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A piece of cake: how a Ballina baker became Skytech Solutions pilot via TAFE NSW

TAFE NSW Wollongbar

A piece of cake: how a Ballina baker became Skytech Solutions pilot via TAFE NSW

Paul Buffery on the road with drones and mobile office.

Former baker Paul Buffery has gone from cooking focaccia to flying drones, getting ahead as a remote commercial pilot in the global agriculture drone industry that’s tipped to skyrocket by 2030.

Originally from New Zealand, Mr Buffery followed his new passion by reskilling as a commercial drone pilot after completing the Certificate III in Aviation (Remote Pilot). Farmers across the northern regions of NSW now rely on Mr Buffery and his new, in-demand skills for cost-effective solutions that include aerial drone spraying applications, to flood-affected crops inaccessible by tractors.

“I am working for a company called "Skytech Solutions" who are based in Goonellabah.

“I did the drone course was because my neighbour had informed me about the TAFE NSW Mature Age Workers Scholarship to complete the course.

“I have a strong passion for photography and thought this would be great,” Mr Buffery said.

After making the move to Australia and clocking-up 25 years in the baking business, he decided to change careers. Mr Buffery owned a Byron Bay bakery and ran that business for four-and-a-half years, but in 2020, he decided to reskill while he was working part-time at a local restaurant in Lennox.

“I knew I wanted to do something more different and change things up after being a baker for that long.

“TAFE NSW helped me learn not only the hands-on practical skills I needed to reskill but also a nationally recognised qualification.

"I enjoyed my time as a baker, but I realised it’s not too late to reskill and do something more technical and innovative,” Mr Buffery said.

Shortly after the Certificate III in Aviation (Remote Pilot) course wrapped-up, a local agricultural drone operator called TAFE NSW looking to recruit pilots.

“I chatted to Scott Fisher from Skytech Solutions and started work for him around February-March in 2021.

“Since then, I have become a full-time employee and I love the job,” Mr Buffery added.

According to recent reports, the global agriculture drone market is expected to reach $8.6 billion by 2030. Drones offer the unique opportunity to streamline agricultural work in a variety of ways, taking the burden off the farmers and placing it in the capable hands of drone pilots.

According to Ben Beesley, Aviation Head Teacher at Wollongbar campus, TAFE NSW works with industry to develop training that meets their specific needs, to ensure graduates enter the workforce job ready.

“The certificate III is a nationally recognised qualification that provides you with a CASA certification and Remote Pilot Licence (RePL), plus, an Aircraft Radio Operator Certificate (AROC) which is required to communicate with other airspace users.

“Drones can have precise and accurate sensors, which can determine things like water stress, low crop nutrients and poor soil health, a tool that is increasingly vital in the agriculture industry.

“By implementing the use of drones, a farm can see real impact economically and be environmentally efficient by targeting the areas that need the most care,” Mr Beesley said.

After making the job switch, Mr Buffery is encouraging those who are considering a career re-invention to invest in lifelong education and explore in-demand skills in new, emerging markets.

“I’ve been working full-time on a salary at Skytech since July last year and we are super busy,” Mr Buffery said.

The Certificate III in Aviation (Remote Pilot) is designed to give people the essential experience and skills for a job as a remote aircraft pilot or commercial drone operator, a huge emerging market.

“I’m constantly learning.

"Every day is different, I’m out on the road, in nature, seeing some of the most stunning views most never get to experience; it’s a balance of technical and skill.

“Now I've made the switch, I have no regrets," Mr Buffery concluded.

Media contact: Nastasha Tupas, TAFE NSW Communications Specialist,,, 02 7920 5000.