Drones Are Taking Off as a School Subject

It could be the job of the future

Key Takeaways

  • A growing number of schools are teaching how to pilot drones. 
  • Drone skills are a gateway to jobs. 
  • Commercial drone pilots need to be licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
A group of young adults using a drone and a VR headset inside someone's loft apartment.

Hinterhaus Productions / Getty Images

Reading, writing, and flying drones?

The city of Wilmington, Delaware is partnering with a drone school to provide drone training programs for teens. The program is part of a growing trend around the country in which schools are teaching students how to fly drones. Experts say it's a way to give kids a head start in the technology expected to provide future jobs. 

"People are finding new ways to use drones every day," John T. Mims, a professor at High Point University, a school that teaches drone use, told Lifewire in an email interview. "For our students, video production, aerial photography, cell tower inspections, search and rescue, or really anything that needs to be done from the air with a camera."

Up, Up and Away

The Wilmington program is meant for high school juniors and seniors. The students will undergo a 16-week training course about the operation of drones. Drone course graduates also will take the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) exam to become licensed drone pilots. 

Drone operation is a growing business, Ron Stupi of Bureau Veritas , a company that uses drones for building and infrastructure testing and inspection services, told Lifewire in an email interview. 

"The rapidly evolving technology behind drones today supports thermal scanning, density measurement, radar, and more," he said. "Beyond operating a drone, it's important to learn about gathering, interpreting, and reporting the data that the drones supply."

Drone on

The global drone market is expected to grow from a $27 billion industry in 2021 to a $58 billion industry by 2026. In addition, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) has predicted that over 100,000 new UAS jobs will be created in the United States by 2025.

"Unmanned aircraft operations represent a new, good-paying, growth opportunity for students entering the workplace," Chris Eyhorn, the CEO of the drone company DroneSense, told Lifewire in an email interview. "Job opportunities that focus on creative photography and videography, drone operations for inspections, or in support of public safety professionals."

At High Point University, drone classes are taught out of the school of communication because that industry has an urgent need for drone pilots, Mims said. 

"Movie studios, independent filmmakers, journalists, social media content creators, and video production companies pretty quickly figured out that it's more cost-effective to shoot video and photos from a drone instead of from a helicopter," he added. 

A tweenager flying a done outdoors.

Miguel Sotomayor / Getty Images

While flying a drone is relatively easy, commercial drone pilots need to be licensed by the FAA, according to Mims. The school teaches students the regulations required by the FAA for about half the class, then introduces them to using the drone as a camera platform. 

"Of course," Mims said, "aerial delivery is just around the corner, and although the licensing and skills will be a little different, students will have a leg up when starting to work with these different applications."

Aside from the career opportunities, drones are an excellent way to teach the basic principles of flight to students, Greg Reverdiau, the lead instructor of the Pilot Institute, told Lifewire in an email interview. 

"It's also possible to build your own drone, and doing so teaches valuable engineering skills. When you build a drone from scratch, you learn what all of the parts do and how they interface with each other," he added. "You also learn how software and hardware work together to get a drone to fly."

Additionally, drones can teach programming with inexpensive models like the Ryze Tello designed to teach coding. "You can see your code come to life when you write a program and watch it fly in the real world," Reverdiau said. 

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