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Rawat: Jobs in drones soaring

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The job outlook for people with expertise in unmanned aerial systems is good and getting better, according to the head of aviation science at Elizabeth City State University.

Kuldeep Rawat, chairman of the Department of Technology and director of the aviation science program at ECSU, said numerous industries and government agencies need drone pilots and also “system integrators” able to design and build drones for specific tasks.

“Those jobs are already here,” Rawat said.

Areas where drone technology is already being used include mining, agriculture, public safety, and infrastructure inspections.

“Surveying is also big,” Rawat said.

ECSU has the only four-year aviation science degree program in North Carolina and offers specializations in flight education, air traffic control, aviation electronics (avionics), aviation management, and unmanned aircraft systems, better known as drones.

In addition, College of The Albemarle currently has a small program in drone operation at its campus in Dare County, and the Elizabeth City-Paquotank Public Schools plans to pilot a drone course at Pasquotank County High School this coming school year.

Rawat said more industries are beginning to use drones for a variety of applications.

“It’s just going to grow,” Rawat said.

An example of an industry just beginning to discover the potential for drones is insurance, he said. Drones could be used to survey damage after a storm or perform other kinds of damage assessments, Rawat said.

Movie studios also are beginning to make more use of drones, he said. There is “huge job potential” as more applications are developed.

In addition to the “pilot” — the person actually operating a drone — there also is a need for a “sensor operator” in any kind of specialized application for drones, Rawat explained. The sensor could be used for photography, or thermal sensing, or whatever the application calls for, he said.

While the pilot focuses on flying the drone the sensor operator monitors and operates the sensor, he said.

“You don’t want the same person trying to do both,” Rawat said.

Students in ECSU’s unmanned aerial systems degree program will have the opportunity to learn about both piloting and sensor operation, he said.

Researchers have already identified more than 300 areas where drones could be used in industry or governmental operations, Rawat said.

“As more areas are identified the potential for job growth is huge,” Rawat said.

COA President Robert Wynegar agreed that the use of drones is on the rise in the military, law enforcement, agriculture, real estate, forestry and other areas.

“The applications are coming,” Wynegar said.

The use of drones is just starting to take off, he added.

Rawat said that as more drones are built and put into service there will be more people needed to build, maintain and fly them.

Just as computers eventually became commonplace in all kinds of workplaces, drone technology could follow a similar trajectory, Rawat said.

“It’s just like any other new technology,” he said.

But even if vast numbers of workers begin to use drones in various applications, don’t expect everyone to learn how to use one, Rawat said

“You cannot expect the general public to know everything about the drone,” he said.

So just as specialized computer expertise has become more important as more and more people have begun using computers at home and at work, specialized expertise in drones will be needed as they become more commonplace and more people are using them, he said.

Expertise will also be needed in building, designing and operatiing drones, and in managing drone traffic, Rawat said.

“There will be a lot of job potential specific to drones,” Rawat said.

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