by Glenn Pew, AvWeb contributing editor
Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are scheduled for integration into the (U.S.) national airspace system (NAS) in 2015, spurring job growth and a forecast economic impact of $13.6 billion by 2019. But while the growing industry will be adding to the overall workforce, the segment might also be changing the employment landscape for people interested in drone pilot training. The new segment will need pilots, but what kind of pilots, and where will they come from? Let’s take a look.
First, the role of an UAS pilot may be significantly different from that of traditional pilots flying today. There is even some evidence that a person’s experience functioning as a traditional pilot may actually impair some areas of their performance, or learning, as a drone pilot. But some industry observers believe it’s most likely that the FAA will require drone operators to have experience in the cockpit demonstrated in the form of a commercial and instrument flight certificate before they are allowed to operate a drone in the NAS. There are a multiple, sometimes conflicting factors to consider. Here are a few…
Educators like those at the University of North Dakota (UND) have already developed programs to train UAS pilots. UND in particular has made drone-related programs available to students since 2009.
Building A Better (Drone) Pilot
In 2009, the first year UND accepted students to its UAS program, five were enrolled. “Today,” says Palmer, “there are about 120 majors in the program.” Palmer says UND has invested roughly $22 million to research UAS related areas and is currently involved in a $5.5 million program looking at Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) drone operations.
Who Will Choose To Fly On The Ground
The history of UAS in American airspace has yet to be written. But integration of unmanned aircraft into the U.S. national airspace system is scheduled to begin in 2015. One thing is clear. UAS pilots will be a slightly different breed, but… they will still be pilots. And they may give up their time aloft quite willingly. An internal Air Force study highlighted recently by NBC news notes that of 244 undergraduates allowed to pick any career in the Air Force, one quarter elected to sign on as drone pilots. More to the point, of 487 fighter and bomber pilots assigned to three years drone duty, more than 410 elected to continue their careers as drone pilots when the three years were up. In the military, there is evidence the job is attracting, and apparently maintaining the interest of both pilots and non pilots. We don’t yet know how those patterns will translate to commercial aviation. But with 2015 looming, we’re about to find out.
Read the full text of the article The Drones Are Coming: Who Will Fly Them? at AvWeb.
Tags: Drone pilot training