Flight cancellations, delays, crowded airports. Sound familiar? If you’ve traveled by air recently, you more than likely have experienced some of these disruptions. With the ongoing national pilot shortage fueling part of what we may call “travel chaos,” airlines are taking control by initiating their own pilot training programs. And just last month, U.S. Senate representatives got on board in response to the pilot shortfall. So, will the problem get worse before it gets better? Buckle up as Vaughn College takes a closer look at how the industry is responding to this demand and explains how its programs and partnerships are the perfect combination to educate and train the next generation of pilots.

An unprecedented demand for pilots

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 14,500 pilot openings are projected each year over the next decade. This unprecedented demand stems in part from the early retirement of pilots during the pandemic, a reduced number of trained military pilots and the high cost of aviation training. To fill this gap in the pilot pipeline, Republic Airways and United Airlines, among other well-known companies, have initiated their own pilot training programs to meet the demand. Let’s take a look at how they operate.

How the industry is responding to the shortfall

Republic Airways

Republic Airways—a regional airline that services Delta Connection and United Express, among others—is on a mission to train pilots, fast. The goal is to teach pilots in a shorter period of time through intense training that is mission-specific to flying commercial airplanes. Republic Airways believes its pilot training program is so good, that it rivals the military by using more technology and better simulation. Instead of the 1,500 flight hours that is required for commercial pilots, Republic Airways filed a request with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requesting that its pilots be allowed to fly with only 750 flight hours. And, to sweeten the deal, Republic Airways is offering deep discounts and jobs to students who finish this program.

United Airlines

At United Airlines’ training facility in Denver, Colorado, former Blue Angel and Top Gun pilots are training regional and military pilots on how to fly commercial airliners safely and professionally. Pilots who are new to United Airlines spend five weeks training in a simulator, where they learn the intricacies about the specific planes they will be flying. The program is proving successful, having turned out a record of 40-to-70 new hires a week.

U.S Senator’s Legislation Addresses Pilot Shortage

On July 25, 2022, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and five other U.S. senators introduced the Let Experienced Pilots Fly Act (S.4607) to address the massive amount of flight cancellations that has been caused by the ongoing pilot shortage. This legislation will raise the mandatory commercial pilot retirement age from 65 to 67, in addition to:

  • Requiring that pilots over the age of 65 maintain a first-class medical certification, which must be renewed every six months.
  • Requiring air carriers to continue using pilot training and qualification programs approved by the FAA.
  • Not changing or altering any other qualification—beyond age—to become a commercial airline pilot.

How Vaughn can help you earn your wings

With 90 years of aviation history under our belts (and yes, they are fastened!) Vaughn students have gone on to pursue amazing careers in the field of aviation as well as engineering and technology and management. And when it comes to our reputation, Vaughn’s aircraft operations (flight) program is one of only 29 institutions that are currently part of the FAA’s Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI.) Vaughn students train on the same equipment used by the FAA, which helps accelerate their training upon acceptance to the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. And were you aware that Vaughn has partnerships in the industry which in turn give students a competitive edge when preparing for their careers? Check these out!

Atlas Air

Vaughn’s long-term relationship with Atlas Air has proven to be truly valuable, as several Vaughn graduates have landed full-time positions in virtually every department with this renowned American cargo airline, passenger charter airline and aircraft lessor based in Purchase, New York. Just recently, Atlas Air and Vaughn faculty collaborated to develop the “Pathway to Success First Officer Trainee Program.” This exciting pilot pathway program is designed to enable new pilots at the RATP level—upon successful completion of a comprehensive training program—to transfer directly to Atlas Air’s 737 air fleet. This is big news, as the program allows new pilots to forgo the traditional pathway through regional airlines and go straight into a career flying Boeing aircraft. And even more enticing is that this program includes a monthly stipend, medical benefits, a 401(k), transportation and accommodations.

Jet Blue Airways “University Gateway” Pilot Pathway Program

Last year, Vaughn College announced its partnership with JetBlue Airways as part of the airline’s ‘University Gateway’ Pilot Pathway Program. This is the airline’s longest-running pathway program that allows flight students who attend Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI)-accredited institutions—such as Vaughn—to apply and interview for positions at JetBlue while completing their collegiate courses. Once accepted, students will follow a defined path to gain experience and build their flight time before joining JetBlue as first officers upon completion of the program.

Heritage Flight Academy

Vaughn’s contract with Heritage Flight Academy gives Vaughn aircraft operations (flight) students the opportunity to put their knowledge into action—at the controls and in the air—by giving them direct access to the latest technology, equipment and skilled flight instructors. Since 2013, Heritage Flight Academy—located at MacArthur Airport on Long Island—has trained hundreds of Vaughn aircraft operations students as part of its Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved Part 141 training operation. Check out our blog to learn more about this partnership and how it benefits students: “Vaughn’s Long-standing Partnership with Heritage Flight Academy Gives Pilot Students an Edge.”

The future you

Today’s college students are zeroing in on more career-focused majors that will land them get jobs before the ink dries on their diplomas. Airlines need pilots—and that need will remain for many years to come. Could you be next? If becoming a pilot was ever on your radar, now is the time to act.

The demand for commercial drone pilots is soaring as industries are relying on drones—or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)—now more than ever before. According to Research and Markets, the demand for drone pilots is expected to grow by 51.1 percent over the next five years, with sales projected to reach over $16 billion by 2030. And that’s just from select markets. This brings up the question: Which industries are paying the highest salaries for these skilled aviators?

