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Anticipating domestic surveillance boom, colleges rev up drone piloting programs

Published: February 1, 2013
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Source: NBC News


Franzen, who dreams of one day piloting drones over forest fires in the U.S., believes he is at the forefront of a watershed moment in aviation, one in which manned flight takes a jumpseat to the remote-controlled variety.

While most jobs flying drones currently are military-related, universities and colleges expect that to change by 2015, when the Federal Aviation Administration is due to release regulations for unmanned aircraft in domestic airspace. Once those regulations are in place, the FAA predicts that 10,000 commercial drones will be operating in the U.S. within five years.

Although just three schools currently offer degrees in piloting unmanned aircraft, many others – including community colleges – offer training for remote pilots. And those numbers figure are set to increase, with some aviation industry analysts predicting drones will eventually come to dominate the U.S. skies in terms of jobs.

At the moment, 358 public institutions – including 14 universities and colleges – have permits from the FAA to fly unmanned aircraft. Those permits became public last summer after the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

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