Ohio State University and Sinclair Community College’s new partnership should position their students to get jobs in an unmanned aerial systems field that is expected to become a $90 billion industry by 2025.
Experts believe UAS work will create 100,000 jobs across the country in areas such as precision agriculture, the mapping of pipelines or utility lines and even public safety.
“It’s a brand new industry,” said Deb Norris, vice president of workforce development and corporate services for Sinclair Community College. “There are jobs that will be coming our way.”
Sinclair President Steve Johnson on Monday announced a partnership with Ohio State that will give Sinclair students a pathway to a 4-year degree in areas like data analytics and geospatial precision agriculture programs.
Sinclair was the first to offer a UAS certificate program in the state. Ohio State students now will have the opportunity to earn a UAS certificate from Sinclair with their degrees.
“We believe this is a transformative technology,” Johnson said. “We believe there are many jobs to come with this and we believe Ohio should be, is and can be poised to take advantage of this.”
David Williams, dean of engineering at OSU, said Monday: “Partnerships with community colleges, in particular, are very important. We see them as ways we can work together to help drive the economy of the region and of the state.
“Jobs, these days, are what drives everything we think about,” he said.
Also on hand Monday were U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor John Carey and Dayton Development Coalition President and CEO Jeff Hoagland.
“(These) are driving industries where we see double-digit growth in the next five to seven years,” Hoagland said. “To have Sinclair and Ohio State look at these industries tells us what’s happening in the Dayton region is actually working.”
Sinclair has obtained permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly their UAS at the Springfield-Beckley Air National Guard Base and the Wilmington Airpark. The college will also seek a certificate of authorization to fly over the Don Scott Airport in Columbus and the Molly Caren Agricultural Facility near London, according to officials.
UAS could be used for aerial scouting of crops, with cameras providing daily, real-time monitoring to locate outbreaks of disease, or for the precision application of pesticides.
In May the Ohio Board of Regents approved Clark State Community College’s Associate of Applied Science degree in precision agriculture to start classes in August. Clark State is working with industry partners, including the Ohio/Indiana UAS Center and SelectTech Geospatial Advanced Manufacturing, to develop the curriculum and provide hands-on learning experiences for students.
The curriculum will blend traditional agriculture studies with state-of-the-art geospatial technologies, including the use of unmanned aerial systems for data collection. Clark State hopes to have 10 to 20 students enrolled in the new program in the fall.
Sinclair, meanwhile, recently received $4 million in state funding to expand their location in Dayton to “support the mission of the Nation Center for UAS Training and Education,” according to the college.
Norris said Sinclair has identified three commercial applications for UAS technology. The first is moving into precision agriculture. The second is establishing a more cost effective and accurate reading of geospatial needs. She cited mapping as an example. Finally, the technology could aid emergency first responders in the event of a crisis.
“We think about all those situations when we have missing children or if we need to survey or look at disaster areas,” she said. “Even traffic accidents — there are a lot of applications you’ll start to see.
“At end of the day, who do people want to fly a UAS? It’s to be able to access data to make better decisions,” Norris said. “That importance of integrating data analytics into our program is extremely important.”