The Drone Job Market: What is it and Where is it Going?
With the industry maturing, the drone job market within it is becoming increasingly complex and more difficult to navigate – companies are competing not only to develop the latest UAV technology, but also to grab the very best engineers out there. More automated and integrated solutions possible for clients, and the manpower and job-specific skills for this simply do not grow on trees. Neither do the marketing, and management professionals who know how to sell these products.
To help companies navigate the challenges of recruitment, we have launched a recruitment consulting service which means that we’ll be able to use our knowledge, insights and connections to help you recruit the best people for your drone company. To mark the launch of this new service, we have done some research to show you what the drone job market looks like and what the trends to watch out for are.
U.S. Companies are Top Recruiters, While Israel is Home to Rising Stars
Last year our team conducted some market research to produce a snapshot of the job market in the drone industry in the summer of 2018. We looked at not only jobs offered by drone platform manufacturers, but also software developers in the drone industry and drone service providers (DSPs).
DRONEII looked at over 400 companies in the hardware, software and services sectors of the drone industry, a ¼ of which had job openings at the time of research. Of course, it was impossible to present true market shares in this instance, especially as Chinese companies are less transparent in their hiring processes than other business, more often using of back channels like headhunters.
In terms of hot spots for work in the drone industry, the United States, and especially California, is home to most of the companies hiring. Within the European context France, the UK, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands remain dominant hot spots of drone related recruitment. Meanwhile, in the Middle East Israel is home to a particularly booming drone industry, mainly thanks to Airobotics and Percepto, but also some start-ups we have mentioned recently like the Tel Aviv-based Civdrone.
Wanted: Software Engineers
Overall, we looked at 903 job advertisements listed by 102 different companies – 622 were hardware manufacturers, 150 software, and just 11 were from DSPs.
However, despite most job advertisements coming from platform manufacturers, the most sought-after position was in fact that of a software engineer.
- Software engineers are the most sought after in the drone industry both by platform manufacturers and by software companies. This is partly because some companies like Thales Alenia Space or DELAIR are both hardware and software manufacturers. Another reason is that hardware companies like the recently acquired Aeryon Labs, Flyability and Matternet are hiring software engineers for their R&D divisions firstly in order to continue increase the level of automation within their products (e.g. sense & avoid features) and secondly as a response to the growing demand for E2E (end-to-end) solutions.
- Hardware engineers are exclusively sought after by hardware manufacturers and, thanks to the many features which drones can and must contain, they come from a variety of backgrounds: electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and aeronautical engineering.
- Sales roles are the portion of drone jobs which are customer oriented and as drone companies grow bigger increasingly focus on specific regions (for example, companies seeking sales executives for specifically California, or the Eastern Cape).
- Operations job offerings represent the bulk of manual jobs including work of technicians, inspectors, and warehouse staff.
- Management jobs include a wide selection of roles which exist to make the workflow in the company smoother. Therefore, companies last year sought both project managers on the one end and business intelligence analysts on the other. Fun fact: DJI even had an advertisement seeking an English teacher in Shenzhen.
“Despite most job advertisements coming from platform manufacturers, the most sought-after position was in fact that of a software engineer.”
William van de Lagemaat, Principal Researcher
Not only did we research the drone job market for the summer of 2018, but we did the same thing in 2017 detailing 699 job offers. The key difference between the two years (apart from the 300 more job ads we were able to find) is that 70 companies which are on our 2017 list are not on the 2018 list. This is largely due to the difficulties that many endured last year as the drone industry faced harsh realities.
However, in 2018 we did find jobs listed by 40 new companies.
This data reflects the significant increase in the demand for software engineers, not matched by other roles in drone companies. Sales is also a standout category, as positions within it almost doubled in size between 2017 and 2018 reflecting the growth in not only the number of drone companies but products that they sell on the market. The particularly low numbers of job offerings for pilots are down to the fact that the majority of pilots currently work on a freelance entrepreneurial level as big service organizations have yet to develop in this category.
These trends paint by no means a simple picture of the job market that drone companies must manage. In addition to racing to develop the latest UAV technology, they will also increasingly be racing to recruit the very best from a shrinking pool of skilled professionals. Moreover, they’re facing challenges of hiring interdisciplinary teams and finding not only the right hardware engineers, but also software experts, sales people and marketing specialists.
The global skill shortage will soon strongly influence company strategies. Rather than saying “we need someone for this project/task” executives will be asking “what project/task can we do with the skillset we have?” Find the right skills might very well become a bigger challenge than the project the person is being hired to complete.
Stronger emphasis on E2E solutions will create more interdisciplinary teams, mixtures of hardware and software engineers, yet also more customer facing employees to create and sell the most competitive products.
Emerging markets like India, Tanzania, Brazil and many more will require well-trained staff to scale production and operation meaning that this year will feature a tremendous increase in drone job offerings in emerging markets. However, with the new EU regulations nearing completion EU countries will also pick up speed in scaling their businesses, hiring new staff for large-scale manufacturing, sales and customer services.
In short, 2019 will be the year of scaling as firms race to find needles in haystacks in the form of the most competent and specifically qualified employees. It is for this reason that we are launching our new recruitment service at DRONEII, to leverage our connections and insights to help our clients find the most suitable employees.
Want to discuss drone jobs further? Or more specifically our new recruitment service for companies? Find out more and contact us.
DRONEII’s token social scientist, Millie has a BA in International Relations from King’s College London and an MSc from the University of Oxford. Earlier, she amongst other things researched Science & Tech policy for the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Brussels. At DRONEII she particularly looks at drones and international development & global health projects.