As the time approaches for the expected Federal Aviation Administration's announcement of a set of regulations for the meaningful use of both commercial and noncommercial UAVs, the pent up demand by entrepreneurs, established businesses, and professionals continues to increase and has even begun to find its way into our country’s higher institutions of learning.
Recently the Association Unmanned Vehicle Systems International said that they believed that within three years after successfully integrating unmanned aircraft into United States airspace economic impacts of more than $13.6 billion would be produced. This economic boom would mean 70,000 new jobs being created. By 2025 they believe the economic impact could be as high as $82 billion. While projections like these are just that, projections, one cannot argue with actual numbers from today's burgeoning drone industry. The world's biggest consumer drone maker, SZ DJI Technology Co. of China, recently started selling ready to fly drones that come with their own in-house cameras. The Phantom quad copter launched in early 2013 and last year generated sales of $130 million. Revenue is expected to rise at least threefold this year. Other large and established companies such as GoPro have recently acknowledged their plans to develop and bring to market their own line of multi-rotor helicopters equipped with high-definition cameras late next year.
Until recently tomorrow's leaders and innovators in this new industry were limited with regard to formalized structured sources of information as it pertains to unmanned aerial vehicles for consumers and professionals alike. There are now numerous universities and colleges which offer some sort of “drone degree". Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the only fully accredited aviation oriented university in the world now offers a bachelor of science in unmanned aircraft systems science degree from its department of aeronautical science. At the University of North Dakota, associate Prof. of Aeronautics Ben Trapnell, helped to define what would become the first unmanned aircraft degree program in the United States. Schools like Kansas State University Salina, or Cochise College in Douglas, Arizona have quickly followed suit.
Considering the consumer drone market was barely a blip on the radar only a few short years ago, the current atmosphere of innovation, curiosity, and true economic impact is incredible. While these drone programs are new and untested, and federal regulations continue to fall short of the consumer drone market demand, students who are actually enrolled in drone programs say the potential opportunities outweigh the unknowns. According to sources at the University of North Dakota nearly all of their graduates from drum programs have found jobs as government drone pilots, civilian contractors, or with private drum making companies. Starting salaries range from approximately $50,000 a year with some alumni making up to $200,000.
This is indeed just the beginning. These first-year universities will be recognized as being trailblazers in the commercial drone revolution. As more universities and students enter the market and fuse their talents we will likely see unimaginable advancements in both application and design of these amazing pieces of technology. And of course, a new list of lucrative careers that don’t even exist today.