ATE Central

Unmanned Aircraft System Operations Technician Education Program (UASTEP)


This ATE project is focused on developing educational and career pathways to prepare students to succeed as employees or entrepreneurs in the high growth unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or "drone" industry. Led by Palomar College in San Marcos, California in close collaboration with Southwestern College in Chula Vista, California, this project will serve to educate technicians for the high growth UAS industry in close collaboration with industry partners and other academic institutions. Industry estimates project that the UAS industry will generate more than 100,000 jobs in various sectors, and generate economic impacts upward of $82 billion by 2025. California, and specifically San Diego, is home to the world's two leading UAS manufacturers and the demand is increasing for a workforce that specializes in the production of drone sensors, drone data analytics, and the development of UAS navigation technology for mapping and inspection applications. Because there is a lack of UAS educational programs, local colleges and universities have been urged to focus on UAS technology to preserve San Diego's leadership in the industry. In response to industry demand for qualified UAS technicians and the need for UAS educational programs, Palomar College and Southwestern College along with their many industrial and educational partners will develop new academic programs and educational pathways to prepare the next generation of UAS technicians.

More specifically, this project brings together community college leaders in collaboration with partners from high school districts, universities, and various industry representatives to develop industry-specific UAS coursework. The project team will involve industry professionals and veteran experts to support curricular development, professional development for educators, student competency development, and outreach efforts. Students will be prepared with not only UAS knowledge and skills, but also business and workplace acumen. Summer academies will be hosted to excite underrepresented high school and college students about UAS educational and career pathways. This project will not only increase the number of skilled UAS technicians in the workforce, but also seeks to foster interest in UAS among faculty members and students from different disciplines. A Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) will also be developed as part of this project and will enable broad dissemination about the safe and novel applications of UAS to both the public and technical professionals. Such dissemination has the potential to foster a responsible culture for UAS operations and building further excitement around UAS careers.

ATE Area
Education Level
Award Number 1700552
Funding Status
ATE Start Date 2017-07-01
ATE Expiration Date 2021-06-30
ATE Principal Investigator Wing Cheung
Primary Institution Palomar College
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