Amazon’s plans to take to the air could bring new income or business prospects for black drone pilots and young people.
Amazon said last week that residents in Lockeford, a community of roughly 3,500 people in San Joaquin County, will be among the first to get Prime Air deliveries by drone.
Lockeford was chosen by the IT business, the world’s largest e-retailer, because of its historic ties to the aviation sector.
Assemblymember Heath Flora (R-Ripon), whose district includes the town, said: “Lockeford residents will soon have access to one of the world’s leading delivery innovations.”
“It’s exciting that Amazon will be listening to the feedback of the San Joaquin County community to inform the future development of this technology.”
Amazon’s drones can reach speeds of up to 50 miles per hour and transport items weighing up to 5 pounds up to 400 feet in the air.
Drone pilots are in great demand right now, according to technology and aviation industry observers, and their demand is expected to rise further.
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) says at least 100,000 new employments for drone pilots will be generated by 2025.
Over the next eight years, several organizations are expected to spend more than $16 billion on drones, with an advertising agency, construction firms, and security services among the first.
In California, the average wage for a drone pilot is $34 per hour and $71,669 per year, according to the Economic Research Institute.
A drone pilot may expect to make between $50,891 and $88,659 per year on average. According to experts, drone piloting-related entrepreneurship opens up possibilities for building new firms that support the sector and generating new revenue streams.
Jeffery Howell, a Navy officer currently stationed in San Diego, began his journey with drones when his wife gave him one for his birthday last year.
Howell said “At first, I was nervous, I’ve never really flown a drone before, so I started watching YouTube videos back-to-back, learning about the qualifications to fly drones legally and weight classes. As I delved deeper into it, there is a whole different world and community out there.”
Howell eventually grew more at ease flying his drone and became eager to talk to other pilots who looked like him.
Eventually, he came upon the Facebook group “Black Drone Pilots,” where he became friends with over 300 pilots from all over the country who not only shared his developing love but were also earning a job off of it.
On the weekend of June 11, Black drone pilots held inaugural meet-and-greets in five different cities nationwide.
Howell attended the event in Newport Beach and had the prospect to network and fellowship with local pilots.
He said: “I was amazed at the brothers and sisters getting together just having a good time flying.
“You could tell that the ones who weren’t as knowledgeable were getting pointers from the more experienced pilots. It was a beautiful thing to see.”
Inspired by his new network of professionals, Howell decided to start his own drone photography and video company ‘Air Speed Aerial Productions.’.
To start his business, Howell needed to attain his Park 107 certification through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
This exam is required for all drone pilots in order to obtain their commercial licenses. Registration for the test is $175, and there are several online study resources available.
Licensed drone pilots and entrepreneurs like Howell are a welcomed sight within an industry that still has room to grow in terms of diversity.
There are 250,000 drone pilots certified by the FAA. Ten percent are Black and only 3% are Black women.
Droneversity, an organization situated in Delaware that instructs teenagers about the foundations, prospects, and advancements within drone flying and aviation more generally, was started by Ashlee Cooper, a qualified drone pilot.
Cooper said: “Aviation careers have always been a white male-dominated field.
“Unless you were in the military or related to a pilot, it was unlikely you were going to tap into those positions within the aviation industry. Most of them do not require a high school or college degree.”
Young people are eligible to take the Park 107 exam at the age of 16. Cooper’s company provides courses to help them take and pass the exam as well.
Cooper said: “Most of these young girls and boys are gamers. They take naturally to flight. The skillset is marketable. Like gaming, it takes hand-eye coordination and knowing how to operate under pressure and solve problems quickly.”