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The fact that the U.S. is training more pilots to fly drones than it is to fly fighters and bombers is nothing new, but the stress those drone operators are under is only growing, and the need for civilian contractors to ease their burden is great.Erik German at The Daily reports some American colleges are responding to that demand and offering what could be America’s newest, and possibly best paying, major.
German tracked down a student at Northwestern Michigan College (NMC), Jeb Bailey, who says he’s taken every drone related class the school offers, and watched a classmate recently accept a job with an overseas contractor. “He got like $200,000 per year,” Bailey says, “and he didn’t even finish his associate’s degree.”
I called Al Laursen at Northwestern Michigan and he says they’re expanding the program, which is a series of electives in “unmanned aerial systems.” While he’s quick to point out that there is no domestic market for drone pilots, that’s about to change.
When the FAA allows for unmanned aerial vehicles in American skies “job prospects will be tremendous,” Laursen says, adding, “we’re definitely preparing for the future.”
By some estimates U.S. airspace will have enough room carved out of it to host 30,000 unmanned aerial vehicles by the end of the decade.
In the meantime, schools like NMC are training students for jobs overseas that will allow them to pay off their student loans way ahead of schedule.
As student pilot Bailey told German, “The idea of going to Afghanistan for a single year and paying off all my loans — that’s very attractive. In an airlines career path, you really don’t expect to make a whole lot until you’ve been in the industry 20 years.”
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