Shakespeare’s Hamlet spoke of the Undiscovered Country sometime in the 16th century, along with Klingon Chancellor Gorkon (Star Trek VI) sometime in the 23rd century, in their fictional accounts of the Future: the Undiscovered Country. For us here in the reality of the 21st century, the Undiscovered Country took flight on Friday Sept 23, 2016 when a drone owned by UPS flew three miles over open ocean water near Boston to deliver medicines to a summer camp. The demonstration test flight marked the first time the FAA has allowed a commercial test flight to occur in US territory. We have now seen the future, and its going to be delivered by a 6 propellor unmanned aircraft system to a drop spot near you soon.
This flight is historic in the development of the UAV industry in the US. It marks the beginning of what will someday become an estimated $82 billion dollar annual industry, up from the current estimated $10 billion. Today, some 90% of UAS dollars are spent by the military on their weapon and intelligence drones. In the near future, we will see the rapid growth of the non-military commercial use of drones. Imagine the fuel saving we can experience with electric drones delivering millions of packages annually instead of a four ton UPS truck belching diesel. Here in South Texas, the UASTEC project is leading the way into the Undiscovered Country with our new UAS curriculum and certificate program. Over the next three years we will build the courses and training for students to become tomorrow’s geospatial technology workers. Out first goal is to enroll secondary teachers from area high schools into our existing GIS courses to begin their technical training that will eventually include UAS courses. Our intend is to offer dual-credit college + high school GIS and UAS courses, allowing a new generation of Hispanic and female students, to track from high school directly into our two year GIS program and then complete their Bachelor’s degree at our partner Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Geomatics program. This will become a true 2+2+2 articulation STEM pathway, where two years of high school + two semesters at Del Mar + two years at TAMUCC will equal a full Bachelor’s degree. The earning potential of these future GIS/UAS workers is already well established. My own son, Thomas Davis, graduated in 2014 from the GIS program at TAMUCC and, at 25, is already earning more than his father did at 45 with a EdD degree. His UAS skills, earned while completing his Master’s degree at TAMUCC, differentiate him at the US Army Corp of Engineers, where he is one of less than a dozen qualified technicians in the entire Corp of more than 35,000 civilian employees. His skills are in such demand that he is recruited nationwide by Corps offices to fly UAS missions. We expect the same demand to offer our future GIS/UAS graduates a quick and prosperous journey to their Undiscovered Country.