Revolutionary Opportunities for Highly Educated Unmanned Aircraft Systems Technicians
Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) is the most rapidly growing sector of the aerospace industry fueled with continuous advancements in technology, and the Federal Aviation Administration is currently working on a plan to integrate UAS into the national airspace system (NAS) by 2015. This project at Northland Community and Technical College (NCTC) will bridge the gap between new and emerging aviation technology and technician education in the area of UAS and will increase career opportunities through the development of a pipeline for highly skilled workers to meet industry demands. A study released in 2013 by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) forecast the economic impact of the integration of UAS into the NAS to total more than $13.6 billion in the first three years of integration and to grow sustainably for the foreseeable future, cumulating to more than $82.1 billion between 2015 and 2025. AUVSI also stated the integration into the NAS will create more than 70,000 new jobs in the first 3 years. By 2025, total job creation is estimated at 103,776 jobs. The project will initiate, facilitate, and maintain partnerships with industry leaders, 7-14 schools and higher education institutions to confirm workforce competencies and curriculum. It will increase educational opportunities to advance aviation technologies and the impacts regionally and nationally, helping to position the U.S. as a leader in the global UAS market. By collaborating with key stakeholders at the UAS test sites, the project will create models for technician education in UAS maintenance and meet technical employment needs of UAS and other high-growth industries. With the rapid growth in these new technologies there is a great opportunity to influence standardized education for this science, technology, engineering, and technology (STEM) discipline.
To address current skill gaps and educational opportunities, the project will create innovative, industry driven curriculum for UAS and related disciplines, industry recognized stackable credentials, and technician career pathways. It will provide professional development for faculty members to stay current in emerging technologies and learn new teaching methods that will allow them to incorporate these materials into UAS programs as well as in existing STEM courses. It will promote and provide educational opportunities to underrepresented populations and rural areas by leveraging tele-presence technology to expand geographical reach and serve non-traditional students. Project personnel will disseminate instructional materials, research information, and papers for use by educational and industry partners. Workshops and summer camps will promote awareness to secondary and post-secondary educators and students interested in STEM. A comprehensive evaluation will identify best practices in the education of UAS technicians to fill this emerging national need.