Drone technology is rapidly evolving, with numerous uses in a variety of industries. As the number of applications grow, so does the demand for skilled professionals.
However, there is a severe shortage of skilled professionals, resulting in a demand-supply mismatch. Along with the skill gap, there are other additional challenges with drone manufacturing, the use of new-age technology, and drone skill training that must be addressed in order for the sunrise industry to expand further in the future.
To address the queries related to the drone sector to know more about the advancements in drone technologies, and learn more about the vast skilling opportunities the sector promises, we caught up with Mr Vipul Singh, CEO- Co-Founder, AEREO (Formerly known as Aarav Unmanned Systems or AUS). Below are a few excerpts from our conversation.
Here are a few excerpts from our conversation, you can watch the full video on our YouTube channel.
Q: How rapidly the drone industry is growing in India? And what are some of the challenges faced for the advancement of the industry?
A: Like any other industry, growth in the drone sector relies on the four pillars – people, process, product, and policy. People are very important for the product, process and policy to work. To fulfil current and also future needs we need skilled personnel. Though the sector is growing fast despite economic challenges, it is also facing a skill crunch. We need to address this fast and effectively.
Q: How many types of drones are there and how diversely can they be leveraged?
A: Drones can be pocket-sized or as big as aircraft. A small drone that is used to take pictures or survey a field can be controlled by a pilot with basic skills. However, the same skills are not enough to control a drone meant for other tasks, or other kinds of drones, or in specific weather conditions and terrains. Hence, we need to skill pilots for various drone applications.
Q: How is Drone manufacturing shaping up?
A: Drone manufacturing is a unique industry with complexities similar to aircraft manufacturing. As demand increases it will soon grow up to be as huge as the automobile industry. New-age drones should develop precision and speed without compromising quality. With a huge talent pool and government incentives, India can soon become an industry expert.
Q: Could you please tell us more about the multi-disciplinary job roles in the drone sector?
A: The sector opens up job opportunities to engineers from various specializations, and doctorates, as well as non-engineers with basic educational qualifications.
With the Drone manufacturing industry being nascent, it requires many knowledgeable engineers from mechanical, electrical, electronics, computer science, and aerospace specializations to design, develop, and continuously innovate. Drones like any other automobile require post-sales support and repairs and hence there will be many jobs related to MRO (management, repairs, overhaul, etc. One can also become a drone pilot with a basic 10th class qualification.
Q: What are some of the major applications of drones in various industries?
A: Drones are effective in solving several common-day problems. Like any other machine, drones simplify tasks and make impossible, dangerous, repetitive and boring tasks possible. Machines are objective and do not get stressed or tired like humans. Drones reach places where humans cannot. However, the sector cannot really replace humans, but rather enable them to do various tasks.
For example, drones can be programmed to regularly monitor and inspect equipment placed on the tops of telecom towers. Technicians need not take the risk of climbing up 80-90 meters to the top of the tower to manually inspect the equipment. Since drones can also carry a payload, they need not carry equipment and tools to the top of the tower. Additionally, drones also analyze any collected data and are more accurate and reliable.
India has vast agricultural lands. Drones can be used to spray uniformly the right amount of pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides. Farmers can be spared from inhaling harmful sprays. Usage of drones will help in preserving soil balance, making the crops safer for consumption and import, and increasing agricultural income. The agricultural ministry estimates that drone intervention can increase agricultural GDP by 1 to 1.5 %. Drones can also be used in various other tasks like inspection of oil pipelines, and electricity transmission lines for damages.
Under the SWAMITVA project, drones are being used to map rural areas, and record land data of villages, enabling them to resolve property disputes and use lands as collateral to take loans. Drones are being used to transmit goods to difficult terrains. In the future drones will be used to transport people too.
Q: How can we leverage new-age technologies like AI and ML to make drones more efficient and reliable?
A: Many new use cases are emerging every day as drones are increasingly being used in various fields. Large amounts of data will be gathered by drones. People with good sector-specific knowledge can interpret the data and extract useful information from it. Though initially the data should be interpreted manually, soon algorithms will emerge that will help in analyzing, processing, and extracting information from large amounts of data gathered by drones.
New-age technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Image Processing, Deep Learning / Machine Learning, and Edge computing will be used in creating these algorithms and in making smarter drones. Several subject-matter expertise and skills associated with engineering optimization will be used in the drone field to create real-time data analytics.
Q: How can we address the skill gap in the fast-changing drone sector?
A: With the drone sector changing so fast, it demands close working of colleges, skill development councils and the industry. Here’s what can be done to enable fast, continuous, and aligned growth of the drone industry.
- Increase awareness about drone technologies, especially among children and students. Encourage them to pursue knowledge and skills in the drone sector.
- Increase drone penetration in the rural sector where it can be used to solve more important problems and can find wider applications.
- Apart from specialized sector-specific knowledge, lay emphasis on fundamental knowledge and skill-building among college students and aspirants.
- Since it is a nascent industry, training should include 50% hands-on industry experience. This helps bridge the college-industry gap. Calibrate learning to the requirements of the industry.
- Enable smaller businesses and startups to participate in defining the curriculum and incorporating the latest developments in the sector.
Also read: Aviation and Drone sector: Skill training, Emerging job roles, and Opportunities – https://www.nationalskillsnetwork.in/aviation-and-drone-sector-skill-training-emerging-job-roles-and-opportunities/
Q: What are some of the ways to make drone pilot training affordable?
A: Drone training requires huge infrastructure and equipment, and hence is currently costly. However, as drones find wider applications, an increase in supply and demand will create more training centres competing with each other. This can considerably bring down training costs.
Q: What would be your advice to the youth who wants to build a successful career as a Drone Pilot?
A: With the wide application of drones in several sectors, it is essential to learn beyond the mandatory drone pilot curriculum. Also, the curriculum should be customized for several industries and updated regularly to incorporate the latest advancements. With perseverance and deeper and wider knowledge, one can make a successful career as a drone pilot.