Types of Careers in Canada’s Drone Industry
The North American drone industry continues to expand and grow in both the U.S. and Canada. In fact, by 2021, BI Intelligence has predicted that drone sales will be more than $12 billion.
Goldman Sach’s has estimated a $100 billion growth for the commercial drone industry between 2016 and 2020. According to their predictions, the military will remain one of the top industries using drone technology at $70 billion. Consumer drones will also see more hobbyists and enthusiast buying in for an increase of $17 billion.
Goldman Sach’s also forecasted a $13 billion growth in commercial applications. The organization has noted that commercial use of drone technology will be driving the growth over the coming years.
PwC’s conducted an examination of the commercial viability of drone technology. Based on their findings they estimate the drone market is over $127 billion. A breakdown of that sum found that infrastructure and agriculture were the industries that would see the most drone action.
Although it is thought to be relatively new technology, drones were first used in a commercial capacity in Japan in the early 1980s as a way of applying pesticide to rice fields, according to the report on unmanned aerial vehicles done by PwC.
Many industries have begun to customize drone technology and develop solutions specific to their operations. This includes surveying, mapping, investigating, videography, image taking, surveillance and more. Transport Canada has estimated there are 193,500 drones in the country though there could be more.
New Regulations for Canadian Industry
In Canada, changes in unmanned aerial vehicle regulations have made the industry more tangible. The Canadian government has implemented some new safety regulations surrounding the use of drones.
Released in January 2019 by Transport Canada, some of the new, rules make recreation use tougher but stay flexible for commercial uses like agriculture or forestry surveying.
As part of the requirements, commercial and recreational drone operators will need to pass an online exam and get a pilot certificate before they are legally permitted to fly the device. They will also need to register their drone. Penalties for breaking the rules can cost up to $5,000 for solo pilots and $25,000 for corporations.
Transport Canada has created a drone management portal, which is how they will conduct the exams. It has been estimated that the government will need to invest $28.4 million over the next 10 years for the system.
The minimum age for a basic drone operator is 14 though, according to the Financial Post, younger children can fly drones that weigh less than 250 g or if they are supervised by a drone pilot that has been certified.
These new rules will come into effect on June 1, 2019. They will be enforced on a complaint basis.
Commercial Drone Opportunities in Canada
The new regulations will control recreational drone operators so long as the aerial device is within their sight. However, when it comes to commercial enterprises, there is still a requirement for permission that will be determined on a case by case basis. The reasoning behind this is that most commercial drone flights put the aerial vehicle out of sight of the pilot. Yet, commercial operations will be where the industry has the most to gain, according to the Financial Post article.
According to Unmanned Systems Canada, there were fewer than 1,000 companies in the drone sector and 70 percent of those have been delivery-focused. However, the industry saw $750 million in revenue in 2017.
In 2018, Drone Delivery Canada Corp. made headlines after it was issued a compliance certificate by Transport Canada. This is the permission needed to operate a drone outside of visual sight of the pilot. At the time, the company’s executive officer stated they had plans to start a pilot program. The certificate granted the company permission to test commercial operations in northern Ontario.
As further recognition of a burgeoning drone industry in Canada, Transport Canada stared up a Centre of Expertise in 2017 with a focus on Special Flight Operations Certificate applications. They have also been running tests on beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) operations. The four companies that have been given permission for such testing include Drone Delivery Canada, Canada Post, Canadian UAVs and ING Robotic Aviation.
There are two drone test ranges in the county that run under the approval of Transport Canada. These are the UAS Centre of Excellence in Alma, Quebec and the Foremost Centre for Unmanned Systems in Foremost, Alberta. These areas will be used for research and development in the industry.
Top Drone Industry Predictions
As drone technology continues to develop and various companies adapt it to their operations, there have been some areas forecasted to lead the way in the use of drones.
PwC’s made the follow market value predictions for commercial drone applications:
- Infrastructure $45.2 billion
- Agriculture $32.4 billion
- Transport $13.0 billion
- Security $10.5 billion
- Entertainment/Media $8.8 billion
- Insurance $6.8 billion
- Telecommunications $6.3 billion
- Mining $4.3 billion
Some industries that will adapt drone technology for itself, according to Goldman Sach’s data this includes:
- Construction $11,164 million
- Agriculture $5,922 million
- Insurance claims $1,418 million
- Oil and Gas $1,110 million
- Police $885 million
- Fire $881 million
- Journalism $480 million
- Real Estate $265 million
- Mining $40 million
- Clean energy $25 million
While these are U.S. numbers, the Canadian industry mirrors that of its southern neighbour, according to Unmanned Systems Canada. The organization has listed the same industries as ones that have been using drone technology the most. In addition, with the influx of U.S. investors into the Canadian drone economy the lines between the countries’ drone industries will likely blur.
