Embry-Riddle offers master's degree in drones

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

The goal is to make drones that execute particular tasks, from mowing the lawn at the neighboring airport at night to a tiny one that can hover through a window, steal a thumb-drive off a desk and replace it with a phony before making its escape.

And for this, they rely on students like Shaler to design them.

"Nobody's going to be buying manned fighter planes in a few years," said Shaler, a mechanical engineering senior who wants to work in drone robotics.

"We feel UAVs are an integral part of the future of aviation," Embry-Riddle President John Johnson said, coming out to watch the robotics students maneuvering outside his office.

But right now, there's a catch with UAVs: No one can legally use the airspace to fly unmanned aircraft for profit.

The industry is waiting for the FAA to expand the usable U.S. airspace for drones. The regulations now were designed for hobbyists flying remote-controlled airplanes and helicopters under 400 feet.

There are only a andful of exceptions for private entities doing research and development, and flight training or demonstrations. The FAA grants a Certificate of Authorization, which permits a limited area for a particular aircraft. But only 327 are approved in the country at last count, in February.

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