Drones

University of North Dakota Offers Class on Starting Your Own Drone Business

Students even get a chance to pitch to investors.

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A drone
Peter Linehan / Flickr

The University of North Dakota (UND) is preparing its students for the job market with a course on how to build their own drone businesses.

The new class walks students through the details of the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) industry, from regulation and current applications to its future potential, all with the aim of creating a whole new crop of drone entrepreneurs.

This is done in three phases. In phase one, the students earn their piloting certificates and study up on current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) drone regulations. Phase two goes over the state of the industry today, so that students can get an idea of what commercial end users want from pilotless aircraft companies.

In the third and final stage, students are tasked with crafting their own business ideas, which they will then pitch to a panel of actual venture capitalists in a Shark Tank–like setting.

Matt Dunlevy—who designed and teaches the course along with his co-instructor, Rick Thomas—tells Reason that it's proving quite popular. Though it only opened up two weeks before classes began this fall, Dunlevy had no problem filling seats. Everyone from engineers and business students to arts and music majors wanted in.

And the interest turns out to be driven by more than just idle curiosity about unmanned aircraft. Some students are taking the course so seriously that they aren't even sharing their business ideas with their professors, preferring to keep that information private until they're ready to pitch to investors.

That his students are so keen on engaging in the commercial practicalities of drones excites Dunlevy, who sees universities as crucial to growing the young industry. And indeed, the world of UAVs does seem poised for explosive growth. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a trade group, predicts the drone industry will add 100,000 new jobs and $82 billion to the U.S. economy by 2025.

Dunlevy actually thinks that's an underestimation—and that those 100,000 jobs could be here as soon as the next five to seven years.

It's hard to fault him for his optimism, considering the increasingly inventive applications for unmanned aircraft already being proposed. From providing cell service after a natural disaster to delivering pizza through the air and to your door, drones are becoming a bigger and more important presence in the economy and our lives.

With UND's first class of students set to make their drone business pitches to investors in December, even more and cooler ideas are likely on their way.

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  1. Condoms and Plan B deliveries, subsidized of course

    1. More like meth and heroin smuggling. Subsidized by our government helpfully keeping the competition in prison.

  2. I can’t wait until i can just drone people from my desktop with my credit-card and an Xbox controller.

    I wonder if they’ll do pricing-by-country/by-target. Like, “a US citizen in the US” will be Top Tier pricing, an undocumented Mexican (*or, a truck full of them) would be cheaper….. and like, you could do an entire school in Nigeria or something just as a one-time freebie to get you to try out the service.

  3. In phase one, the students earn their piloting certificates and study up on current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) drone regulations.

    I came here to make a crack about step one being “study the regulations”.

    *sigh*

    1. In the third and final stage, students are tasked with crafting their own business ideas, which they will then pitch to a panel of actual venture capitalists in a Shark Tank?like setting.

      In a sane world, step one would be “Wow, what’s your idea?”, the last and final step would be to see if anything you’re proposing is illegal.

  4. The Drones 101 class is a prerequisite for the more advanced class:

    Drones 301: HOW TO MURDER-DRONE ENEMIES OF THE STATE

  5. I was just a John Deere dealer combine clinic for customers and the dealership was really pushing drones to sell at the end.. it is really blowing up in ag for field and land monitoring. You might imagine bc of space but I am betting drones in the farm country like Dakotas you are approaching a very large drone per capita rate.

    1. They are very handy for monitoring timber. I am getting too old to hike miles and miles in the piney woods.

      1. Could be good for keeping an eye on range cattle, fences, water holes and such.

        1. fully autonomous flying shepherds?

          I like it.

    2. You can monitor equipment on roof of warehouse/factory without having to call in maintenance until a problem is spotted.

  6. I will drone the fuck out of you.

  7. Was killing time during the summer at our small regional airport where they have an onsite drone campus (called Northland Aerospace) and was snooping around the nearly empty campus and checking out the drone models and photos.

    Not too interesting but I didn’t encounter any floating silver spheres that would slam into an interloper’s head and take out the intruder with a skull drill.

  8. Jesus you idiots, “drones” are just pilotless vehicles.

    1. pilotless

      I don’t think that’s right either. The “pilot” is just somewhere else.

      1. To the larger point, back in my day, we used to call them RC vehicles. Then George W. Bush got into office and everyone started calling them drones.

        The breakdown seems to go like this:

        Looks like a Fokker Dr1: RC airplane.
        Looks like a P51 Mustang: RC airplane.
        Has four ‘quad copter’ props: Drone.

  9. You could put your eye out with one of those.

  10. You know who else went to the University of Southern North Dakota?

    1. Phil Jackson

    2. Nobody?

    3. Well that was Pretty Damned Slow. I’ll get Bach to you later.

    4. Jonathan Toews, Zack Parise, T.J. Oshie, and Eddie Belfour?

    5. Professor Peter Schickele, who discovered P. D. Q. Bach, the “youngest and the oddest of the twenty-odd children” of Johann Sebastian Bach.

      I am disappoint that no one even bothered to google it. Very disappoint, oddly enough.

  11. How soon till these drone businesses are hired by Obama or Clinton as contractors to kill people in the Middle East?

  12. If you fund my drone business now and give me a hellfire missile, I have time to get to Las Vegas before the debate…

  13. University of North Dakota Offers Class on Starting Your Own Drone Business
    Students even get a chance to pitch to investors.

    What are these neanderthals in ND thinking?
    Don’t they realize capitalism only impoverishes the mind, body and soul?
    Don’t they realize capitalism is as dead as a dinosaur?
    Don’t they realize they are aiding and abetting an evil and cruel system of exploitation?
    You don’t see schools like Harvard, Yale, Columbia, etc teaching courses in such vile free market ideas, do you? Of course not. These schools have shown that socialism, State planned economies and redistribution of wealth have always worked. Just ask any of these professors in these elitist, self-absorbed, overly expensive institutions of socialist thought that make six digit, and sometimes even seven digit figures, and they will be the first to tell you capitalism, the free market and being financially independent from The State is not only dangerous, but stupid as well.
    Classes on starting your own businesses indeed!

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