An unmanned aerial vehicle, an unmanned aerial system, a drone all describe an aircraft that is flown remotely and is unmanned. While most people associate drones with wars, insurgency and military operations, the role of the drone in various sectors like research and photography has yielded results that are unparalleled to any other surveillance system. Drones are used in search and rescue, surveillance, scientific research as well as photography and videos. They can be small aircrafts or 130 foot wingspan military aircraft.
The industry generates various other job opportunities besides being a pilot. There are technicians, payload specialists, imagery analysts, and system engineers who put the drone in the sky, not to mention other careers like seismic study, oil and gas operations, disaster relief, border control and search and rescue. By the year 2020, the U.S Federal Aviation Association predicts that 30,000 drones will be airborne. This translates to a 13.6 billion dollar industry for commercial drones alone by 2018, the creation of 70,000 jobs, in addition to camera drones which are expected to bring in an estimated 5 billion a year.
So why hasn’t the industry realized this figures yet? While many factors come into play like the ban on commercial drones a few years back, the primary reason is government regulation. However, the drone landscape is rapidly changing and as demand grows for skilled people in the industry, so do the training institutions and courses needed to create professionals in this field. Below are the top 5 training colleges that offer training courses in drones ranked according to academic reputation, accreditation, hands on piloting and engineering of the drone among other courses.
Embry-riddle Aeronautical University
This Florida based campus offers the ROTC program which graduates the most pilot cadets outside of a military institution. As the first university ever to offer a postgraduate in drones, Embry-Riddle has two options in drone education; flying of drones and building of drones. They offer BSc in unmanned Aircraft systems science and Masters in unmanned and Autonomous Systems Engineering. Apart from the Daytona, Florida campus, classes are also available online as well as at their campus in Prescott, Arizona.
Oklahoma State University
Oklahoma State was the initial university offering a graduate concentration in unmanned aircraft systems. The university offers its students a choice between a Master’s of Science or a PhD in mechanical and aerospace engineering. The course includes design, construction and test flying the drones, with research opportunities available through the UAS program.
Indiana State University
The establishment of Indiana State’s center for Unmanned Systems and Human Capital development in 2013 heralded the integration of the Bachelor of Science in unmanned systems and a minor in unmanned systems into the curriculum. Classes include advanced unmanned aerial systems operations, the mechanics of unmanned systems, Payloads and sensors among many other subjects. Instruction in theory is given on the functions of UAS and regulations surrounding them.
Kansas State University
With a well established and elite aviation program, Kansas State offers a 4 year Bachelor’s degree in unmanned aircraft systems. Students practically fly their own UAS as well as have theory lessons on them. In addition, they have the opportunity to be a part of a real mission led by the department of defense. Since it’s inception, Kansas State has grown to achieve more Master certified flight Instructors than any other university.
University of North Dakota
One of the many offerings in the University of North Dakota is a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautics with a Major in unmanned aircraft systems. With access to the restricted airspace over camp Grafton, South training area, R5401, students get to test flight their UAS practically. The curriculum includes flight Physiology, ground and sensor systems and advanced aerodynamics.
As the industry of unmanned aircraft systems grows and regulations are revisited, we need to be prepared for the tsunami of drones coming our way.
Image credits - spaxels