Youths flock to drone schools

MAINLAND youths are flocking to drone schools such as TT Aviation Technology (北方天途航空技術發展(北京)有限公司), one of more than 40 in China, hoping to land a potentially lucrative job in an exciting new field.

China is already the world’s biggest drone manufacturer, producing remote-controlled flying machines that range from 3-D urban mappers to tear-gas spraying models for police. But it lacks qualified pilots to fly them.

TT Aviation offers a two-week intensive course for 8,000 yuan (HK$9,460) where students learn regulations and how to pilot using simulators and real drones. At the end of the course, they can try to earn the licence required by China’s Civil Aviation Administration (中國民用航空) to operate drones that are heavier than seven kilograms and fly higher than 120 metres.

A student surnamed Xu, 24, believes the licence will open doors to piloting jobs that make at least 5,000 yuan per month, higher than average. Some experienced pilots bring in double that amount, he said.

“I want to build my own company with drone services,” Xu said. “I like to work for myself. This is a new and popular line of work.”

The opportunities appear promising. More than 10,000 new pilots are needed this year across all industries in China, but only 1,000 pilots now hold licences, said Yang Yi (楊苡), the general manager of TT Aviation, which also manufactures and sells drones to private and public sector customers.

“The drone pilot and the car driver are the same. They both need systematic skill training and regulated studying to make sure everyone knows the rules before the real operation,” she said.

(This article is published on Sing Tao Daily on 11 February 2016)

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