There has been a lot of discussion in the aviation industry recently regarding the imminent operation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), called Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs) by the FAA, in the National Airspace System (NAS) and their impact on the safety of manned aircraft operations. However, there has been little attention paid to the economic impact of UAVs on the aviation job market.
Some pilots are concerned that widespread use of UAVs will reduce the number of pilot positions that are available and do further damage to an already weak job market. There are also other considerations such as whether or not UAVs will be maintained by licensed A&P mechanics or a special UAV technician. If manned operations become unmanned, there is a popular belief that the aviation economy as a whole may be damaged.
In actuality, the fears of UAVs having a negative impact on the aviation industry are most likely unfounded. The FAA has stated that UASs are civil aircraft in accordance with 14 CFR §1.1 and are therefore required to be operated by pilots certificated under the requirements of FAR Part 61. In addition, the aircraft will also have to be maintained by FAA certified technicians. Since these regulations apply to UAVs in the same manner as manned aircraft, it is likely that demand for pilots and maintenance technicians will only increase with the introduction of UAVs into the NAS. Beyond the need for airmen, UAVs will open up new jobs for engineers, avionics technicians, flight test personnel, and communications experts. Also, many new types of aviation operations will be possible with the use of unmanned aircraft and such an expansion of aviation can only lead to a boost for the aviation industry.