Port Macquarie drone pilots prove skills have a diverse reach

ETC staff and Ripper Group at Town Beach performing simulation pod drops in preparation for summer.
ETC staff and Ripper Group at Town Beach performing simulation pod drops in preparation for summer.

Drone pilot jobs have emerged as a key growth area with opportunities growing in industries from real estate to agriculture.

Four Port Macquarie job seekers were recently employed with The Ripper Group to provide shark surveillance over Town Beach and were thrilled with the chance to give back to their local community and to future-proof their careers.

Ripper Group pilot Jasmine Berkhardt said it was a great feeling to be working to save lives.

“Looking for jobs in Port Macquarie was hard, but then to actually get a job that means something was even harder. I knew I wanted to do something with my life – to help people, so this has been an amazing opportunity,” Jasmine said.

“I can also see that drones and technology is the way of the future. So it’s really exciting to be a part of that.”

Jasmine, along with her team mate Nick Dyson, undertook a challenging training program to gain their CASA Remote Pilot Licence through the Ripper Aviation Academy in partnership with ETC.

“We completed two weeks of training and then a two week internship – which was amazing, we all learnt some really cool skills. The training was very intense and we had to really work hard for it, but it was a good challenge,” Jasmine said.

“There was a lot of aviation we had to learn, a gruelling theory exam and then the practical where we flew the drone around in a circuit to demonstrate our skills. I put 100% focus into it and was absolutely ecstatic when I was selected at the end. I’ve been loving it every day since,” Nick said.

ETC CEO Jenny Barnett said ETC was enjoying working with the Little Ripper Group to provide this training and employment pathway for young job seekers.

 “Being a not-for-profit, employment service provider and Registered Training Organisation, ETC is proud to be supporting the Little Ripper Group. This aligns perfectly with our own goals of helping to reduce disadvantage and providing employment and training opportunities in the local region,” Mrs Barnett said.

Mrs Barnett said ETC was now working with the Westpac Little Ripper Lifesaver team to expand the successful Port Macquarie model to other areas within NSW and potentially Queensland.

General manager of The Ripper Aviation Academy, Rob Curtis, oversaw the program and is proud of what the pilots have achieved.

“The program is the first of its kind for the Company and it’s great to see it emerge as a success. It’s incredible seeing how far the pilots have come in such a short period of time, they have some great qualifications and professional experiences under their belts.

“A significant part of that can also be attributed to the support given by ETC and Surf Life Saving NSW, who have been key players since the program began,” Mr Curtis said.

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