Drone schools flourish in China as pilot demand soars
Joysticks at their fingertips, the mostly male students packing the classroom lift their virtual helicopters into the air, part of a new cottage industry that’s sprung up in China: drone pilot schools.
China is already the world’s biggest drone manufacturer, churning out remote-controlled lying machines that range from 3-D urban mappers to tear-gas spraying models for police. But it lacks qualified pilots to fly them.
Young men in particular are flocking to drone schools such as TT Aviation Technology Co, one of more than 40 in China, hoping to land a potentially lucrative job in an exciting new field.
TT Aviation offers a two-week intensive course for $1,200 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 license required by China’s Civil Aviation Administration to operate drones that are heavier than 7 kilograms and fly higher than 120 metres.
Xu Honggang, 24, believes the license will open doors to piloting jobs that make at least $780 per month, higher than average. Some experienced pilots bring in double that amount, Honggang said.
“I want to build my own company with drone services,” Xu said one recent afternoon next to a grassy field where his instructor demonstrated basic moves with a small radio-controlled helicopter. “I like to work for myself. This is a new and popular line of work.”
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