Education’s Role in UAS

By Luke Geiver | January 11, 2016

 First the disclaimer: In our mission to highlight the role of the research and educational institutions in the UAS industry, and as many schools, projects and research efforts as possible for our cover story, we didn’t achieve our goal. We could not include them all––this is a magazine, after all, not a novel. So, when staff writer Ann Bailey accepted the challenge to write about the many efforts and programs related to UAS at the university level, we knew it was going to be a major challenge in meeting our hypothetical goal for the story.

The volume of UAS-related course work has skyrocketed the past five years. Institutions across the country are adding UAS classes or full degrees, a handful are offering post-graduate degrees in UAS. Top 10 lists for UAS schools now exist. Most, though not all, prominent UAS-affiliated schools are well-versed in aerospace. As Bailey writes, in “The UAS Classroom,” on page 12, the type, scale and purpose of university-led research for UAS is both impressive and wide in scope. Agricultural schools are researching UAS; maintenance schools are finding better ways to keep platforms ready to fly; training schools are sending UAS pilots into the field. This is all to be expected, but we find many schools are reaching past their curriculum expertise just to be a part of the growing interest and need for UAS pilots, engineers, platform developers, data analysts and mechanics.

As the commercial industry continues to grow in the U.S., we expect to read about the next-best technology or platform offering from a private firm. But, Bailey reminds us that breakthroughs, accomplishments and the foothold of the future UAS sector are also linked to the classroom and labs. Luckily for all of us, UAS academia is anything but greedy or closed off from the commercial world. Many of the lessons learned at UAS schools are being incorporated into commercial operations.

New for 2016, our team will provide stories each month of real-life UAS end-use cases. The days of speculation are well-past. Instead, as you’ll see in Patrick Miller’s story, on page 20, emergency management and disaster relief efforts have greatly improved via UAS, and the reality for UAS end-users is clearer now than ever. UAS are a real part of the commercial landscape. It’s time to tell the stories of what we have learned, what needs to change and what will get better, and leave the guesswork behind.

Thank you for reading another issue of UAS Magazine. If you are from a school performing UAS-related work, we are expecting your call of complaint for not being included in Bailey’s article. But, don’t worry. It’s clear to us that the UAS story at the university level is a multipart one and we are already formulating the next part. We already know we’ll once again fail in our attempt to provide a comprehensive story, but we also know that is a good thing.