Clark State adding certificate in unmanned aircraft systems

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Clark State Community College has expanded its curriculum related to unmanned aircraft systems, commonly known as drones.

The idea is to give students more experience in operating drones as well as managing and analyzing data collected by those devices, according to Adam Parrillo, an associate professor at Clark State.

“That technology has evolved greatly over the years and it is changing the ways that we collect information and conduct certain activities,” he said.

Though the community college has already incorporated drones into its Geospatial program in previous years, the fall semester for 2020 is the first time a certificate geared towards unmanned aircraft systems will be offered.

The program is designed to cover various aspects of drone training such as hands-on flight practice, maintenance, its different uses and applications, privacy concerns, and safety and federal policies related to those unmanned aircraft systems.

Parrillo, who coordinates Clark State’s Geospatial program, said that commercial drones have become more sophisticated and easier to use.

As a result, he said that technology is becoming more applicable in multiple job fields. He said that there has been much interest in the commercial drone marketplace and its applications. That includes from larger global companies such as Amazon to smaller more local startups.

He said in addition to that, governmental investment could further facilitate the growth of an industry estimated to be in the multi-billion dollar range.

“There is going to be jobs across the board at different levels that are using some sort of drone technology,” Parrillo said.

He said that having a certificate program at Clark State expands the exposure that students will have in terms of this type of equipment. He said instead of just learning how to analyze data collected from it, students will also have hands on experience.

The community college is looking at ways to expand the program. That includes teaching those students how to navigate in different types of airspace as well as what can be collected from that technology and how that data can be applied.

As part of the certificate program that takes one year to complete, the community college will be offering an additional eight-week section of its Introduction to UAS in October.

Coursework included in the certificate program could go towards an associate degree in geographic information system/geospatial technology, representatives of Clark State said.

“Our students are prepared to work in various fields including, but not limited to, the defense industry, urban planning, engineering, municipal management, business and environmental studies. Having this new UAS certificate only enhances our graduates' capabilities and increases their marketability,” said Aimee Belanger-Haas, the dean of business and applied technologies for Clark State.

Clark State has also been selected by the Federal Aviation Administration for its Unmanned Aircraft Systems-Collegiate Training Initiative Program.

Representatives of Clark State said that will give them the opportunity to coordinate and share information with other colleges that have programs related to drone technology.

“Having this designation recognizes the quality of our program in preparing students for opportunities and careers in the UAS/drone field,” Belanger-Haas added.

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