I recently read an old pilot joke. It went something like this, “How do you know a pilot is in the room?” The answer was, “He’ll tell you.” And rightfully so, if you ask me. Although the joke did not originate for drone pilots, I can certainly see it applying to them in the near future.

Back in January, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, keynote speaker Michael Huerta, Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), stated, “The sheer number of drones entering our airspace is a case in point.” He went on to add, “Indeed, our latest aerospace forecast estimates that there could be as many as 7 million drones sold in the United States by 2020. That’s about 2 ½ times the population of the state of Nevada.”

He says drone growth will equal almost 2 ½ times the population of Nevada? Is this an industry to gamble on? According to Mr. Huerta, “…this one is clearly not a fad.” I’ll take that as a yes!

The recent FAA Aerospace Forecast predicts that sales of unmanned aircraft for commercial purposes will grow from 600,000 aircraft in 2016 to over 2.7 million in 2020. The FAA reports that since late August 2016, more than 30,000 individuals have started the commercial remote pilot application process and that it has already issued remote pilot certificates to approximately 15,000 new pilots. Analysts at PricewaterhouseCoopers predicted last year that the global market for commercial applications of drone technology could reach $127 million by 2020.

That’s all fine and dandy, but will there be an opportunity for an ordinary average Joe like me? A 2013 report released by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), says yes. They project there will be more than 100,000 new jobs in unmanned aircraft by 2025.

Hmmm…seems like a no brainer.

More and more industries are using drones and we don’t really know quite yet what the true extent of drone use will be. We do know that the opportunity to fly drones professionally is growing rapidly. According to Glassdoor, right now drone operators can earn about $33,500 a year nationally. However, in areas like Washington, DC a drone operator can earn upwards of $60,000. As the demand for drone pilots increases, so will the earnings. All of a sudden, flying a drone becomes an attractive employment option.

As you know, to fly a drone for commercial purposes you are required to have a drone pilot license, which means you must pass the initial aeronautical knowledge exam, otherwise known as the FAA 14 CFR Part 107. It is not an easy test to pass.

So, how do you pass this exam? Training!!!

Training comes in all shapes and sizes. But, to get the most bang for your buck, you need good, qualified training. Vince Donohue, President and Founder of Vortex, UAS responded to a recent question about training stating that there is a huge demand for, “…Professional UAS Pilot training and when you get cheap training by FURUs (Fake Gurus), you get what you pay for.” You can read Vince’s full response here: The Value of High Quality Training.

Where can you find good, qualified training? Try a source you know you can trust. Our Career and Entrepreneur Fair Co-Sponsor, Harper Community College Continuing Education Center is one such source.

So, needless to say, the drone pilot field is ready to take off (pun intended) and Midwest Drone Fest is here to propel your future. Will you be there with us at the 2017 Midwest Drone Fest? Purchase tickets at Eventbrite.

We will end this post with a quote from Michael Huerta as he ended his speech at this year’s CES, “Thank you for joining us here today and being part of this journey.”