The Federal Aviation Administration designated Virginia, New York, Texas, North Dakota, Nevada and Alaska as testing areas for unmanned aircraft systems, popularly known as drones. The designations, part of a plan to safely integrate pilotless aircraft into the national airspace system, will see institutions in Maryland (the University System of Maryland), New Jersey (Rutgers University) and Virginia (Virginia Teach) — which make up the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership — take an active role in the development and implementation of drone technology, according to Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.
“The selection of MAAP as one of the UAS test sites leverages the unparalleled capabilities of three world-class educational institutions to create jobs and generate a significant economic boon to the state, the region and the nation,” said the governor.
According to a study by the Department of Transportation, U.S. airspace is expected to serve 250,000 civilian and military drones by 2035. The aircraft can be as large as a commercial airplane or as small as a microwave oven, and current regulations forbid a civilian from operating a drone above 400 feet or beyond line of sight without special permission from the FAA.
Three universities offer a major or minor in unmanned aircraft systems studies: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona, the University of North Dakota and Kansas State University. At the Unmanned Vehicle University in Phoenix, students can get certified to pilot a drone, learn to become a professional aerial photographer or get a master’s or doctorate in UAV systems engineering.