How to Become a UAV Pilot with Customs and
Border Protection

In order to join the CBP and become a UAV pilot, applicants must possess the following minimum qualifications:

  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Ability to pass an intensive security check and polygraph test
  • Pass ongoing drug tests
  • Be under 40 years of age (may be waived for military veterans and other experienced professionals)
  • Possess a valid FAA Commercial Pilots license
  • Have at least 1,500 hours of flight time (May be reduced to 750 in some cases)
  • Have at least 250 hours as a Pilot-in-Command
  • Have 75 hours of night time flying experience
  • Have 100 hours of flight time in the last year
  • Possess a license in UAV Predator B piloting (Predator A may also be acceptable)

The Importance of a Higher Education in Securing CBP Jobs

Although there are no specific recommendations for educational requirements, it is highly advisable to provide some level of academic achievement at the post-secondary level.  The operation of expensive equipment like the CBP’s Predator B UAVs requires extensive technical knowledge of the technology and basic principles as well as specialized expertise in the specific UAV equipment.  A bachelor’s degree or higher is likely to convince CBP hiring managers that the candidate possesses the intellectual capacity to operate sophisticated equipment like a combat drone.

Experience, Certificates and Licensing in UAV Operation

There are a number of private aviation schools that offer licensing and certification programs to help candidates gain their FAA pilot’s license.  There are also some emerging certification programs in the operation of UAVs, but the ideal pathway for an individual to gain UAV piloting experience is to approach the Federal Aviation Administration and apply for an UAS: Special Airworthiness Certificates – Experimental Category (SAC-EC) for civil aircraft, or Certificates of Waiver or Authorization (COA).

For those individuals who do not possess extensive academic credentials, they must demonstrate considerable experience with UAVs similar to those utilized by the CBP.  This type of experience is most often acquired in the military, and in some law enforcement agencies.

Applying for UAV Pilot Jobs with Customs and Border Patrol

In order to begin the application process, the candidate must visit and find a job listing.  The candidate must then follow the link to the Office of Personnel Management, where they must answer some questions about basic qualifications.  If the candidate meets all pre-requisites, they will be asked to submit an application package, which includes

  • College transcripts
  • Resume
  • Documents confirming veteran, federal employee, or police officer status
  • Completed self-assessment questionnaire

If the application is approved, the candidate will be required to interview CBP hiring personnel and demonstrate UAV Predator B operation skills at the CBP training facility in Oklahoma City.

Back to Top