Shortage of talent is a major concern for the budding drone industry
Demand for talent in the drone sector is set to rise with India edging closer to mass adoption of drones. However, fulfilling that demand poses a major challenge.
The drone industry has the potential to create close to 100,000 jobs directly or indirectly over 5-7 years, according to data from staffing company TeamLease Digital, but skill shortage will be felt acutely, experts contended.
“There is a shortage of drone pilots and this shortage is expected to grow as demand grows. In the next 2-3 years there will be a lot of drone usage,” said Mughilan Thiru Ramasamy, chief executive and co-founder of Skylark Drones, a software company that offers drone solutions.
About 20% of all jobs in the drone industry are for pilots, pointed out Gautam Vohra, vice-president and business head, telecom and engineering staffing at TeamLease. “As many as 750 to 900 job openings are listed every month,” Vohra said. The demand is expected to grow by 15-20% in the next year, he said.
There is a shortage of skilled pilots for land mapping, professional videography and specific use cases, concurred Ashish Aggarwal, vice president, public policy, Nasscom, an industry body.
The industry will require pilots who can operate drones in different conditions, surveyors who will interpret drone maps, and programmers to write code based on artificial intelligence (AI) for the drones to operate. This will be all the more important when the drone industry begins catering to industries such as real estate, agriculture, thermal imaging, entertainment, logistics, and healthcare.
The government plans to address this challenge by starting courses for skilling in select technical institutes in all states as part of the Drone Shakti initiative announced by the finance minister while presenting the budget. Industry experts estimate there are 15-20 drone schools in the country.
Training for flying drones is mostly done through flight simulators. However, they require certification to fly the drones. Earlier, certification from a drone school was submitted to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) through the Digital Sky platform, following DGCA issued a drone pilot licence.
The civil aviation regulator recently made changes to the rules, to allow a drone school to issue remote pilot certificates. DGCA also made remote pilot certificates optional for operating a drone up to 2 kg for non-commercial purposes, though certificates will still be required for commercial purposes.
“This will allow DGCA-approved drone schools to issue remote pilot certification through the Digital Sky portal,” Aggarwal explained.
Specialized training is required to operate a drone under different conditions, Ramasamy pointed out.
Operating a drone for crop monitoring, mine surveying, or detecting an issue in a chemical plant is different and more challenging than operating a drone for marriage photography or surveillance.
“The pilots need to know the surroundings and safety protocols specific to each industry before they can operate drones,” he explained.
There is also a huge demand for skilled drone operators, software engineers, quality inspectors, service engineers and drone engineers, according to Vohra.
However, drones are underutilized contended Karan Kamdar, chief executive officer of 1 Martian Way Industries, which develops software and embedded AI drone solutions.
“AI is a segment that can facilitate real-time vision and real-time sensing of the environment. Applications for this in the industrial space are tremendous. There are a lot of things that can be done with drones such as examining boilers and chimneys. Applications with computer vision can play a key role here,” he pointed out.
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