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Universities Train Next Generation Of Drone Operators As FAA Considers Their Commercial Regulation

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— Last week's revelation that a U.S. commercial jet nearly collided with a drone over Florida is adding urgency to the need for new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules governing commercial drones.

While the FAA still hasn't put out a proposal, universities aren't waiting around to train the next generation of drone operators.

Universities Train Next Generation Of Drone Operators As FAA Considers Their Commercial Regulation

We've heard about Amazon and Domino's using delivery drones, but there are non-retail uses too, that some predict could create 70,000 new jobs in the next three years.

Matthew Waite, professor at the College of Journalism and Mass Communication at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is the head of the school's Drone Journalism Lab.

"We actually got a letter from the FAA last July telling us that we couldn't fly outside anymore until we got permission from them, so we're working on that," Waite said.

He elaborated on the amount of paper work and technical documents the school has had to provide in order to contest the FAA's order.

"I have four students now that are going to ground school, the kind of first step towards becoming a private pilot because we've been told the FAA wants us to have that," he added.

His department is keeping a close eye on the legal challenges that are going on and he noted that state legislators in his area are starting to take a look into the matter.

"Some of [the legal challenges] are doing things that are pretty anti-First Amendment. We've been talking a lot about that, talking about the ethics involved," Waite said.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln isn't alone; other schools are tailoring programs to include drone training including Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the University of North Dakota, and Kansas State.

Waite said they're mostly out-of-the-way places where there's wide-open space to test the drone technology and to train students in how to use them.


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