Drone-Flying Schools Aim To Address Severe Shortage of Licensed UAV Pilots

China is suffering a severe shortage of qualified, licensed UAV pilots and the country's Civil Aviation Administration isn't sitting idly by spinning their whee-, er, propellers.

The recent spate of high-profile incidents/accidents involving drones – and not just in China, mind you – has prompted authorities in several cities such as Shanghai to require UAV operators to be trained and licensed.

As of July 2015, about 100 people in China's largest city have been granted drone licenses bringing the total number of licensed UAV operators in the country to about 700... a figure the CAAC considers to be “a serious shortage” considering that by 2018 the estimated demand for civilian UAV pilots will exceed 30,000! 

“Although the mini-drone is intelligent it still needs manual control,” stated Wang Zhixing, a newly-licensed drone operator, in a report by CRI. “If the operator does not have the necessary safety knowledge and sends a wrong command, the drone will drop, which is very dangerous.”

Aside from recreational uses, drones have become essential tools in a variety of fields including agriculture, film-making, delivery services and of course the military.

As a reflection of the strong demand for drones and those qualified to operate them, it's estimated salaries for UAV pilots in China's larger cities surpass 20,000 yuan (about $3,150) per month according to Ke Yubao, a member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of China.

Those rewards don't come cheap, however: one UAV training school in Beijing's Changping district, for example, offers a 10-day course for 80,000 yuan (about $12,560).

The courses generally follow the format of typical automobile-license classes in that they're divided into general knowledge and hands-on instructional sections. Operators are granted their official UAV license after passing tests in theory and operation.

Presently there are mere 42 CAAC-approved drone-operator training centers in all of China, which presents an immediate opportunity for those seeking to open a UAV pilot school. One would hope the intense demand for drone operators doesn't lead to a burst of “fly by night” businesses. (images via China News)