Canadian Drone Companies
Most drone companies in Canada are part of the startup community with a few becoming more note-worthy including Unmanned Systems Canada, Drone Delivery Canada and ING Robotic Aviation.
Unmanned Systems Canada was first created in 2003. It is the national association that represents those working in the industry. It is a non-profit entity that focuses on education, and public awareness of unmanned aerial vehicles and other related systems. They were founded in 2003 and are now governed by a board. They offer scholarships and even organize an annual conference and tradeshow for enthusiasts. Although they are not a commercial company, many individuals interested in drones can find their start by becoming a member. There are announcements for upcoming events, training and contests. All of which can start or make the career of a drone pilot, engineer or anyone interested in the technology.
ING Robotic Aviation focuses on serving companies and organizations that are in need of monitoring or related operations. They began in 2008 working for the Canadian Army in Afghanistan. They have also gained experience working with the Royal Canadian Navy. They have now expanded their offerings and work in a variety of industries including forestry, oil and gas, utilities, mining, precision agriculture, as well as defence and public safety. Their drone equipment can monitor, map, and inspect hard-to-reach areas and locations. They were founded in 2002 and currently have a team of about 25 employees.
Drone Delivery Canada is dedicated to developing, designing, and building a reliable drone delivery product for Canada. They hope to offer their products and services to a wide variety of industries including retail, government and service organizations. The company was recently recognized as one of 50 top ten performers on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Drones in Education
As the industry continues to gain validity in Canada, young students have become more familiar with the technology through formal training programs and classes. Students in Manitoba’s Frontier School Division were given hands-on opportunity with drones as part of their science class. The UAV Pilot Program was designed by FSD Science Coach Arif Kassum. He has created a curriculum that teachers in the division can use.
“Students will learn about concepts such as forces, properties of air, lift and gravity; while at the same time learning how to operate these aircraft in a safe and responsible manner,” Kassum was quoted as saying.
The program, which was announced in November 2018, is the first of its kind in Canada. Teachers and administrators were required to complete a ground school training program before they were permitted to bring drones into their classroom.
As the industry continues to expand, there will be a demand for those with unmanned aerial vehicle experience, training and knowledge. More and more universities and colleges have also been creating programs to train up the next generation in drone technology systems and operations.
Types of Drone Industry Careers
There are thousands of drone-related jobs that are expected to develop as the technology advances and becomes more commonplace. For now, to have unmanned aerial technology experience or training is still a novelty.
There will be some corporations or organizations that will continue to hire externally for drone-related tasks and jobs, yet the trend seems to be that many companies will simply train up a select batch of current employees in unmanned aerial technology. This means the line between the drone industry and other industries may blur. Here is a look at some of the most popular drone-related jobs in the field today.
Unmanned aerial vehicle flight co-ordinator (commercial drone pilot)
Description: Essentially, this individual is the person who manages and operates the flight of a drone or an entire drone fleet. This may mean personally operating the drone itself or supervising other pilots using the drone. This position will be available for a wide range of work including land surveys, film production, real estate and more. However, the job involves more than just coordinating flights, there is also a component of training others to use the devices. It also involves researching the latest data, trends, regulations and technology.
Average salary: The salary for a commercial drone pilot can varyfrom industry to industry. For example, those who work for a film production company will draw a different salary than those who work for an agricultural company. Yet, Marketwatch reports freelance drone pilots make $100,000 per year. According to Indeed, the average salary is $31.92/hr.
Job growth: One concern with commercial drone pilot positions is that this type of task may become automated, which will eliminate the need for a human to manage and oversee the flights.
Experience necessary: With Transport Canada’s new regulations, those looking to become commercial drone pilots will need to do an online test and become certified. There are many training programs across the county that can prepare a would-be pilot for the work for under $1,000. Most training can be done in a couple of days.
Description: Just as in any other industry, the unmanned aerial industry is looking for good sales representatives. Many businesses are relatively new in the Canadian economic landscape and will need individuals who are good communicators, tech enthusiast and pitch artists to help draw in new business. A drone sales representative also needs to be a good visionary that can see how their company’s services can fit into different business models. These are the people who are skilled at getting others to buy in or purchase products and services from their companies. They need to be knowledgeable about the products or services their company produces. An individual with a technical mindset who enjoys meeting new people and has great communication skills will do best in this type of position.
