UNO Aviation Institute creates drone program

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A new concentration within UNO’s Aviation Institute, Unmanned Aircraft Systems, is giving students the opportunity to learn how to use drones in many different types of careers.

By: Taylor Barth, Reporter

Students at the University of Nebraska-Omaha see drones as more than just a hobby, but the future of aviation. A new concentration within UNO’s Aviation Institute, Unmanned Aircraft Systems, is giving students the opportunity to learn how to use them in many different types of careers.

“This is going to take us and them to some really interesting places,” said UNO Aviation Institute Director Scott Tarry.

Courses for the new concentration started in fall 2017, but Tarry said they’re just starting to get some traction.

The drone industry is growing, as well. Companies like Amazon are developing drone delivery services.

“The drone market is growing so rapidly and there’s a huge demand,” said assistant professor Victor Huang, who’s leading the UAS concentration at UNO. The university hired him from Purdue University.

He will not only teach classes, but research UAS and how they will be a part of air traffic in the future.

“It’s very important and urgent to study (drones), how to incorporate them into our traditional aviation operations,” Huang said.

UNO’s courses not only teach students how to fly UAS, but how to utilize the material they collect.

“This would train our students to go out and get jobs flying and operating drones, but also collecting data using those drones and analyzing and interpreting our data,” Tarry said.

Students taking the new UAS courses get hands-on experience operating UNO’s six drones.

Maddy Petry plans to be a pilot, but wants to be prepared for wherever the skies may take her. She said she decided to take a UAS course so she could understand the rules and regulations when it comes to using drones.

“Over the next 20 years or so, we might see smaller pilot operations and the efficiency of drones is incredible in comparison to aviation in the traditional sense,” Petry said.

UAS and the data they collect can also be applied in jobs outside the aviation industry, from farmers to first responders.

“What I want to do is operate drones and aid in response to emergencies,” said Jennifer Miller, a student at UNO.

Due to strict health requirements, Miller can’t operate planes, but she can fly drones and hopes to help others in situations like search and rescue operations.

“The microdones can go into the rubble and find where the people are and find where the structural integrity is before sending people in to it,” Miller said.

While FAA regulations for UAS continue to evolve and change, the sky is limit for students like Petry and Miller. They’re eager to see where drones land them.

“I think it’s incredible to see where it’s going to go in the future,” Petry said.

Tarry said UNO’s program is the only one in Nebraska that leads to a degree. It’s a four-year degree within the Bachelor of Science and Aviation program.

Tarry said he hopes the UAS program will serve as an alternative to the pilot program, which can be costly and difficult to meet requirements.

“I think it’s going to open up a lot of opportunities for young people who would otherwise say, ‘Well, I can’t fly. I can’t realize my dreams in aviation,'” Tarry said. “UAS gives them the opportunity to do operational, aviation operations, without the cost of doing flight training.”

At least seven students are set to start the concentration in the fall, but students majoring in other program can also take the courses and learn how to utilize drones in their area of interest.

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