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Kent State Leads State in Unmanned Aircraft Systems Education

Posted Apr. 21, 2014
enter photo description
Kent State University graduate student
Jian He
displays an unmanned aerial
vehicle following a crosswind landing
practice.

Kent State University is on the forefront of preparing undergraduate students for an evolving aviation industry and new technologies.

Recent expansions in the Kent State College of Applied Engineering, Sustainability and Technology’s Aeronautics Program began this semester with the addition of two new minors: aircraft dispatch and aviation weather. The college will implement an anticipated unmanned aircraft systems minor in the fall.

“Students are already talking about it,” says Charles Wentz, adjunct aeronautics professor. “I expect initial interest and then growth in the number of students taking these courses over the next couple of years.”

The upcoming five-course minor introduces students to an in-depth look at unmanned aircraft systems ground and flight operations; design of unmanned aerial vehicles and on-board systems; sensor characteristics and performance; and unmanned aircraft systems command, control and communications systems.

“I think students should take advantage of this opportunity because the unmanned aerial vehicle industry is currently growing and, therefore, potentially there will be more job opportunities in this field,” Wentz says. “Even if some students are merely curious about unmanned aerial vehicles, it is important to further increase public awareness about the beneficial services they are capable of providing.”

Jian He, a Kent State graduate student majoring in technology, already understands the importance of becoming more educated about unmanned aerial vehicles.

“There are so many advantages to using unmanned aerial vehicles rather than real airplanes, such as cost, maintenance, maneuvering abilities, safety, regulation and much more,” says He.

Though He is graduating May 2015 and, therefore, cannot complete the minor, he encourages other students to tackle the new curriculum, knowing that it will look good on a résumé and will be valuable preparation for life after Kent State.

Currently, the most common jobs in this industry are with the military or in unmanned aerial vehicle manufacturing, Wentz says. The military uses them mainly for surveillance in the interest of national defense, while manufacturers focus on the design, construction, testing and flying of unmanned aerial vehicles.

Wentz says some police departments use unmanned aircraft systems for tracking criminals, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration uses them for aeronautical research and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration uses them for hurricane research.

According to Business Insider, however, an estimated 12 percent of combined global spending on unmanned aircraft systems throughout the next decade will be for commercial purposes.

A large majority of future unmanned aerial vehicle jobs will be in the agriculture industry because they offer an efficient method to survey land.

Wentz says unmanned aircraft systems will also be used to deliver e-commerce packages (with Amazon leading the way), transport cameras to search for survivors in a burning building, assess high-rise rooftops for weather damage and survey an area upset by natural disaster.

“The potential opportunities are almost endless, but depend upon the Federal Aviation Administration, with the exception of the military that operates in restricted airspace,” Wentz says.

The Federal Aviation Administration, responsible for regulating national airspace, has a mandate from Congress to provide for unmanned aerial vehicle operations by September 2015. Wentz believes aeronautics students taking the new minor are at a definite advantage in the industry at this time because Kent State is ahead of most universities in unmanned aerial vehicle education. 

Among other honors, Kent State is the only Air Traffic-Collegiate Training Initiative school in Ohio and one of only 37 in the country.

Kent State’s College of Applied Engineering, Sustainability and Technology’s aircraft dispatch minor was recently formally endorsed by the Federal Aviation Administration. The aircraft dispatch minor is the third federally approved dispatcher program in Ohio, and the only one in Northeast Ohio. There are only 42 approved dispatch programs in the country.

Wentz is enthusiastic about contributing to the adapting Aeronautics Program.

“I’m excited,” Wentz says. “Having spent most of my engineering career in the development of unmanned air vehicles, I am personally looking forward to the opportunity to share what I can about UAVs.”

To find out more about Kent State’s Aeronautics Program, visit www.kent.edu/caest/undergraduate/aeronautics/index.cfm