A drone, or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), is a machine which is remotely piloted and is used very successfully in the U.S. military. Drones are transforming the way American fights and thinks about its wars hence “drone warfare”. The remotely piloted planes are used to transmit live video from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to American forces, and to carry out air strikes, in their war against al-Qaeda. The Pentagon now has some 7,000 aerial drones, compared with fewer than 50 a decade ago, and asked Congress for nearly $5 billion for drones in the 2012 budget.
From short range surveillance craft like the Raven to missile packing hunter-killers like the infamous Predator, the US military is packed with UAVs. In fact, the United States has already entered the drone warfare with nearly one in three of its warplanes being drones. Some said the US is now fighting a coward’s war by using drones but regardless whether it’s a coward or smart war, you better run for your life when drones such as the Predators and Reapers, which can carry Hellfire missiles, comes looking for you.
The simple reason why drones are so popular is the fact that the deadly machines cost only 8% of the warplane budget despite representing 30% of the total aircraft flown, not to mention pilot lives are never lost in a drone crash. The US is estimated to spend $26 billion on drone R&D between 2001 and 2013, obviously a small fraction of the total US military budget – a good investment that may yield the highest dividends. The roadmap will see the Avenger, the successor to the Predator and Reaper, capable of flying higher, longer, and 50% faster and carry upwards of 50% more/heavier ordinance.
Now, if this new degree course is any indicator, these unmanned aerial vehicles will never go away but stay for good. Some U.S. colleges have begun offering classes and even four-year degrees for students looking for jobs in the fast-growing field – Drone Studies. Whether it was your hobby playing radio-controlled planes or obsession on the net flying those planes online, you may be for a shock on how much you can earn with this new job. How about six-figure salaries operating UAVs?
Jeb Bailey, 28, who has taken every drone-related course at Northwestern Michigan College, said one of his fellow students at the Traverse City, Mich., school recently landed a job operating unmanned aerial vehicles for a private military contractor overseas. “He got like $200,000 per year,” Bailey said. “And he didn’t even finish his associate’s degree.” Bailey, who has spent $80,000 for classes and manned flight training, said the high pay that drone pilots can earn contracting in war zones made him take notice.
By contrast, starting salaries for drone pilots range from $50,000 to $120,000 per year, said Tom Kenville, who founded a trade group called Unmanned Applications Institute International. Analysts who process images captured by the vehicles can earn $100,000 per year starting out. Salaries are rising with demand, thanks to governments, contractors and private companies who need pilots as they launch more unmanned vehicles into the air than ever before.
Currently, only two schools, the University of North Dakota and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., offer four-year degrees for prospective drone pilots. Embry-Riddle is one of the few schools that teaches students how to build drones, as well as fly them
According to a study by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the pilotless aircraft industry will create more than 23,000 U.S. jobs over the next 15 years. The federal Labor Department expects demand for aerospace engineers who specialize in computer systems to rise 46 percent by 2020, compared with a 10 percent increase in the number of lawyers and nuclear engineers.
So, if you’re still undecided which course to major and your parents are nagging you about being lawyers, why not consider this fun and rewarding course – Drone Studies.
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