As the FAA prepares to fully integrate drones into American airspace over the next few years, a growing number of schools are also prepping for the change that influx will bring to the country’s pilot training landscape.
Several universities have already staked their claim in the drone arena, with dozens approved as authorized UAV launch sites.
One individual is taking things a step further, by setting up the first university to focus solely on the training of future drone designers, operators and support personnel.
The man behind the Unmanned Vehicle University is retired Air Force colonel Jerry LeMieux, who is now seeking to get FAA certification for the school within a year. His school, which seeks to add to its current online curriculum with on-campus classes in Arizona, has already received international accreditation.
While LeMieux’s endeavor may be the first school completely dedicated to drone education, it is by no means the only college venturing into the realm of UAV training.
A number of other schools are also developing programs specifically targeted for the up-and-coming industry, and while many focus on design and operation training, several colleges are combining that curriculum with coursework that address the numerous ethical questions surrounding the growing use of UAVs. Both the University of North Dakota and Kansas State University, for example, currently offer four-year degrees for students looking to become drone pilots, while the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has set up curriculum aimed specifically at exploring the potential roles drones may play in the future of information gathering and media.
With the FAA predicting the number of civilian drones operating in the U.S. to balloon to 10,000 within the next five years, exactly what shape those roles will take is yet to be fully realized.