The new DroneUp training, testing and research center is supporting rapid growth for the company and a career path for drone pilots. A DRONELIFE Exclusive interview, from the floor of Commercial UAV Expo.
by Paul Rossi, DRONELIFE Contributor and Chief Operations Officer and Chief Pilot at Nine Ten Drones.
It is 2022 and Commercial UAV Expo has fully recovered from the impact Covid-19 had on the conference since 2019. We are seeing crowds of newly licensed drone pilots and curious uncertified individuals attending Commercial UAV to find the abundance of work and employment opportunities that experts have been projecting for years. This year DroneUp is standing out above the rest when it comes to hiring and providing opportunity for professional growth.
DroneUp recently announced the launch of the DroneUp training, testing and research & development center at Richard Bland College in Petersburg, VA. The company currently employs over 300 people, and is expecting the organization to double in size by the end of 2022. DRONELIFE sat down with Tom Walker to find out how the new facility will support DroneUp’s rapid growth and to gain insight into how pilots might prepare and position themselves for a job/career with DroneUp.
DroneUp Training Center
The training center will provide DroneUp with the foundation needed to move its employees through a career pathway progression: there are opportunities for people with and without a remote pilot certificate. Walker explained that an employee can grow from “loader to visual observer, visual observer to safety pilot, safety pilot to pilot, and pilot to trainer.” A remote pilot certificate is not required to serve in the role of loader, but one must be earned prior to progressing into the visual observer and piloting roles.
The training DroneUp has developed provides each new hire with opportunities for growth. Once hired, every employee goes through online onboarding for a period of two weeks to introduce employees to the company culture, values and mission while preparing them for on site training. Online and in person training is helping DroneUp to grow its culture of safety, standards and consistency.
On-site training in Virginia is happening across 135 acres of land that affords DroneUp the space needed to perform comprehensive training that covers abnormal and emergency procedures. “We cannot train pilots on emergency procedures over a Walmart parking lot,” says Walker, who says the training site will be operational before the end of September. Hands on flight training for new hire pilots will be diverse, not focusing on a single application but focusing on autonomous flight operations for a variety of applications to include drone delivery, tower inspections, mapping and more.
The Limits of Autonomy
New hires going through training are educated about the potential flaws and weaknesses in autonomy. A drone, just like a traditional aircraft, is susceptible to failure even with redundant systems and backups in place. Remote pilots must understand how abnormal or emergency situations can be identified and how to respond accordingly. DroneUp is leveraging its 135 acres to train operators on abnormal and emergency procedures, ensuring each is capable of both autonomous and manual flight.
For future pilots from high school, college, or transitioning professionals interested in career opportunities with the top drone services companies in the country, Walker says there are three key subjects areas where individuals can develop and communicate their skills.
General Aviation Knowledge – get your remote pilot certificate, but don’t stop there. Get a copy of the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge and read it. Purchase a copy of the Chart Supplement for your region and investigate the airports within your community or the area you are applying to work.
Logistics (Unit Economics / Procurement / Supply Chain) – Do your initial learning on YouTube University and look for courses at your local community college.
Automation & Technology – Get out and fly your drone as much as possible, even if its just for recreational purposes. Gaining experience and flight time while monitoring a drone in autonomous and manual flight is valuable whether for recreational or commercial purposes. The focus on safe operations doesn’t change between recreational or commercial flights and the exposure to automation is all the same. Plan waypoint flight routes and mapping missions during your recreational flights to help you gain confidence and experience with drone technology.
Investing in People
DroneUp is not just hiring people, they are onboarding team members and investing in them immediately. Through 4-6 weeks of combination (remote/in person) training, DroneUp is committing the same amount of training time and attention to their new hires as some airlines. Tom Walker and DroneUp are looking to double the size of their current workforce and understand that promoting from within, providing the best initial training possible and clearly communicating career pathways/progression is the way to accomplish that objective.
Paul Rossi is the Chief Operations Officer and Chief Pilot atNine Ten Drones, a N. C.-based drone services company, training center, and reseller. Rossi is also the Outreach Coordinator for the North Carolina Chapter of AUVSI. A graduate of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and the U.S. Army Aviation Logistics School, Rossi is passionate about the aviation industry. He holds both a private pilot’s license for manned aircraft and a Part 107 Remote Pilot’s Certificate. You can see more videos and product information on the Nine Ten Drones YouTube channel.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.