With commercial drones set to hit the sky in a few years, American universities are stepping up to meet the demand for pilots by offering degrees in drone piloting.
Kansas State University and the University of North Dakota have established Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) programs that educate students about drones both in the classroom and in the field. Kansas State, according to its website, now offers a “Bachelor of Science in Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)”; instructors use “a hands-on approach for learning and attaining the skills needed to safely operate and manage UAS — it’s what sets K-State apart from the rest.” Florida’s Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has also expanded its curriculum, which now includes drone piloting.
The executive director of KSU’s Applied Aviation Research Center, Kurt Barnhart, emphasizes the cutting-edge nature of the school’s program in a promotional video. “The exciting thing about this is that we’re at the outset of this industry,” he says. “It’s growing, and the civilian airspace is opening up in a few years, and so we’re training the operators to take advantage of that window when it opens very shortly.”
Universities are educating students to fill jobs that are expected to materialize in the coming years. The drone industry will create 70,000 jobs in the first three years after the introduction of commercial drones, expected in 2015, according to SmartPlanet, and, by 2025, drones will create an estimated 100,000 jobs.
Under the State Department’s International Traffic in Arms Regulations, degrees are only open to U.S. citizens.