Higher Education Embraces Unmanned Aircraft

Zachary Waller always wanted to be a commercial airline pilot as a kid.

The prestige and paycheck associated with being the captain of a huge airliner appealed to him. But shortly after he arrived at the University of North Dakota in 2008, he realized he could actually take to the skies and secure a good job without having his feet leave the ground. He decided to pursue a new major that the department of aviation was offering—unmanned aircraft systems operations. He spent his college years studying drones.

“There were no textbooks,” Waller says of the program’s early years. “Nothing like this had ever been taught in an academic setting.” When he began studying unmanned aircraft in 2009, there were about 15 students in the major. Today, 120 students are enrolled in the program.

It’s not  just a North Dakota phenomenon. Curricula and research projects related to drones are cropping up at both large universities and community colleges across the country. In a list of 81 publicly funded entities that have applied for a certificate of authorization to fly drones from the Federal Aviation Administration, more than a third are colleges, according to FAA documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Schools—and their students—are jockeying for a position on the ground floor of a nascent industry that looks poised to generate jobs and research funding in the coming years.

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Source: Time.com

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