Average salary: shows that AFS Aerial Photography pays sales representatives over $79,000/year, which is 39 percent more than the average rate.
Job growth: Sales skills are something that will continue to be needed for the foreseeable future. Due to the personalization of the sales process, automation of the job is not a major concern. Thus, so long as there are more and more companies create drone-related services and products, there will be an endless demand for sales representatives to take those things to market.
Experience necessary: While a formal degree is not required for this position, a strong sales or technical background is useful. Any marketing, business or sales training will prove useful to anyone looking to advance as a sales representative for a UAV company.
- Software Engineer Description: These individuals are hired to manage and develop products in the unmanned aerial industry. That means they will either create, customize or develop drone systems. Many times they are managers who oversee other software engineers or a department in order to gain the maximum efficiency in design and in the production of software products used in the drone world. Aside from developing and writing software, they are expected to keep projects on schedule, ensure quality, stick to cost restraints all while meeting market demand. Average salary: Although salaries for software developers can change, depending on the industry the programing is being done for, the average annual income in Canada is $63,976. However, there are other benefits to consider including bonuses and profit sharing. Job growth: Engineers Canada forecasts an increase of 1,250 software engineering jobs annually for the next five years. The majority of these openings will be in Ontario, B.C. and Alberta. In addition, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted a 24 percent increase in software development jobs until 2026. Experience necessary: Software engineers need to have an official degree in computer science, information technology or a closely-related discipline. In addition, for managerial roles, they need to have at least 10 years of industry experience or more. These individuals need to be proficient with Microsoft tools such as C#, .Net and SQL. Strong communication skills, management capabilities and leadership tools are also requirements for these types of positions. The job requires being able to convey technical information to non-technical individuals.
- Business developer Description: Similar to a sales job, a business developer needs to have strong skills in product promotion. They should be knowledgeable about the industry and their company’s solutions. A background in GIS, UAV mapping, surveying, web and app development or other technical areas is useful. These consultants are expected to travel near and far to engage clients and potential clients in an effort to help the business grow. These employees are the ones that create business plans and are held accountable to increase revenue and cultivate loyal and happy customers. They have strong leadership and interpersonal skills so they can motivate employees and also work well managing client expectations. Great problem solvers, business developers are the ones that can come up with creative solutions to the day-to-day issues that appear. This is an office job and paperwork like spreadsheets and word processing will be involved. The business developer will need to submit reports on the company progress, review business processes and communicate well with other employees. Business developers should be strong researchers who know how to locate and use reliable statistics. Average salary: According to Payscale, the average salary for a business developer is $67,453 a year. Yet many also see over $9,000 in bonuses and $4,000 worth of profit sharing. Job growth: There is expected to be a small amount of growth in the general area of business development, according to provincial reports. However, because the drone industry is still developing and growing there will be a demand for team members who can serve as business developers and help startups grow in the industry. Experience necessary: A background in GIS, UAV mapping, surveying, web and app development or other technical areas is useful. Formal business training or adequate experience will be expected. A bachelor degree in business management, administration or a similar field is a must.
- Customer Support Description: Customer-related service and support tasks can vary depending on the type of company that employees you. While the general job description includes being the front person to customers, that can include technical support, sales requirements and other administrative duties. There is an expectation the job will include a large communications component, either via email or telephone. Usually, customer support representatives are the first ones that a consumer will call to get more information, place an order or if they are having issues with their product. Having a good knowledge of the company, including all its products and services will be vital to success in this area. Having a good demeanour is important as there are bound to be a fair number of complaints and angry customers that will need to be placated. Average salary: Most customer support or service jobs are paid around the provincial minimum wage mark with the average hourly wage at $15. Job growth: Customer service jobs will be competitive, according to the Canadian Department of Employment. There will be over 5,000 trained and qualified individuals entering the workforce over the next few years and only 49,000 new job openings in the field. The industry has also been expanding its hiring practices and more and more jobs for virtual customer service have been entering the market. This makes the job a good fit for stay at home parents or those interested in the gig economy. Experience necessary: A formal university education is not usually required for customer service positions. However, a high school diploma and some administrative or sales training and experience are useful.
