For growing numbers of unemployed South African youth, the sky is literally the limit, with the country’s booming drone technology sector opening up a range of opportunities for local youth.
And this is just the start, says YES. The organisation sees the sector as an increasingly important source of jobs in the coming years, and aims to create at least 1000 drone professionals in the next five years alone.
Drone market research company Drone Industry Insights forecasts the global drone market to reach $41.3 billion by 2026. In South Africa, drones are already being used across a range of sectors, including agriculture, construction, mining, conservation, health services and disaster relief.
Of the first cohort of trainees in Saldanha in 2021, 60% were women – and 100% of the participants got full-time jobs after completing their training. Of the current cohort, the salaries of which were sponsored by property portal giant, Property24, all YES Youth who completed the course are now licensed pilots. Additionally, two students have started jobs as drone maintenance technician trainees, while six gained quality work experience working for the West Coast Disaster Management Centre.
In Alexandra, 22 of the current cohort of nearly 60 youth are now fully licensed to fly a drone, with a further 15 undergoing BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) training. Five have been trained as drone technicians, while 33 are being trained in processing and analysing drone data.
Many are already putting their new-found skills to work, with their on-the-job training seeing them mapping informal settlements in collaboration with the Housing Development Agency, which is tasked with the upgrading of these settlements. They have already collected their first data set in the Gabon informal settlement in Ekurhuleni, which has been processed on the Drone Deploy platform and has been shared with the Housing Development Agency, the City of Johannesburg and the City of Ekurhuleni.
The focus on the drone industry is part of a deliberate strategy by YES to create so-called future-facing jobs, which piggy-back on the world’s move towards digitisation and technology. Key sectors include global business services (such as business process outsourcing centres), cybersecurity, and 3D printing.
Bongani Makola, one of the youth who has received data analytics training at the Alex Drone Academy, says he has learned new skills that will be invaluable for his future. The 12-month quality work experience that he is undergoing has also allowed him to generate an income and support his family.
The Alex Hub is one of three YES Hubs around the country, with the other two in Saldanha and Tembisa. With the support of companies like EOH, McCormick Property, Jurumani, Microsoft and Assupol, YES Hubs create spaces for potential entrepreneurs and self-starters who just need that first chance to unlock their potential through support programmes, training, and connections to markets.