Embry-Riddle offers master's degree in drones

Published: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 at 10:45 AM.

Look up in the sky: The drones are coming.

"It's going to grow exponentially once the law catches up," said Josh Olds, an Embry-Riddle graduate and drone flight instructor at Embry-Riddle who worked with government contractors overseas before returning to help run the school's flight simulation lab.

The government budget for drone warfare has gone from a relatively paltry $667 million in 2002 to more than $3.9 billion, according to a Congressional Research Service report. And the number of drones in military service has shot from 167 to nearly 7,500 — and climbing.

Where there is a new skill to learn, there is soon a teacher.

Some will simply enlist in the military to train in piloting drones. For the civilians, there is now college.

In 2011, the University of North Dakota was the first to graduate a class — of five students — with a bachelor of science in unmanned systems. In May, Kansas State awarded its first diploma.

Embry-Riddle had hoped to attract 200 students within the first five years of the program. Just three semesters in, they have 120 students. Now, they expect they'll have to limit their enrollment to 500 students a year.

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