If you are a high school student today, it has to sound like a dream job to be flying UAVs, collecting images with lasers, and working in 3D modeling systems.

For those who are less techie and more tactile, there is the call of field work – no two sites alike, plenty of new places, and even fresh air.

Discovering geospatial professions is almost like seeking out a secret society. For those who discover it, it is rewarding and fulfilling. But how do we recruit without misleading?

At the MAPPS/NSPS conference recently, Dr. Balaji Ramachandran of Nicholls State University spoke about his UAS program. There are plenty of regulatory, funding, and administrative hurdles for a university program of this type, but it was interesting to hear him talk about the students.

One of the success stories he described involves a student working on biodiversity. The UAV/UAS program provided one of the best means for studying nesting patterns and such for a particular bird species. Serious work, and another fan of geospatial technologies and techniques, but not a recruit for the surveying profession.

In an almost off-hand comment, Ramachandran pointed out a difference between students joining the UAS program from a pilot background vs. those with skills gained gaming. The pilots treated the UAV like an aircraft, almost as if they were onboard, he noted. The gamers tended to take more risks and crash more often, perhaps not recognizing the consequences when flying a real tool in real life.

Ramachandran’s program, like many others, has suffered budget cuts and struggles to attract students. But, he had no problem gaining the attention of a major oil company that funded a project to inspect off-shore oil platforms.

In the serious business of surveying, there are opportunities for support from both a funding and recruiting perspective if we can attract some attention. Sometimes a shiny object and sleek technology helps.