Drone degree takes-off at E. Texas school

Drone degree takes-off at E. Texas school
LeTourneau professor Ruedi Schubarth explained the growth in the drone field gives students more options after graduation. (Source: LeTourneau Staff)
LeTourneau professor Ruedi Schubarth explained the growth in the drone field gives students more options after graduation. (Source: LeTourneau Staff)

LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) - A budding drone program at one East Texas university is giving students more career options in the aviation industry.

LeTourneau University's degree in the unmanned aircrafts has students looking to get involved, and the economics of the industry might be the leading factor. It's a practice ground for the next generation of pilots, and the developing industry is driving more into the field.

"You don't often think about that for every drone there's a pilot behind it controlling it," aviation professor Ruedi Schubarth said.

There's not a flight deck, but it's more than just a remote control, and that's getting some excited about the opportunities.

"Think that they could get into aviation or weren't really interested because they thought it was kind of a fairytale thought of sorts to fly, so it sort of opens up the door," Student Cullen Hippler said.

Schubarth added what these unmanned aircrafts are doing is part of a multi-billion dollar private industry that's getting bigger.

"Take pictures, but also collect information about irrigation and plant health and all sorts of data that they can then translate into 3D pictures," Schubarth said.

That's what students will be working on as the program, which started last semester, ramps-up.

"You just have to take the punches and roll with it, and just brace yourself and stay on the curve learning new things all the time," Hippler said.

From the projections, Schubarth said, the need for drone pilots will grow long-term. Hippler added the exposure to what's trending in the industry ultimately makes for better pilots.

"You know and understand more how the system works and the aviation industry is really going to help and hopefully more people will sort of voluntarily step on board with that," Hippler said.

Drone safety and understanding the guidelines from the FAA are other topics LeTourneau professors said is part of the program.

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