- Teacher/Educator Description: Lecturers and professors with drone technology knowledge have already been in demand as more and more post-secondary institutions develop their own UAV programs and training. These individuals’ primary requirements are to prepare lessons and instruct students on a specific subject or topic. They are also expected to organize assessments and tests as well as grade any assignments for their classes. A component of public speaking, leadership capabilities and communication skills are expected. Lectures and presentations will need to be organized and presented to students. As well, when it comes to teaching drone technology instructors will need to consider a substantial amount of hands-on experience for their students. Average salary: $101,814 for assistant professors; $103,936 for professors. Job growth: The field of professor or lecturer is set to remain fairly steady, according to the Department of Employment. There are expected to be 30,200 new jobs openings over the next few years with 30,500 qualified individuals entering the workforce. Retiring professors and instructors will be behind the number of job openings available. Those who are interested in covering courses specifically related to drones or UAVs will be in demand as the larger UAV industry grows. This will cause a demand for properly trained graduates who can work at these companies with drone technology. Experience necessary: To teach at most post-secondary institutions, a masters degree is the minimum requirement. However, most have a PhD in their area of expertise. For colleges or other training organizations, skills, knowledge and experience may play a bigger role than formal education. Those who have experience and talent working with drone technology will find themselves in demand for these types of positions.
- Surveyor. Description: Land surveyors have started to use aerial systems for more accurate data. The information gained from drones during survey work is often one component. It is often added and combined with other methods for a broader picture for a report on the surveyed area. One of the benefits of using drones is that it takes less time to survey an area. In addition, companies have also started to use aerial systems because they are cost-effective and reduce risk to employees. Drones are able to go into areas that might be dangerous for a person. Aerial surveying can be used in a number of different areas including environmental agencies, government departments and mining companies. Average salary: Aerial surveyors can between $36,000 to $79,000. Earnings will vary, depending on experience and skill level as well as the organization or industry you are doing the surveying for. Job growth: Aerial surveying will be one of the industries that will grow quickly in the coming years. Many in the survey industry have already accepted the benefits of drones and have started to apply the technology in their work. Surveyors that have drone technology knowledge and experience will be in high demand. Experience necessary: There is a lot of training that goes into becoming a surveyor. A Bachelor’s degree in geography or closely related subject is expected. Due to the complexities of the job a surveyor needs to have technical competency, GIS and mapping knowledge and training as well as organizational and management skills.
- Photographer/videographer Description: Most often drone photographers or videographers are trained professionals that add drone capabilities to their photo services. These talented and creative individuals are skilled at capturing images or videos from a variety of angles, including aerial shots. While they can be hired by a variety of individuals or corporations to capture moments, events, people, architecture and more. In particular, drone photographers are often employed by real estate companies to capture property images in a more creative and effective way. However, they can also use their skills at weddings, birthdays, graduations and more. By becoming certified to operate a drone, these photographers and videographers expand on the services they offer to clients. Average salary: While there is no set rate for a drone photographer, PayScale indicates average photographers charge $19/hr. Job growth: The number of job openings for photographers in Canada are roughly equal to the number of qualified and trained individuals entering the field over the next few years. The Department of Employment has estimated there will be 6,400 new job openings with 6,300 job seekers in the industry. Experience Necessary: No formal training is required to become a photographer but knowledge of lighting, camera capabilities, image editing software, and some video experience is helpful. Anyone interested in this career can learn on the job as an assistant or intern or opt to take some training about image and video production to increase their skill-base.
- Drone journalist Description: Professional journalists can benefit from the use of drones in a variety of ways. These include breaking news, conflict zones, weather reporting and investigative pieces. Because of their agility and video-capturing capabilities, drones are an ideal tool for the journalist who wants to deliver the best stories and most captivating images or videos. Drones can also enhance the news-gathering capabilities of newsrooms by being able to be on the scene of breaking news or in a conflict zone quickly. In addition, it will protect the safety of reporters and others on the scene while still bringing the story to life for the audience. Average salary: The average salary for a journalist is $41,000 a year but can fluctuate depending on where in Canada you are working and whether it is in print, television or online. Job growth: The industry is in a state of disruption due to new technologies as well as a surplus in skilled professionals for the positions open. Thus, any additional talent that a would-be journalist has, such as aerial system skills, will help them stand out and lead to better, more higher paying jobs. Experience necessary: Although journalism used to be a learn-on-the-job opportunity, the need for a more formal education has become an expectation of most media outlets. Thus, a would-be journalist needs to complete at least a Bachelor’s degree in journalism or communications. In addition, being tech-savvy will be a boon to the job of drone journalist. Being up-to-date with the rules and regulations of the drone industry and Transport Canada is a must. Those who really want to prove themselves uniquely capable and qualified as a drone journalist should consider getting their drone pilot license.
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