Careers in unmanned aircraft systems

Friday, October 14, 2016, Vol. 40, No. 42
By Kathy Carlson

Students have been able to take courses on unmanned aircraft systems at MTSU since spring 2014, with a full-fledged concentration in UAS available since 2015.

The aerospace/UAS program prepares students to pass the Part 107 UAS operator certificate test, obtain a private pilot license and be aware of the potential for using UAS, says Doug Campbell, UAS operations manager.

He estimates that annual starting salaries in the UAS field range from $50,000-$60,000.

On Oct. 1, 64 jobs were listed on for UAV pilots. Fifty-six were for full-time employment, three were for part-time and six were for contract jobs. Most of the listings were for entry-level (28) or mid-level (21) positions.

Of the total, 54 jobs offered estimated salaries of $45,000 a year or more, and 12 offered salaries of $85,000 or more. Some indicated they preferred people with FAA private pilot licenses.

Under a broader search category, “drone jobs,” listed 600 job openings. Some 86 percent offered salaries of $35,000 per year or more, and 20.7 percent paid upward of $110,000. They included full-time, part-time, contract, internship, commission and temporary jobs. Roughly half were entry-level.

The trade group AUVSI, in a 2013 report, estimated that once drones are integrated into the national airspace system, the economic impact would total more than $82 billion in the first decade, and more than 100,000 jobs would be created directly and indirectly.

It also predicted that in Tennessee, the UAS industry could create 853 new jobs and $675 million in economic impact in the first decade following UAS integration into the national airspace.

Sources:,, interviews.