The popularity of drones has soared in recent years with improvements in technology and a greater interest in aerial photography among the public. The Consumer Technology Association estimates that 400,000 drones will be sold this holiday season in the U.S. Many of the smaller lightweight drones are essentially toys, but there are also many practical applications for these remote-controlled flying devices.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) are currently the fastest growing career opportunities in the world. An unmanned vehicle is part of a system composed of the vehicle, communications, payload, and control station; there is a pilot, but just not on board. Size and complexity of these aircraft vary greatly. Some weigh only a few pounds, while others are the size of an A-10 attack plane. If you love flying drones or model airplanes, this is the career for you!
A wide range of businesses, from e-retailers to photographers, news operations, and others have been clamoring for the ability to use drones for several years but have been prevented from doing so until the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) implements regulations to ensure their safe operation. The businesses have been arguing that the delays in implementing drone rules in the United States are costing billions of dollars in cost savings and new revenue.
Back in December 2013, Amazon.com said it had begun working on a drone-based delivery system that it hoped to use in the next few years to deliver packages to customers’ doorsteps in 30 minutes or less. Google has also been developing a system of drones to deliver goods, and Domino’s Pizza tested delivering pizzas via drone. Amazon had predicted it would be ready to set its Prime Air Octocopters in flight by 2015, but all of these companies are still waiting for the FAA to create and finalize the rules that would enable such delivery methods.
Current FAA regulations permit recreational users to fly small drones as long as they stay at least 5 miles away from an airport, limit flights to less than 400 feet in altitude, keep the aircraft in line of sight, and fly only during the daytime. The FAA is working on completing new regulations that would govern commercial flights and keep them safely away from aircraft traffic as well as pedestrians and other hazards. When the government regulations finally catch up with the technology, commercial drones might be seen in the skies over the United States by sometime next year. “Hopefully before June 17, 2016,” FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Whitaker testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee, according to Reuters.
The FAA already has granted exceptions for the military, agriculture, and oil and gas companies, as well as a few commercial permits. For example, electric companies are using drones to check power lines to keep workers safely on the ground. Other commercial uses are not far off. While estimates vary, it’s widely thought that the drone industry will have an $82 billion impact and add 100,000 jobs to the U.S. economy by 2025. “You couldn’t pick a better career to go into,” said Unmanned Vehicle University Provost John Minor.
Paul Dragos, a former Navy pilot, is UVU’s dean of flight instruction, teaching future pilots to fly drones for commercial purposes. “I compare it to automobiles around the turn of the century,” Dragos said. “At first they were kind of a novelty. They were expensive; only a few people had them. But look at how much we use them nowadays. It’s going to be like that for drones in just a very few years.… There’s going to be a boom in this industry like this country has never seen.”
People who are trained in unmanned aerial vehicles and unmanned aircraft systems will be able to start their own UAV business or enter the unmanned systems career field in the jobs listed below:
Quality Assurance Manager
Systems Test Analyst
Aviation Data Monitor
From construction inspection to mine inspections, to sporting events and weddings, the leaders at UVU say they have already identified 300 jobs that drones can do today. That list will grow exponentially over the next few years. Here are 100 UAV applications:
Aerial Photos & Video
Aerial Land Survey
Aerial Terrain Mapping
Biological Agent Detection
Communications Tower Inspection
Facility Inspection & Mapping
Fire Risk Assessment
Forest Fire Mapping
Golf Resort Management
Gravel Pit Inventory
Ice Pack Monitoring
Land Survey & Mapping
Marine Life Observation
Medical Supply Delivery
Nuclear Inspection & Monitoring
Oil Rig Inspection
Oil Spill Detection & Tracking
Powerline Route Surveys
Remote Aerial Mapping
Remote Aerial Surveillance
River Discharge Monitoring
Search & Rescue
Security Monitoring & Surveillance
Snow Pack Monitoring
Solar Panel Inspection
Storm Damage Assessment
Substation Inspection & Imaging
Thermal & Elevation Mapping
Transmission Line Inspection
Tree Growth Monitoring
TV Tower Inspection
Wind Turbine Inspection
The UAV industry is just getting started and “one thing we know is they are going to require a certain amount of education and training and aeronautical knowledge in order to operate,” UVU Provost John Minor said. That’s where schools like UVU come in. Unmanned Vehicle University (UVU) in Phoenix, Arizona, offers short courses, certificate programs, and online graduate degrees (no master’s thesis required) in unmanned aerial vehicles and unmanned aircraft systems. The university is licensed and working on accreditation. Students can attend a live seminar, take a few online classes, or earn up to a doctorate.
Several colleges with aviation programs also have courses in unmanned aerial systems. In 2009, the University of North Dakota was first to offer a degree in the field. In 2011, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University began offering a bachelor’s degree in unmanned aircraft systems at its Daytona Beach campus. Kansas State University Salina is the nation’s first FAA-approved commercial flight training program for unmanned aircraft systems. Cochise College in Douglas, Arizona, offers an Unmanned Aerial Systems Operator Associate of Applied Science degree focusing on UAV systems and flight operation. Northland Community & Technical College’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Maintenance Training Center is the first vocational technical program of its kind.
“If you want to start a drone business, this is the book for you. From horse carriage to car, from standalone PC to internet, drones will revolutionize the aviation industry. There are already successful commercial drone businesses all around the world. Drones are currently in an emerging commercialization phase and those that start businesses now could benefit by being the first. Interest is growing in civil uses, including commercial photography, aerial mapping, crop monitoring, advertising, communications and broadcasting. Drones may increase efficiency, save money, enhance safety, and even save lives. There are hundreds of things a drone can do but this book focuses on 30 commercial applications that will generate an income for drone entrepreneurs.”