After testing the curriculum on five "beta" classes, the US Air Force has formalised remotely piloting aircraft as a career field by establishing an undergraduate training program.
The training program will "normalise and formalise" as of 2011, starting off with five classes of 13 students each.
From there, the USAF will eventually ramp up training to meet the projected need for 1,100 UAV pilots and air operations officers by 2012. But whether that ramp-up will come from an increase in class size or the number of classes remains to be decided, according to a service spokesman.
Details on how to apply for the career path will be released in late June or early July.
Graduates of the first beta class, which began training in January 2009, are now flying missions over Iraq and Afghanistan, primarily with MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers.
© US Air Force
The second test class, convened in July 2009, was just commissioned, starting their six-year active duty commitment, said an Air Force spokesman.
The move to designate piloting of unmanned aircraft as a career field marks a significant culture shift for the USAF, which has historically focused on human pilots in the air as the ultimate experts and decision-makers.