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College of Aviation

Embry-Riddle is training Unmanned Aircraft Pilots

Daytona Beach, Fla., February 10, 2010

Contact Information

Ted Beneigh

Professor

Aeronautical Science

Work: 386-226-6956

E-mail:

As early as 2012, thousands of civilian unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) may take to the sky as soon as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allows them to share U.S. airspace with other aircraft. When that happens, professionals will be needed to operate them remotely, both as pilots and as sensor operators, when they carry video and audio equipment.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is stepping up to fill that need with a new minor in Unmanned Aircraft Systems that begins on the university’s Daytona Beach, Fla., campus in the fall semester of 2010.

The 15-credit minor will consist of five courses: Unmanned Aircraft Systems; Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations and Cross-Country Data Entry; Operational Aspects of Unmanned Aircraft; UAS Robotics; and Unmanned Sensing Systems.

Students in the program will learn about the uses of civilian and military UAVs, how to select UAVs for civilian use, regulations governing their operation, and maintenance requirements. When they graduate they will be qualified for jobs as UAV pilots and sensor operators with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Embry-Riddle’s Next Generation Advanced Research Lab is developing a virtual-reality air traffic system that will allow students to fly a simulated unmanned aircraft.

Unmanned aircraft have been in the news lately as the U.S. military uses drones to spy on and attack targets in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But UAVs can also be used for many civilian tasks. UAVs patrol the U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada and soon they will monitor the east coast of Florida. They also are used to detect forest fires and relay images to firefighters.

Police would like to use them, too, but the FAA restricts their use in civilian areas unless prospective users can prove the UAVs won’t be hazardous to airplanes or people on the ground. The approval process can take 45 days.

“UAVs can do things that are impossible or too dangerous for regular aircraft to do,” says Ted Beneigh, who initiated Embry-Riddle’s new academic program. “For example, tiny ‘insect UAVs’ equipped with audio and video sensors can fly through windows and into limited spaces to assist with a rescue or security. In Japan, they’re used as crop dusters, and in Canada model airplane-sized UAVs equipped with sensors fly over fields and identify which crops are healthy and which need help.”

Beneigh, a professor of aeronautical science at Embry-Riddle, serves as a technical expert on an FAA-funded research agreement with the university that is laying the groundwork for UAV access to the national airspace system for the FAA.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the world’s largest, fully accredited university specializing in aviation and aerospace, offers more than 30 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in its colleges of Arts and Sciences, Aviation, Business, and Engineering. Embry-Riddle educates students at residential campuses in Prescott, Ariz., and Daytona Beach, Fla., through the Worldwide Campus at more than 170 campus centers in the United States, Europe, Canada, and the Middle East, and through online learning.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the world's largest, fully accredited university specializing in aviation and aerospace, is a nonprofit, independent institution offering more than 70 baccalaureate, master's and Ph.D. degree programs in its colleges of Arts and Sciences, Aviation, Business and Engineering. Embry-Riddle educates students at residential campuses in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Prescott, Ariz., and through the Worldwide Campus with more than 150 locations in the United States, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. The university is a major research center, seeking solutions to real-world problems in partnership with the aerospace industry, other universities and government agencies. For more information, visit http://www.embryriddle.edu, follow us on Twitter (@EmbryRiddle) and facebook.com/EmbryRiddleUniversity, and find expert videos at YouTube.com/EmbryRiddleUniv.