[Photo Credit: Academy of Model Aeronautics website]
Over five decades ago, our company Pacer Technology (aka Super Glue Corporation) established its roots as producers of hobby airplane kits (and the job-specific glues and cyanoacrylates used to build them). These kits transformed into radio-control (RC)airplanes, RC helicopters, and RC jets, and as such the adhesives used to construct and maintain them became more and more chemically challenging to formulate. We branched off to produce the complex adhesives while all along the way maintaining strong bonds with the hobbyists participating in this evolving industry. These hobbyists became, and remain to this day, some of our most trusted new product development team members and advisors. Today, breaking news daily reports that an entire new career – qualified operators highly paid and highly sought-after – is here for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) Drone pilots who learned their skills as RC hobbyists. We couldn’t be more proud!!
This February 14, 2013 St. Louis Today article, written by Jesse Bogan, entitled “Kirkwood Man Goes From Hobbyist To Drone Pilot In Afghanistan” is just one of the many success stories being written about our military drone operators and these “private contractors that are needed to help the military keep up with rising popularity of the unmanned aircraft.” One thing they all have in common is they began as RC hobbyists and enthusiasts. For the private contractor, Peter Sunder, highlighted in this article, “his route to Afghanistan began as a young child tinkering with remote control planes”. Sunder began piloting unmanned aircraft in 2009 as a paid job. “He operated drones in Iraq” seeing some “very intense stuff”. Now Sunder works for AAI Corporation, “a firm that designs drone aircraft and contracts services with the military”. The article states that Sunder is still an active hobbyist and “has a collection of model planes that he plays with when he has downtime on base …”. He even conducts air shows for the local Afghans in his spare time.
Drones are very helpful to the military because they can be used to take photographs from the air, map terrains, document buildings and infrastructure along with providing aid in a variety of other ways to missions and operations. Additionally, they can be armed with weapons reducing the risk of sending manned warcraft into dangerous situations.
The growing use of these UAVs is also providing career paths stateside as well. According to this, May 17, 2012, article from PoliceOne.com, entitled “Police UAV pilot: A career path less traveled by” the author Doug Wyllie lays out just what people interested in these careers need to do to get started on the path of piloting drones or UAVs. “The first step an interested officer might consider taking toward achieving the goal of becoming a LE UAV operator is simply by becoming/being a hobbyist and enthusiast …”.
In his article, Wyllie interviewed “Curtis Sprague, a retired SWAT Officer and former Federal Air Marshal who now serves as director of the aviation division for a company …”. According to Sprague, ’There is a lot of information to sift through on the subject of unmanned aircraft systems. Subjects range from types of UAVs, how to fly, cost, FAA regulations, law enforcement applications, peripheral equipment training … the list goes on …’ ”The best way to gain this information, Sprague said, is get involved in hobby flying RC aircraft.” …. “Far more than simply building and flying RC vehicles, Sprague advises the seriously-interested officer to join an AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics) sanctioned RC club.”
Along with safety and the ability to eliminate the risk of human capital, one of the main reasons drones or UAVs are starting to be used more and more by the military, police forces and homeland security is cost. According to the Wyllie article, “… when compared to the cost of its full-size counterpart, the costs are nominal”. “A full-size helicopter can require an investment of around $1.2 million just to buy the vehicle — this doesn’t even include associated costs such as storage fees, ongoing maintenance, or crew training and salaries…. A department may be looking at spending about $200K for a reliable unmanned aircraft system – including operator training and a year of maintenance …”
According to one source, UAV pilots make between $30,000. to $150,000. to start. In addition to salaries, another source notes that pilots and operators are also receiving reinlistment bonuses of $50,000 - $80,000. and mission flying bonuses of $840 per month.
Here is an interesting AMA article about one of our partners and chief advisors for ZAP adhesives. Frank Tiano has been a leading RC enthusiast since 1972 and in 1979, along with other members of Sticky Group International worked with our company to produce ZAP, a form of super glue for the modeling industry. ZAP has been one of the main sponsors of Tiano’s events: Top Gun and Florida Jets two exciting international competitions that draw some of the most talented RC Pilots in the world.
As we stated at the beginning of this article we are thrilled by this whole new career path open to our friends in this industry – talented people who started out as hobbyists and enthusiasts! SOAR!!