This month, Vaughn College explores this high-flying career as we showcase the top-paying drone pilot jobs and what it takes to put you behind the controls.

The career paths of drone pilots

Before we explore the top-paying jobs for drone pilots, it’s important to discuss some of the factors that can determine their salaries—such as how they choose to work and where. Drone pilots have the flexibility of choosing how they wish to work. Here are the possible paths and what they entail:

  • Self-employed drone operator—These experienced drone pilots operate their own businesses and have a strong understanding of the industry. Self-employed drone pilots possess a strong entrepreneurial drive and can adapt to uncertainty in the workplace. This path may offer the most flexibility—but it also comes with the greatest risk. These drone pilots are responsible for finding their own work, negotiating their own rates and obtaining necessary licenses and insurance for their businesses.
  • Freelance drone operator—The freelance path is popular with many drone pilots since they may work for different companies on a project-by-project basis. Many find freelancing a preferable option since they can set their own schedules and rates. They do, however, have to obtain their own licenses and insurance, as well as secure their own work.
  • Professional drone operators—Professional drone operators are typically hired as freelancers. To build their portfolios and expand their network, most will register on portals such as dronebase, io and precision hawk. The benefit of this practice is two-fold: It allows businesses to hire drone pilots who are local while helping freelancers find work according to their preferences.
  • Full-time drone operators—Those who are seeking consistent income may consider working as full-time drone operators. These UAV pilots typically work as part of a team.

Are you a drone enthusiast? Check out our blog, “Turn Your Love of UAVs into a High-Flying Career.”

Salaries and demographics

According to the latest numbers from Glassdoor, the median total pay for a drone pilot in the United States is $85,159, with an average salary of $54,128. The additional estimated pay of $31,031 may include perks such as cash bonuses, commissions, tips and profit sharing. It’s important to note that salaries vary, depending on the industry and location. For example, drone pilots who work in mapping and surveying top the charts as the highest earners in comparison to those in film and video, which place last. And when it comes to location, drone pilots working in the West earn the most money in contrast to the South, which pays the least. So, that brings us to the UAV jobs that pay the most. Read on to learn which drone pilot jobs are paying over $100K a year.

UAV Jobs Paying Over $100K

Are you a drone pilot or UAV enthusiast looking to start an exciting, high-paying career? Some of today’s hottest industries are paying six-figure salaries for experienced drone pilots. Check them out!

Surveying and mapping engineer—Salary: $115,000

Graphic Information Systems (GIS) specialists are embracing drone surveying to conduct their topographic surveys. By using drones, they can reduce the time and expense of the surveys as well as the burden that’s placed on field professionals who use traditional methods. This industry advantage is putting these drone pilots—surveying and mapping engineers—in high demand.

Real estate photographer—Salary: $107,500

Today’s real estate market is hot. This means that real estate drone photographers are in high demand. Buyers love seeing aerial views of a property since it provides a birds-eye view of its appearance, proportions and surroundings. In fact, according to the multiple listing service (MLS), properties with drone photographs are up to 68 percent more likely to sell than those without.

UAV pilot instructor—Salary: $100,600

Drone pilot instructors teach those who want to improve their flying and operational skills through industry-leading training. They provide valuable insight on the theory and practice of unmanned flight as well as student mentorship and guidance.

Inspection and monitoring—Salary: $100,600

In this field, drones are used for the safe and efficient collection of data for pollution monitoring, powerline inspection, forest fire detection, railway track inspection and disaster monitoring, among other tasks. The UAVs used for these tasks resemble a helicopter that’s able to collect comprehensive data at low altitudes via equipment which is installed under the drone. The high level of detail and accuracy of ground inspection and monitoring make this a valuable and low-cost option, as well as being advantageous for drone pilots in this industry.

Search and rescue—Salary: $100,000

When time is of the essence, using drones in the capacity of search and rescue can be the difference between life and death. These drones provide real-time visual information and data in the aftermath of earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters, as well as being used by firefighters, disaster response and rescue teams. And it’s also important to note that drones have been an invaluable tool for helping to locate missing and lost persons.

What it takes to command a high salary?

Does piloting drones sound like a career you’d like to pursue? The proper certification and training can set you on an exciting path to becoming a UAV pilot. But there are other factors that come into play when you compete for these high-paying jobs, which include:

  • Experience
  • Skill level
  • Industry

As you can see from the high-paying jobs we discussed, drone pilots can expect to not only earn a competitive salary but have well-paying job opportunities for years to come. In fact, some data reveals that approximately 100,000 new jobs could be created in the drone industry over the next 10 years. Will you be one of the industry’s next drone pilots?

How Vaughn can help get you there

Vaughn College is one of the select colleges in the country that offers classes in UAV technology, usage and drone law―all of which will help fully prepare you in every aspect of the field. We also have communities for like-minded UAV hobbyists, such as the UAV club, where students and faculty put their heads together to build, program and compete in top contests around the nation. And were you aware that Vaughn’s UAV Club has been instrumental in getting the word out in the past by hosting the highly anticipated festivities surrounding International Drone Day (IDD) and National Drone Safety Awareness Week?

Is being a drone pilot in your future? Discover the possibilities of how our Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Design, Application and Operation Certificate can help put you behind the controls. Apply today!