Nov 9, 2019 - Economy

Where the drone jobs will land

Data: ZipRecruiter; Map: Naema Ahmed/Axios
Data: ZipRecruiter; Map: Naema Ahmed/Axios

A predicted wave of new jobs in the drone industry may spread beyond the usual tech hotbeds, attached not just to research universities in wealthy areas but to delivery and logistics hubs, construction sites and big industrial installations.

Why it matters: It's not yet clear how much new work drones will create, but where new jobs are — and who will be equipped to do them — will help determine who will benefit from the Drone Age.

The big picture: Thousands of people already work with drones — designing, manufacturing, maintaining and flying them. But the industry is still in its early stages, slowed in part by regulatory requirements.

  • Experts' estimates for the future of this work vary widely, from a continued steady trickle of new jobs to a broader deluge.
  • The map above shows today's baseline. Drone-related hiring appears concentrated in big cities — not just in traditional tech hubs like San Francisco and Seattle, but also near Phoenix, Atlanta and Minneapolis.

"It's so easy to see the explosive nature of it," says Ian Siegel, CEO of ZipRecruiter, the job-search site — and an outspoken drone optimist.

  • "Every industry you look at will potentially be touched by drones," Siegel says. "Anywhere you would go and wait in a line and not be happy about waiting in that line, just assume there'll be a delivery option available."
  • In data ZipRecruiter shared with Axios, job openings ranged from the obvious (developer, pilot) to the unexpected (lifeguard, camp counselor).

Yes, but: "On the ground, sometimes it feels like it's moving a little slower," says Alan Perlman, CEO of UAV Coach, which trains pilots for a certification required to fly drones.

  • Perlman says his classes are in demand, but not overflowing.
  • One thing holding back uptake is many companies' ignorance of how to integrate drones. "They think of drones as a very easy tool, but they don't think about the maintenance schedule and regulations," Perlman says.

The big question: When the government finally allows most pilots to fly drones remotely — beyond their own line of sight — will operations be aggregated into a central location?

  • Rather than having pilots sitting at every logistics hub, a drone delivery company like UPS or Amazon could put them all in an office building somewhere and have them oversee flights worldwide.
  • That — plus increasingly autonomous drones — might chip away at the vision of ubiquitous drone jobs.
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