Unmanned Aircraft Operator

Unmanned Aircraft Operator
Operators of unmanned aircraft are responsible for takeoff and landing, maneuvering, navigating, traffic and collision avoidance, monitoring onboard systems and weather, and communicating with air traffic controllers.

About the Career

To date, the majority of unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operations has been for military purposes. Although, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is currently working with the UAS industry and its manufacturers to integrate their operations in civilian airspace by 2015.

This would allow public agencies, local police and fire departments, and private contractors to operate UAS for our benefit. For example, UAS can assist emergency professionals in locating missing people following a natural disaster.

On the job you will:

  • Takeoff, navigate, and land unmanned aircraft
  • Operate aircraft controls from command center by remote radio and closed circuit video transmission
  • Follow strict flight path
  • Analyze performance data
  • Prepare reports covering airframe, guidance, power plant, and mechanical controls of aircraft after ground or flight testing
  • UA pilots work with engineers and manufacturers to evaluate the success of flight tested aircraft and assist with preflight aircraft inspections


Average Salary: $56,550
Salary Range: $35,200 - $93,000
Education: Certificate
Outlook: Great (11% - 20% growth)
Total Jobs (2024)2,040

Education and Training

The road to becoming a UAS operator is similar to that of a commercial pilot. Employers look for applicants with the most experience and education. To be paid at the higher end of the pay scale, you'll need a 4-year college degree in aeronautics or engineering.

Some aspiring UAS operators decide to attend a college that offers 4-year degrees and pilot training programs together. With this route, you'll end up with your degree and usually enough flight hours to apply for an entry level postition.

Whether you decide to go to college or not, you will need to obtain the necessary operator or pilot credentials determined by the type of unmanned aircraft you are flying.

Information provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Descriptions are based on general guidelines and industry standards and job duties may vary by employer and specific industry. Labor projections utilize data for the North Central Texas region and may vary from national statistics.

Critical Skills

Operation Monitoring
Quality Control Analysis
Critical Thinking
Operation and Control