Unmanned aircraft degree takes off in aviation program

The new school year welcomes a new major in the Department of Aviation Science at California Baptist University, and students wishing to study aviation unmanned systems may now officially declare it as a major.

The aviation unmanned systems major is being developed by Paul Haley, assistant professor of aviation science, and Dr. C. Daniel Prather, professor and chair of Aviation Science, in an attempt to meet the demands of the rapidly developing aviation industry.

“By combining top-quality flight training at the CBU Flight School with courses in unmanned systems, engineering design, circuit theory, video fundamentals and human factors, our unmanned systems graduates will be well-prepared to join companies such as General Atomics and Northrop Grumman in this exciting field,” Prather said.

Southern California serves as a hub for unmanned aviation. CBU’s proximity to many top unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) companies makes it an ideal location for those interested in a career in the field of unmanned aircraft. Haley said speakers from such companies will be speaking to students in future semesters.

“As UAS continues to grow and the need for pilots to fly these remotely piloted aircraft increases, CBU has a role to play in providing graduates to this segment of the industry,” Prather said. “By introducing the bachelor of science degree in aviation unmanned systems this fall, we are on the cutting edge of growth in the aviation industry and able to prepare students to succeed in this dynamic segment.”

Sergeant Enrico Rojo, senior aviation unmanned systems major, said it was always his dream to fly aircrafts.

“I’m hoping to be able to fly drones for the military in the near future as I am currently still serving (in the United States Marine Corps),” Rojo said.

Although unmanned aircrafts were primarily associated with the military in the past, these days the term drones can be used to describe anything from hobby to commercial to military unmanned aircrafts. They were initially developed at the end of World War II, but it was not until the early 2000’s that they were more commonly utilized.

“The improvements in GPS has made (common usage) possible, satellite communication has made this possible and improved cameras have made it possible,” Haley said. “Now the applications are being used for scientific research, emergency services, search and rescues and real estate.”

Haley said there is a growing niche in the real estate and movie industries for smaller unmanned aircraft, as they are safer and more cost-effective than helicopters while still getting high-quality stills and video.

Because the field is still new and changing, the need for people who know how to operate the aircraft is increasing.

“There’s a blank canvas and a blank slate for people who are creative and have ingenuity and want to come up with new applications of unmanned aircraft,” Haley said.

The hope of the program developers is to prepare students for flying both large unmanned aircraft as well as smaller, commercial unmanned aircrafts.

“It will really prepare them for multiple paths to get hired in this industry, and right now, there are plenty of jobs to be had,” Haley said.

The first major-specific class will be offered spring 2017.

About Iona Brannon

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