In 2013, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International projected that drones would create at least 100,000 new jobs by the year 2025.
In 2016, the importance of drones to the economy of the United States was illustrated when new regulations were introduced allowing the commercial use of drones albeit under certain conditions.
Drones are used for a wide range of purposes and in a wide range of non-military industries. For example, in making deliveries, in the media industry, for scientific research/conservation, law enforcement, photography/film, utility industries, entertainment and also disaster management.
One of the core requirements for the commercial use of drones is that the drone operator must hold a remote pilot airman certificate or otherwise operate the drone under the direct supervision of a certified drone pilot.
This requirement in itself creates a new and lasting demand for certified drone pilots; after all, it is expected that non-military use of drones will only increase.
In a bid to fill the pilot gap created, colleges all across the United States are offering drone pilot training programs as well as other related courses such as the engineering and the repair of drones.
Below are 10 of the best colleges offering drone pilot training.
1. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Embry-Riddle is one of the best drone pilot training universities and with good reason too. As a matter of fact, it was the first university in the United States to offer postgraduate drone technology courses.
In addition to that, the university has a reputation for having more pilot cadets graduate from the school’s Reserve Officers Training Corps program than all the other non-military endorsed colleges.
Drone courses on how to build, repair and pilot drones are given both online and at the university’s campuses in Prescott, Arizona and Daytona Beach, Florida. Through the Bachelor of Science in UAS Science course, students learn how to pilot a drone and may even learn how to repair and engineer drones.
2. Kansas State Polytechnic University (Salina, KS)
Kansas State University was the first institution in the United States to gain FAA approval allowing them to offer both commercial and academic flight training. Drone pilot training is a four-year long bachelor’s degree in UAS.
Another major benefit of learning how to pilot a drone at Kansas State University is the fact that the school emphasises on a “hands-on” training approach. Indeed, students sometimes get the opportunity to collaborate with the Department of Defense in real missions.
3. University of North Dakota (Grand Forks, ND)
It is the oldest and largest university in North Dakota. The university also has more educational courses that any other institution in the state.
Drone pilot training is done through their Bachelor of Science in Aeronautics with a Major in UAS Operations. The university has a set of campus groups involved in UAS studies and competition as well as a research centre dedicated to drone research.
Drone piloting students also have access to at least 13,000 square miles of airspace on the campus due to the small population. This space is especially useful for drone flying practice.
4. Oklahoma State University (Stillwater, OK)
Oklahoma State University which is also known as America’s healthiest campus also offers Drone pilot training courses.
The university’s UAS program started in 2011 and focused on training at the graduate level. The training, which is hands-on, includes analysis, programming and flight testing of drones.
In 2015, a UAS pilot program was also initiated at the University to train commercial drone pilots. OSU provides both indoor and outdoor flight testing facilities. It also has the advantage of having a fleet of over 100 different drones.
5. Indiana State University (Terre Haute, IN)
Established in 1865, Indiana State University now offers more than 100 majors including a major in unmanned systems. Students in aviation management and aviation technology programs also have the option of taking a minor in unmanned systems.
In 2013, the school established the Center for Unmanned Systems and Human Capital Development, dedicated to developing human capital to facilitate the safe use of drones.
6. Liberty University (Lynchburg, VA)
Liberty University is one of the best-known Christian universities in the United States and is particularly famous for its online classes.
Through the schools Bachelor’s degree in Aeronautics, students are taught not only how to fly drones but also how to construct and operate standard control systems for drones.
Upon successfully completing the course students receive Dragon Eye UAS certification. Test flights are also done within the boundaries of Liberty University’s airspace.
7. Unmanned Vehicle University (Phoenix, AZ)
Unlike the other institutions on this list, Unmanned Vehicle University is not credited. However, it has a license by the State of Arizona Board of Education. Instructors at the school are highly qualified and boast a combined flight experience of more than 60,000 hours.
Drone pilot training is mostly hands-on with few or no textbooks used in the course. Instead, the teaching and learning come from experience. The drone pilot training program at the school is broken down into 3 phases totalling 46-course hours. The final 16 hours are for real flight training.
8. SkyOp (Canandaigua, NY)
SkyOp, an aerial educational organization, based in New York has partnered with Monroe Community and Mohawk Community College to offer drone pilot training programs.
A student can get a certificate after completion of 18 hours of training. These training hours are divided into 3-hour sessions. Students practice flying on simulators, hands-on models and even multi-rotor drones.
Aside from drone pilot training, students also receive training in the regulatory environment as well as operational and safety issues associated with drones.
9. Lewis University (Romeoville, IL)
Although the Lewis University is relatively young, it has a rich history in aviation technology programs. In fact, the US News and World report frequently rank the schools Bachelor of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles program as among the best drone programs in the United States.
Furthermore, the school has its on-sight airport for drone pilot training and even experimental operations. 128 credit hours are for graduation after which students get a Private and Commercial pilot certificate for single-engine aerial vehicles.
10. Middle Tennessee State University (Murfreesboro, TN)
Over the last few years, Middle Tennessee State University has invested heavily in its science program culminating in a state of the art Science Building worth $147 million.
In 2015, the school introduced a Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace with a major in UAS operations. In the course, students come to know how to construct and operate drones as well as how to incorporate drones in other industries.