Drones have definitely taken the world by storm. They have made it possible for us to do some things that we’ve only dreamed about! With their rising popularity, the manufacturing companies have started developing them further rapidly – it’s hard to keep up with new technologies that are being integrated into these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). From plain toys, these devices have evolved to high-tech robots, which sometimes have autopilots that are borderline artificial intelligence. Their prices have also followed their steep ascend and reached the amounts that will leave you lightheaded. It’s enough to say that nowadays you can buy a really nice car and a really nice drone, for the same amount of money.
So, it comes as no surprise that some universities and colleges have made drone programs. A fresh out of school engineer who has already studied all of the important technologies used in drone development, might get really lucky in terms of employment and salary. There are many fields of scientific research that are involved: aeronautics, energetics, composite materials, programing and manufacturing.
One more reason that brought drones to higher education it that they are often used in scientific research. If you search the internet, you will find many geographical and geological findings that were enabled thanks to drones. They’ve been used for aerial mapping, observing, measurements and collecting all kinds of data that’s important for the statistics. And, obviously, it’s very convenient if someone at your university can develop a drone that will meet the specific requirements of your research!
The USA is definitely the leading country when it comes to drone technology. This is simply a result of the great interest its population has shown for UAVs, the prestige of its colleges and a huge number of companies that have made a global success in producing and selling these magnificent robots. Of course, the benefit that U.S. Military has had from these vehicles is not to be neglected. In fact, drones are still mainly used in military and, unfortunately, the war stricken countries and the great military forces are the ones who have the most developed drone technology (like Iran, China, Russia and Israel). But, outside of the USA there are no programs that are specifically concentrated on UAVs – drones are studied as a part of other courses at engineering faculties. Even on the most famous American universities (like Harvard, Northwestern and MIT) there are no such programs; there are just research teams and enthusiast groups.
The universities that have the best accredited drone programs are Oklahoma State University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, North Dakota University and Kansas State Polytechnic University. There are some other interesting universities (like Indiana State University, Troy University, Lewis University, Northwestern Michigan College, etc.) which won’t be discussed in this article.
Oklahoma State University has a very serious program that includes every approach to drones: from engineering to design. The university has many of its own flying facilities and students have built over 200 UAVs, some of which have set world records at the time they’ve been made. Also, the students have an access to various laboratories and acoustic anechoic and reverberation chambers. Thus, research is possible in a wide spectrum of fields – propulsion, aeroacoustics, sensors, etc. Along with three other universities (Universities of Oklahoma, Kentucky and Nebraska), they are also a part of the huge project called Cloud-Map, which has the objective to use drones to improve the numerical weather prediction models, and to aid the observations of weather patterns. It’s hard to come up with a field of interest that you wouldn’t be available to study at this university!
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University offers studies at every level of education – from undergraduate to masters. If you’re interested in the aspects of operating, regulations and surveillance studies of UAVs, you can just study for a Bachelor of Science degree in Unmanned Aircraft Systems Science. But if you want to be an engineer, this university is one of the rare ones (and it was the very first one!) that offers a Master of Science degree in Unmanned and Autonomous Systems Engineering. There’s also an undergraduate program in Unmanned Systems Applications, and a graduate program in Unmanned Systems. Something that also needs to be noted here is that all of these courses include studying all kinds of unmanned vehicles – including cars and boats!
At North Dakota University drone engineering and development of UAVs is in the center of attention – their students are expected to impress with their math and engineering skills, serious opinions and the creative ability to produce great ideas. For the students that meet these requirements, there’s an equally impressive reward – a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautics with a Major in Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations. Their endeavors and goals are also valued by the U.S. Army, which is working closely with the university research groups. As for the airspace available to students, North Dakota’s low population density makes this State perfect for UAV programs!
And, finally, last but not least – Kansas State Polytechnic University. This university is widely known for its hands-on approach in drone piloting programs. In fact, along with the North Dakota University, it’s the first university that got the accreditation from the Federal Aviation Administration to offer flight trainings for commercial uses. Students can practice in a Class D Airspace and three runways are available for takeoff and landing. Many of KSU students participate in Department of Defense missions and U.S. Army researches. Also, a Bachelor of Science degree is offered in Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Engineering Technology, as well as a graduate certificate in UAS Cyber security.
If you’re a big enthusiast when it comes to new technologies and exciting breakthroughs and you want to be in the center of it all, now is the best time to enroll in a university or college program that’s focused on studying and improving drones. Especially if you’re a geek when it comes to gadgets and you have great programing skills and ideas, because drones are being composed of practically everything that will give you goose bumps! There’s a high chance that someone will hire you even before you’ve finished your studies, because there’s no time to lose in the great market wars among big companies. Whether you’re gonna choose engineering or a flying career, one thing is sure: you’re going to have lots of fun!