adult Education Association.

The graduates can work in various industries such as agriculture, aerial photography, filmmaking or security work. Drone operators' income levels are considered respectable-some of them could earn more than 20,000 yuan ($2,870) a month.

China's drone market is expected to grow annually by 40 percent to have an output value of 60 billion yuan by 2020, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The industry will have an output value of 180 billion yuan by 2025.

Moreover, universities have rolled out departments and courses about drones. Beihang University in Beijing has established an unmanned aircraft systems and engineering department, with an emphasis on scientific research and management.

Other educational institutions, such as the Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Northwestern Polytechnical University have set up similar departments or introduced related courses.

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