The first five of ten students studying to be unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV, or drone) pilots have completed their Remote Pilots License (RPL), thanks to bursaries from the Cyril Ramaphosa Education Trust (CRET).
On 2 September, five students graduated from The Academy of Aviation. The ceremony, hosted at the academy’s premises in Rietfontein, Krugersdorp, saw Velile Mngoma, Amanjee Moosa, Azwindini Mugari, Braiden Kitching and Jayden Brink graduate as part of the CRET’s effort to develop careers in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).
The students received their certificates and tested their skills in windy conditions as they conducted their maiden flight at the ceremony as RPL holders.
Speaking at the ceremony, Chantelle Oosthuizen, Executive Director of CRET, said, “As with all of our CRET graduates, it is an exciting moment to see them spread their wings and fly off into the world – this is quite literal for our aviation students. CRET isn’t just for university education. The programme exists to support and develop well-grounded graduates who grow to be leaders, who are of service to their community, and who have the skills to build a prosperous future.”
The graduates come from different backgrounds and seek to put their new skills to use in a variety of careers. Moosa, for example, is a paramedic and is eager to utilise drones in reducing response times to medical emergencies in South Africa. The graduates believe their careers can benefit from the use of drones, citing how drones are used in their chosen careers in other parts of the world. Brink, a firefighter, told defenceWeb how infrared sensors on drones are used to determine the hottest areas of a fire as well as gather other information critical to firefighters.
The sponsorship of RPL students is a first for the CRET. Traditionally assisting university students, Oosthuizen said the trust has identified a growing global demand for drone pilots. On the back of South Africa having one of the highest unemployment rates in the world (44.4% according to Al Jazeera), Oosthuizen and the CRET believe more jobs need to be created in the country.
The Academy of Aviation has recently introduced their RPL course and is seeking to offer a Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) course as well as other drone pilot courses in the future.
Drone technology has a plethora of applications in the 4IR. Agriculture, infrastructure maintenance, construction, security, policing, crowd control, entertainment, humanitarian aid and more fields are experiencing great successes in utilising drones to make jobs safer, easier and more effective.