Basement gamer may qualify for tomorrow's jobs

Thursday, December 12, 2013

It's every parent's dilemma. Yes, Johnny has been good this year, but if we give him a new Xbox One, will he wind up playing videogames in the basement until he's in his 30s?

Maybe, Santa, but maybe not.

It turns out that gamers are in demand for an industry projected to create 70,000 jobs as soon as Congress and the FAA loosen up rules to allow the nascent civilian drone business to take off -- literally.

The study that projected that many jobs should be taken with a grain of salt since it was commissioned by the drone industry, but it also projects an average salary range of between $85,000 and $115,000.

Drones have traditionally been flown by qualified military pilots, but operators are finding that video gamers have a unique set of skills that may better qualify them for staring at a video screen for hours on end, and don't have to unlearn habits developed by conventional pilots, who depend on sensory cues unavailable to drone flyers.

Newer drones -- Unmanned Aircraft Systems or UASs -- are more fully automated as well, requiring fewer flying skills and better mission management abilities.

Schools are responding to the projected need. The University of North Dakota's drone program has grown from five students in 2009 to 120 last year and many other schools have added programs.

Some industry experts believe the schools have oversold the market, and most private industry UASs will continue to be flown by ex-military drone pilots.

Federal regulations have yet to catch up with the industry's potential, limiting many private efforts to hobbyist-level projects, under 400 feet, less than 10 pounds and not within a few miles of an airport. And, privacy concerns may delay growth of the industry beyond the 2015 deadline imposed by Congress.

Nevertheless, we won't be surprised to soon see drones in the skies above Southwest Nebraska, scouting cornfields in preparation for application of chemicals, application of the chemicals themselves, used by law enforcement to search for missing persons or escapees, employed by utilities to make sure pipelines and power lines are operating correctly, or myriad other uses.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: