Fri, May 8 2015
LeTourneau University School of Aviation and Aeronautical Science is launching a new degree program in the fall to train professional pilots to be leaders in the unmanned aircraft industry.
The new program will enable pilots to fly, repair and program Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPAs) — also commonly known as drones or Unmanned Aircraft Vehicles (UAVs).
The new degree program will provide a Bachelor of Science in Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, with operations, maintenance and electronics concentrations.
Projected growth for this industry is estimated in the billions of dollars over the next five years. Over 100,000 new jobs are expected be created in agriculture, search and rescue, aerial videography, border security, wildlife conservation, oil and gas pipeline inspection, and package delivery. Specific examples include the following:
• First responders – search and rescue, accident investigation
• Aerial photography – make maps and photograph real estate properties
• Inspection – inspect antenna towers, bridges, construction sites, pipelines
• Agriculture – track growth of crops and apply seeds and fertilizers
• Research – collect samples of seawater, air, pollution, patrol wildlife areas
• Military – used for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR)
• Film – TV shows, movies, Super Bowl commercials, X Games, Winter Olympics
As many technologies do, drones have risen to prominence in the military. LETU RPA instructor Ruedi Schubarth has worked for a defense contractor operating unmanned aircraft systems in support of training and contingency operations in the U.S. and overseas.
Drones are used in industry to do dull, dirty and dangerous tasks more efficiently and safely than a manned aircraft. Current minimum requirements for commercial RPA operators include U.S. citizenship, sport pilot license, driver’s license and experience with RPA type: most commonly fixed-wing or rotary-wing.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), to date, has expressed concern over flight safety when drones are flown in the same air space as commercial and private planes. While FAA regulations continue to mature over time, the likely effect will increase the demand for certified pilots to fly the RPAs for commercial purposes. As both federal and state legislators thoughtfully consider the legalities of these new technologies, LETU is at the forefront of the conversation as the only program of its kind in East Texas.
LETU has been on the cutting edge of aviation training since 1956 and was the first university in the state to be FAA approved to offer training for air traffic controllers.
For more information about the new drone program at LETU, visit www.letu.edu.