NORTH DAKOTA (WKOW) -- A huge increase in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles by the military has created a demand for pilots who never leave the ground, and the University of North Dakota is now offering the world's first bachelor's degree to meet the need.
"College students like to be employable when they graduate," said Jeffrey Kappenman, director of the school's Unmanned Aircraft Center. "This market is a growing market."
In fact, the industry is expected to blossom to about $20 billion dollars over the next decade.
Most current applications are for military purposes, but Kappenman says that will shift over time. He says, "It's going to be a huge market going out into the future."
To help meet the demand for UAV operators and pilots, the University of North Dakota has set up a four-year undergraduate major and enrolled its first 12 students. There already is talk of a graduate program as well.
Marion Blakey, head of the Aerospace Industries Association trade group, says the number of unmanned aircraft systems has jumped from a fleet of about 50 vehicles nine years ago to more than 2,400 in use today.
Civil and commercial UAV applications include monitoring hurricanes, flooding, tornadoes and other natural disasters, search and rescue, and eventually cargo delivery and other services.