As technology increases, drones have become increasingly more affordable in both the private and public sectors, and in turn their use has increased dramatically. This presents opportunities for both businesses and higher education across the country. Businesses will be able to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for transportation, promotion, and communication to increase productivity and quality. Like many emerging industries, rules and regulations are often times undefined or under defined. Due to this being a new industry, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been slow to institute commercial regulations and make permissions available.

The first detailed U.S. rules for flights of small commercial drones went into effect August 29, 2016, including nationwide licensing requirements for pilots and a ban on nighttime operations. Currently the permit process regulated by the FAA is hindering growth and commercial applications nationally. “FAA officials are focused on ensuring that testing facilities are able to cope with the expected influx of tens of thousands of pilot applicants. Through the end of the next decade, business use of drones is projected to attract millions of new operators across the U.S annually, ranging from inspecting buildings and bridges to spraying crops to searching for downed power lines.” Commercial industry fields are utilizing UAVs in agriculture, environmental science, and digital photography among many others. Although there has been substantial growth in the commercial sector, the military has benefited from this new workforce as well, by contracting drone handlers in foreign regions where it’s hard to find people with specific drone-oriented education.

The advancement of drones will impact transportation and other industries, as short-range deliveries will likely be more efficient. If this happens, and major companies like UPS, Walmart, Amazon and Domino’s are all testing delivery technologies, we are likely to see ecosystem changes with employment shifts likely to occur with maintenance, operations and manufacturing of drones, components going into drones (molding, cameras, GPS, wifi, etc.) and drone technology (collision avoidance, image recognition and camera stabilization, etc.).

Snapshot of Key Findings

  • Occupations related to drones are projected to see more than 100,000 new jobs by 2025.5
  • On average, Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) pilots earn between $85,000 and $115,000.
  • With the increasing use and capabilities of drones, universities across the country are now offering bachelor’s degrees focused on UAVs.


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When it comes to online learning, students should choose a credential that fulfills their goals while providing flexibility — whether it’s a single course certificate or a full degree.

“There’s such a wide range of offerings to them at economical prices that allow them to target their education specifically to their career plan,” says Ray Schroeder, associate vice chancellor for online learning at the University of Illinois–Springfield.

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