In case you haven’t noticed, the world’s gone a bit drone crazy, with these unmanned aerial vehicles finding application in mining, in wildlife research and management, in agriculture. Amazon(AMZN) wants to use drones to deliver products and other companies are already doing so (on a test basis.) Sony(SNE) is working on an enterprise drone.
But unmanned aircraft flying over populated areas? The thought of what could possibly go wrong means that training will be critical, a point pounded home in a press release issued Tuesday by Unmanned Vehicle University, a Phoenix-based online operation offering drone pilot training as well as a Doctorate degree in unmanned vehicle systems, a Masters of Science degree in unmanned vehicle systems engineering and a professional certificate in unmanned aircraft systems project management.
In the press release, university provost John Minor said the FAA needs to set better educational and training standards for drone operators. Current regulations hold that so far operators need to get a Sport Pilot Certificate. That, in his view is insufficient because it requires broad training on any light-sport aircraft (weighing less than 1430 lbs) but no drone-specific coursework.
“Allowing those with a Sport Pilot Certificate, but with no formal drone training, to operate drones commercially is the equivalent of allowing anyone with a drivers license to legally operate a motorcycle, without any additional training,” Minor said in the release.
Of course a change in that requirement would be very beneficial to his institution, which claims to be the only university “licensed to offer graduate degree programs in Unmanned Systems Engineering.”
To be clear, several traditional institutions also offer certified coursework in drone flight and technology, as part of broader degree programs. They include Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Oklahoma State, Indiana State, and Liberty University according to a list compiled by Successfulstudent.org.
Embry Riddle, Daytona Beach, Fla., offers a Masters of Science in unmanned and autonomous systems engineering.
While privacy and safety concerns persist, it seems clear that the world will see more, not less drones in the future. According to the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a trade group promoting drone use, the FAA has approved drone operators in 48 states, with California leading the pack with 70 followed by Texas and Florida with 46 and 40 respectively. The most popular applications appear to be in real estate, aerial photography, agriculture, construction, utility inspection, film/TV and environmental applications.
Guy Haggard, a board-certified aviation attorney with Orlando-based law firm Gray Robinson, said it appears that regulations are evolving to require some level of formal training for commercial drone operation so he expects to see more outfits like this university to crop up.
For more on the use of commercial drones, check out this Fortune video: