The drone industry has the potential to address South Africa’s lack of skills and create around 1 000 commercial job opportunities in a variety of sectors.
So says Sean Reitz, SA CEO of United Drone Holdings, a drone-service business. Reitz says the drone industry remains an untapped sector that can contribute to skills training and further job creation.
Reitz’s comments follow recent announcements that show an increase in the number of registered drones in SA. Over a 12-month period, registered drones went from 216 in January 2016, to 465 in January 2017, according to the South African Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
According to Reitz, given the plethora of job opportunities that exist for drone pilots, students can be trained to receive skills in this field.
An unbelievable amount of employment opportunities exist in the drone industry, provided candidates are the “right fit”, and that suitably structured and compliant companies are authorised to trade by the CAA, he points out.
“Training is important, but so is recruiting the right candidates for this training. It starts with the individual. Much thought needs to go into whether you are suited to becoming a drone pilot. It’s not an easy job, it’s not a 9-5 job and it’s not always glamorous either.”
Until July 2015, there were no laws in place in SA, which meant the flying of any unmanned aircraft was illegal. New stringent regulations were set up in response to the growing demand to regulate the sector so SA could take full advantage of the emerging technology.
In other parts of the world, drones are used in agriculture to herd livestock and spray pesticide over crops. Drones are also being used to improve weather prediction and save time mapping archaeology sites.
Locally, in addition to mining and agricultural applications, other industries like safety and security, which include the SA Police Service, forensics and property, are making use of drone technology, states Reitz.
“Drones do things humans can’t. The training programme covers exactly what candidates need to know to become drone pilots and teaches them how to become confident in flying.
“If you want to succeed, there are many building blocks to ensure you get there. Start by familiarising yourself with the industry you aim to be a part of, know the industry and understand it. If you are able to relate, you will be committed and commitment is key,” he says.