University of North Dakota Offers 4-Year Drone-Piloting Degree

More

The plains state is on its way to becoming the capital of the unmanned aerial vehicle industry, and with that comes inevitable difficulties.

RTXW8VV-615.jpg

Reuters

Last June, six cattle wandered from a neighbor's farm onto land owned by Lakota, North Dakota, resident Rodney Brossart. Brossart refused to return the cattle without compensation for feed the cattle had consumed on his land, and a 16-hour standoff with law-enforcement agencies ensued, involving, notably, the deployment of not just the usual run-of the-mill police tactics, but a Predator drone. Brossart was arrested -- he is believed to be the first U.S. citizen arrested domestically with the aid of a Predator drone -- and his case is now in court.

In the course of reporting this story, the Star Tribune notes a particular detail that hints at the larger context in which this story unfolded: The state's university is a leader in the field of drone education. Mark Brunswick reports:

The University of North Dakota operates a fleet of seven different types of unmanned aircraft. In 2009, it became the first college in the country to offer a four-year degree in unmanned aircraft piloting. It now has 23 graduates and 84 students majoring in the program, which is open only to U.S. citizens.

It works with Northland Community College in Thief River Falls, Minn., which developed the first drone maintenance training center in the country and proudly shows off its own full-size Global Hawk.

The university also serves as an incubator for companies that might want to expand the industry. In five days, Unmanned Applications Institute International, which provides training in operating drones, can teach a cop how to use a drone the size of a bathtub toy.

Together, the two stories -- that of Brossart's arrest and the university's innovative programming -- demonstrate the difficulty of establishing leadership in this particular field. The jobs, the contracts, and the many legitimate uses of drone technology (such as, for example, a recent survey by drone of some 800 nautical miles of dangerous flooding), will inevitably bring drone troubles. The Brossart case is surely but the leading edge of the sorts of legal troubles we can expect to see as more unmanned machines fly overhead.



H/t @pbump.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What Is the Greatest Story Ever Told?

A panel of storytellers share their favorite tales, from the Bible to Charlotte's Web.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.

Video

How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In