Drone Pilot JobsThe Future of Drone Education

July 29, 2021by helo-10

Drones will not only be delivering Amazon packages, prescriptions and groceries in the years to come, they also will be measuring soil saturation and transporting organs from one hospital to another in record time, says Dante Tezza, assistant professor of computer/software engineering at St. Mary’s University. And that’s just the start of the technology’s capabilities, he adds.

As the industry grows, St. Mary’s University students will be ready to fill jobs as drone designers, programmers and operators thanks to a new degree program launching this month.

“Drones are here to stay,” Tezza says. “There are very few schools that are focusing on this emerging job market, so this new program really prepares them for that.”

The degree, which is a bachelor’s in engineering science with a concentration in unmanned aerial systems, includes courses on everything from building drones from scratch to developing programs and applications to help operate them. Each student also will take operations classes to prepare them for the Federal Aviation Administration’s drone pilot exam.

In addition to classroom work, students in both the drone concentration and in other majors have access to a 1,734-squarefoot lab that opened in March. At 25 feet tall, the lab allows students to complete research, class assignments, test programs and operate drones in the building. Already students have developed an emergency alert system that deploys parachutes to help a drone land safely when something goes wrong in flight.

Bahman Rezaie, Ph.D., professor of electrical engineering, was one of the early advocates for adding drone research to the university as the industry expands. He says the technology is certainly not new but that until recent years it has been used mostly by the military, including at Joint Base San Antonio.

Tezza knows most people imagine Amazon deliveries when they think of drones, but he says their capabilities stretch far beyond that. In agriculture, he says, one study has shown that drones can accurately measure moisture in the soil, allowing farmers to conserve water while yielding better crop outcomes. In hospitals, drones have delivered organs for transplant surgery from one facility to another more quickly than ambulances. They can even be used for simpler things like roof inspections. “When we designed the curriculum, we were really focusing on the broad spectrum so students have a foundation that allows them to work in any of those areas,” he says.

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There is more to being a drone pilot than just buying a machine and flying in your backyard. It can be that simple, but most of us will need to understand some drone laws before we try to take to the sky.


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