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The drone industry has potential to create jobs in South Africa

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The drone industry is at pole position for job creation in SA. (image: JacarandaFM)
The drone industry is at pole position for job creation in SA.
(image: JacarandaFM)

The drone industry has the potential to create thousands of jobs for qualified drone pilots per year, but the right training is crucial to move this industry forward and to help grow the country’s employment rate.

According to economic expert – Dr Roelof Botha – the largely untapped sector is expected to create 33 000 jobs this year alone. And in addition, the total economic output generated by the same industry equates to an anticipated turnover of more than R2 billion. This research formed part of Botha’s Economic Impact Assessment of the South African Drone industry.

“It is clear after comparing 2015 data to the latest economic impact assessment that the domestic drone industry is expanding exponentially,” Botha says.

But Sean Reitz, CEO of United Drone Holdings (UDH) – an entrepreneurial-focused drone service business says there are multiple career paths to consider once qualified as a drone pilot, but training is “priority one” and the fundamental step to ensure the right calibre of drone pilots are produced.

“We would like to grow the 33 000 figure year-on-year. But very little can be done and achieved without the proper training and an enabling regulatory environment. Potential drone pilots need to commit to seeing their training through from RPL to advanced applications in order to succeed and make a positive contribution to the industry and in-turn grow employment levels in this country,” Reitz says.

To demonstrate UDH’s commitment to growing the industry, producing first-rate, qualified drone pilots with the right skillset and boosting employment levels in South Africa, the organisation recently launched its RPAS flagship training academy, accredited by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) and designed to suit all skill levels. The academy is based at the Eagle’s Creek Aviation Estate in Gauteng.

Reitz says the academy is the first drone training academy in the country that offers both night and weekend classes, as well as one-on-one slots specifically aimed at students with full-time jobs and little to no time to study during the day; but who are interested in pursuing a career as a drone pilot. Standard courses include 6-days of theory and 6-days of practical training. And flying ranges from 5-20 hours to develop full competence and confidence. It takes just two to four weeks for beginners to complete a remote pilot license (RPL), and just one week for skilled aviators.

“We committed to producing the very best and highly skilled drone pilots, and obtaining an RPL is that crucial first step to a lucrative career and bright future. Our training is customised and means there is no waiting around in groups, time is maximised with each student,” he says.

And to accommodate the rapidly expanding industry, Reitz says UDH has recently opened its Durban base and plans to launch one in Cape Town towards the end of 2017.

“Endless potential exists in this industry and career paths vary from emergency response and firefighting support to aerial surveillance and even cinematography. It’s our responsibility to develop future drone pilots, grow the industry and create the jobs we so desperately need,” Reitz concludes.

Edited by Fundisiwe Maseko
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