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A Home for Drones, Away from Home

14 Jul, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Expect More Facilities, Too, As Colleges Up their Majors in UAV Technology

As the restrictions tighten on drones, pressuring is mounting on local municipalities to find places where UAV enthusiasts can let them legally take flight.

According to The Palm Beach Post, Boynton Beach staff has been told to research and find an area that can be designated for drone-flying only.

The request came from Vice Mayor Joe Casello, who brought to the commissioners' attention that the city has two ordinances: one allowing drones to be flown in the city, but one banning them from being flown in the parks.

And it’s not just about satisfying a trend. In this case, it’s economic impact at stake. Casello pointed out that The Hacklab, a nonprofit in Boynton that plans drone events, was interested in hosting a drone competition. And if the rules stay as is, they wouldn't be able to have it in the area.

(By the way, the reason drones aren’t allowed to be flown in the parks is a series of rules that say no person can throw or propel objects, including balls, stones, arrows, javelins or model airplanes.)

Among the concerns that have been voiced were those regarding whether, if the drones were allowed in parks, there would be regulations such as requiring that the fliers be qualified, and there would have to be a certain distance from which spectators could stand.

In recent months, however, there has been an uptick in demand for facilities designed for users of remote-controlled aircraft and land vehicles. Now, it is up to cities to try to balance the requests with land availability -- and with pushback from those who are leery of such use.

In Schaumburg, IL, town officials are considering an ordinance that would ban drones within 100 feet of public property during special events. An article in the Daily Herald noted the move is being driven by concerns for public safety.

Drones have long been a source of contention. Some simply find them annoying while others see them as a potential invasion of privacy. But as they continue to come down in price – and become increasingly easy to control – they’ll be more and more accessible. In fact, learning to fly one has never been easier; the Huffington Post reports that a growing number of schools now offer courses and programs around building and flying drones.

It's a field that's growing too. The pilotless aircraft industry is expected to create more than 23,000 U.S. jobs over the next 15 years, according to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. A spokesperson for the group told The Daily that 150 colleges are now offering courses.

Northwestern Michigan's Al Laursen told Business Insider the college is expanding their program. Laursen said once drones are given increased access to fly over American airspace for domestic law enforcement, "job prospects will be tremendous."

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, and the University of North Dakota are currently the only schools offering four-year degrees for prospective drone pilots.

The New York Times recently reported that Sinclair Community College in Ohio now offers certificates on flying unmanned drones. The school made the decision to develop a program based on projections that the job market would grow domestically.

Northland Community and Technical College in Minnesota also started a drone program after receiving a multimillion dollar grant from the federal government.

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