A security guard watches a demonstration by the Chinese company DJI, a leading supplier of civilian drones. AP Photo/Kin Cheung

With skilled pilots needed in an increasing number of industries, students hope to enter a potentially lucrative occupation.

China has one of the fastest-growing drone markets in the world, with technology advancing quickly and prices falling just as rapidly. Worldwide, drones have become far more than a hobby. Enthusiasts have found professional use for them in a slew of industriesagricultural and environmental research, fine-art photography and film, and of course delivery services.

And as demand for drone pilots boom, drone-flying schools are becoming increasingly popular in China especially, reports China Daily. Chinas Civil Aviation Administration estimates that by 2018, there will be a demand for more than 30,000 civilian drone pilots, according to Shanghaiist. So far, the country has 42 training centers and 700 licensed pilots—“a serious shortage.”

A license requirement for flying drones was rolled out last year, when the Chinese government began to fear that the plethora of amateur drone operators was compromising public safety. CCTV News reported, for example, that local authorities had to free a mini drone that got stuck in a high-voltage power line in Shanghai. Now, regulations require drone operators to have a license to fly anything weighing more than 7 kilograms (15 pounds) above 12 meters (40 feet) and for more than 500 meters (1,640 feet) out of the pilot’s sight.

Operating a drone isn’t like flying a remote-controlled plane. “I found many clients take the drones out to fly without reading the instructions or watching the instruction video, because they think it is very easy,” Leng Jun, a mini-drone seller in China, told a CCTV news reporter in July. He recalled a customer who lost his drone more than a half a mile away after pressing the wrong button on the remote control. “He didn’t find his drone until one in the morning.”

So what does it take to earn your license? At one drone-flying school in Shenzhen, Guangdong, the cheapest tuition is 130,000 yuan (over $20,000 U.S. dollars) for 120 hours of training. In the town of Changping, Beijing, a 10-day class will cost you 80,000 yuan, or over $12,500 U.S. dollars, reports China Daily. Students spend those days learning how to assemble a drone, how to fly one through game simulations—and to hit the books. To earn their license, students must pass not only a practical test but also a theory exam.

It’s a big investment—financially and time-wise—but as drones continue to soar in popularity, it’s well worth the price for some people. Ke Yubao, of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of China, told China Daily that professional pilots can earn more than 20,000 yuan, or over $3,000, per month. That’s a good reason to study up, considering that the monthly average salary in Shanghai is a little more than $1,100 U.S. dollars.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Transportation

    A Horrifying Glimpse Into Your Dystopian Future Transit Commute

    A comic artist’s take on what the future of transportation might really feel like.

  2. A cyclist rides on the bike lane in the Mid Market neighborhood during Bike to Work Day in San Francisco,
    Perspective

    Why Asking for Bike Lanes Isn't Smart

    In the 1930s big auto dreamed up freeways and demanded massive car infrastructure. Micromobility needs its own Futurama—one where cars are marginalized.

  3. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

  4. Uber Eats worker
    Life

    The Millennial Urban Lifestyle Is About to Get More Expensive

    As WeWork crashes and Uber bleeds cash, the consumer-tech gold rush may be coming to an end.

  5. Two men look over city plans at a desk in an office.
    Equity

    The Doomed 1970s Plan to Desegregate New York’s Suburbs

    Ed Logue was a powerful agent of urban renewal in New Haven, Boston, and New York City. But his plan to build low-income housing in suburbia came to nought.

×