Bewildered and fatigued, he lay there underneath the extirpated munitions shed. The mound of rubble around him blackened and scarred, swirled with smoke. The blast from the RPG had rattled him, but as he struggled to gain his composure, he was greeted with a heightened sense of his surroundings and an uncanny calmness. A cool breeze kissed his face as grains of sand tumbled over him. The air carried the cacophonous bellows of artillery shells from far away, but it was the bantering of footsteps over loose, crumbling, gravel that created a sense of terror. Through the cracks in the debris, the enemy could be seen plodding through the wreckage, searching for weapons and survivors. Clutched to his chest, a grenade was held tightly with the pin half drawn out. As he closed his eyes, he took a deep breath and began to pray.
The hero described above is the recipient of the Purple Heart and to this day still performs his duty as an officer in the U.S. Army. Getta’s story is one of courage, inspiration, and hope. The compromising position that Getta was forced into was due to a lack of knowledge as to where the enemy encampment was located.
The integration of drone technology into the theater of war has enabled the US military to conduct ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) missions and strike capabilities from afar, providing information superiority and real-time situational knowledge without putting service men and women in harm’s way. As drone technology has evolved and has exhibited its military usefulness, the potential for domestic use remains largely unexplored.
With its untapped potential, drone technology has expanded beyond military applications and is now being primed for commercial and recreational use. As the technology continues to become cheaper and more accessible, the insatiable call for drone technology has increased and has led to the demand for drone operators, engineers, and ground station personnel. Several studies have shown that the integration of drone technology into U.S. airspace could create more than 100,000 high-paying jobs and provide more than $82 billion to the nation’s economy over the next decade.
In the private sector, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing are offering drone operators and engineers annual salaries in excess of $100,000 and Amazon is ready to use drones to deliver packages straight to consumer’s homes. Anticipating the commercial demand for drone training, educational institutions around the country are “offering degrees and certificates on piloting, engineering, and repairing drones.”
While the demand for commercial use of drone technology remains high, the lack of regulatory guidance has inhibited its explosive potential. However, it is anticipated that the FAA will release regulations later this year that will allow for much broader commercial use. As operational guidance and regulations are put in place, operators using drones for commercial purposes will likely be required by the FAA to obtain certification of training or competence.
As the laws and regulations related to commercial drone use gain clarity, the demand for drone technology and those who operate them will experience growth. Despite the presence and guidance of Amelia Earhart, Rosie the Riveter, and other females, aviation has historically been a male dominated field. Fortunately, as society has progressed, females have become more involved in aviation. The next generation of “flyboys” and “flygirls” are here to stay.