Want to go to college for drones? Some schools offer degrees specific to drones, while others offer drone courses. In fact, yours truly (me, Sally French) studied at the University of Missouri in the school’s inaugural year of its drone program.
And more and more colleges and universities are incorporating drones into their curriculum — and many of those institution’s have specific endorsement from the Federal Aviation Administration
The Federal Aviation Administration has selected 26 schools so far to participate in its Unmanned Aircraft Systems Collegiate Training Initiative (UAS-CTI), a program to designed to better allow schools to partner with the FAA.
The goal? To better help students “pursue their aviation career goals” specific to drones.
Here are the 26 schools that have been selected for the FAA’s UAS-CTI:
- Blue Mountain Community College, Pendleton, Oregon
- Central Oregon Community College, Bend, Oregon
- Dakota College, Bottineau, North Dakota
- Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, FL and Prescott, AZ
- Green River College, Auburn, Washington
- Gulf Coast Community College, Panama City, Florida
- Hazard Community and Technical College, Hazard, Kentucky
- Hinds Community College, Bolton, Mississippi
- Idaho State University, Poncatello, Idaho
- Indiana State University, Terra Haute, Indiana
- MiraCosta College, Carlsbad, California
- Mountain Empire Community College, Big Stone Gap, Virginia
- Mountwest Community and Technical College, Huntington, West Virginia
- Niagara Community College, Sanborn, New York
- North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
- Northeastern Technical College, Cheraw, South Carolina
- Northland Community and Technical College, Thief River Falls, Minnesota
- Northwestern Michigan College, Traverse, Michigan
- Oklahoma City Community College, Stillwater, Oklahoma
- Palomar College District, San Marcos, California
- Santa Rosa Junior College, Windsor, California
- Southwestern College, Chula Vista, California
- Tallahassee Community College, Tallahassee, Florida
- University of Maine at Augusta, August, Maine
- University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, North Dakota
- WSU Tech, Wichita, Kansas
The FAA’s UAS-CTI program was launched in April 2020 as part of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (Public Law 115-254), which required that the FAA establish a collegiate training initiative program related to drones. The idea behind it all is developing a means of allowing those schools to better engage with the FAA as well as other participants, general industry, local governments, law enforcement, and regional economic development entities. The goal? That “graduates have the knowledge and skills needed to pursue a successful career in a UAS-related field,” according to the FAA.
And there are plenty of jobs to be had. 2019 marked a record year for drone investment around the world, as more than $1.2 billion was invested in the drone industry across 157 investment deals.
Photographers are using drones to earn passive income, while there are plenty of full-time roles, especially when it comes to hardware and software engineers. And there are oodles of unconventional jobs in drones we haven’t even thought of yet, with career paths like drone costume designer and drone beer maker as job titles you can have.
How to join the FAA’s UAS-CTI program:
To become one of the 26 schools, you’ll need to fit a set of qualifications. The school must be a not-for-profit, two- or four-year, post-secondary educational institution that is institutionally accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education.
All the schools participating must either offer a Bachelors or Associates degree in UAS; or a degree with a minor, concentration, or certificate in UAS.
From there, schools have to fill out a questionnaire describing their programs in more detail.
What other places can I go to college for drones?
The 26 institutions listed above have the FAA seal of approval as FAA’s UAS-CTI schools, but those aren’t the only places you can go to college for drones.
Other institutions are also working with the FAA in various capacities, such as participating in the FAA’s test site program (participants include University of Alaska-Fairbanks and Virginia Tech).
Earlier this month, the FAA awarded a combined $3.3 million to seven universities in the U.S. to go toward researching using drones for disaster preparedness and response. Those schools were:
- Mississippi State University –lead university: $1,290,410
- University of Alabama–Huntsville –lead university: $1,101,000
- New Mexico State University: $234,000
- University of Alaska, Fairbanks: $245,000
- Mississippi State University: $130,000
- North Carolina State University: $124,979
- Oregon State University: $165,000
And another huge leader is Kansas State University Polytechic Campus, which was the first university in the nation to receive a BVLOS waiver from the FAA in 2018, the first university approved for commercial drone flight training, and the first university to offer beyond visual line of sight training to students.