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A conversation with Sinclair College about Drone education

With the drone marketplace taking flight the need for drone education is growing

Sinclair Community College is known for their excellent drone education program so we had to reach out and ask them a few questions about their training solutions.

Note: Several training businesses have already added themselves to our business listings.  If you are in this field, consider doing the same.

Q. What makes your drone education programs unique, why should people attend your program versus those provided by others?

Sinclair College’s National UAS Training and Certification Center is truly a world-class program supporting both credit and workforce training needs through a partnership model with leading industry, academic, and government organizations.  The Center leverages data analytics, airspace and flight operations, modeling and simulation, and leading curriculum to provide unmatched capabilities to our students and partners. Sinclair founded and sponsors the Journal of Unmanned Aerial Systems, an online and peer-reviewed journal supported by volunteers from many of the leading UAS focused universities, companies, and government organizations.  The Journal is now available for free online at www.uasjournal.org.  Sinclair has committed the capabilities of the Network Operations Center, with over 400 servers and 218Tb of storage capacity to support UAS collected data processing, storage, and access. This has facilitated the development of novel public awareness tools including the Google Maps Data Portal that Sinclair developed in partnership with Woolpert. The Portal, available for free at#, allows anyone interested in viewing UAS collected and processed data to search for and view imagery and videos,  flight telemetry overlays, and partner sites.

Sinclair has also made significant investments in facilities and capital including a $5M project to enhance the National UAS Training and Certification Center with advanced and additive manufacturing, wind tunnel, metrology, maintenance, engine testing, simulation, avionics, and sensors labs. Additionally, a new facility, the UAS Indoor Flying Pavilion that will cover 3,200 square feet with 40 feet interior flying height is being constructed on the Sinclair Dayton campus allowing dedicated indoor testing and training in addition to the UAS Indoor Flight Range, covering 35,000 square feet with 25 feet interior flying height, already utilized in the program.  Sinclair also maintains multiple Certificates of Authorization and a Section 333 Exemption to facilitate outdoor flight operations, training, and testing.

Q. If someone wanted to pursue this program, what steps should they be taking first?

Those interested in learning more about our workforce training or credit programs may contact the National UAS Training and Certification Center via email at uascenter@sinclair.edu or by phone at 937-252-9787. We would be happy to address any questions and assist in finding the right workforce training or credit-based certificate or degree program. A current list of Sinclair UAS workforce training offerings, including many online courses, is available at #.

We understand that busy professionals may not have time to travel for in-person courses or enroll for a full semester length credit class. Our online workforce training courses leverage multiple methods of student engagement including media, focused readings, expert lead discussion boards, project development with expert feedback, and other activities to ensure learning objectives are met.

Q. What industries appear to be driving the most need for certified UAV pilots?

At Sinclair, we have focused on three emerging civil and commercial areas that are already benefiting from the application of UAS.  They include first responders, geospatial information, and precision agriculture.  We have developed three short-term (16 semester credit) certificates focused on these applications that all feed into a subsequent one-year certificate and two-year degree.  Additionally, we offer short courses on these and many related topics in in-person, online, and blended formats for the working professional or those seeking to develop skills for transition into a new career in UAS.  Our programs are supported through hands-on training, cutting-edge simulation, world-class facilities, and leading subject-matter experts.

Q. How many people have gone through your drone education program so far?  What businesses have they gone on to work for (if you know)?

We have easily trained over 1,000 individuals in credit and non-credit UAS courses to date.  As of fall 2014, 157 students had declared UAS as their area of interest or focus in our credit programs. We have had credit students placed at a variety of internship and regular employment positions including the following examples:

  • Cubic
  • SelectTech Geospatial
  • Riverside Research
  • Air Force Research Laboratory – Discovery Lab
  • Unmanned Solutions Technology
  • Sinclair Community College Workforce Development

Q. How do you see UAV training programs such as yours evolving over the next 2-3 years?

As the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) advances toward the initial establishment of the UAS regulatory structure with the pending issuance of FAR Part 107, it will be important to ensure all training remains current to support compliance and rapidly expanding use in commercial applications. An example of potential change is the anticipated establishment of a written exam or certification for operators by the FAA under the proposed UAS regulations. Sinclair is well positioned to address any new training and certification requirements leveraging our resources, expertise, and multiple modes of training delivery including online, in-person, and blended formats. The speed with which the UAS industry is developing is increasing and will only continue to do so as broad use becomes common.  The advances in technology require that leading programs like Sinclair’s keep resources and experts current through significant and continuing investment.

Q. What drones do you use for training purposes?

Sinclair has approximately 100 UAS ranging from small electrically powered trainers through large reciprocating or turbo-prop powered systems. Students have a range of options available to them including state-of-the-art simulation, advanced consumer system including the 3DR IRIS+ that is used extensively in our UAS Indoor Flight Range, and more complex systems including the Altavian Nova Block III, Lockheed Martin Indago, Sentera Vireo, and CESi Spear. We are always expanding our UAS fleet to support both ground and flight operations training.

Q. Is there anything else you want our readers to know?

Sinclair’s UAS program is internationally recognized and benefits from our strategic partnerships, significant investments, and talented faculty and staff. As the UAS commercial industry continues to form, Sinclair’s National UAS Training and Certification Center will remain at the forefront of training, education, and research support. In May of 2015, Sinclair became the first community college in the nation, and the first college or university in Ohio, to obtain a Section 333 Exemption from the FAA, paving the way for broad educational and commercial UAS operations.

Additionally, an Unmanned Systems Academic Summit is being co-hosted by The Ohio State University and the Sinclair National UAS Training and Certification Center on August 24th at Sinclair’s Dayton Campus to facilitate an open dialog related to ongoing activities, technologies, and trends related to UAS education and research. Invited experts will provide focused 15 minute presentations related to their work in UAS research and development, education and training, and commercialization and technology transfer. In addition to the speakers, the format of the Summit will provide ample time for networking opportunities during the continental breakfast, lunch, breaks, and reception at the end of the day. Attendees will also tour the newly renovated Sinclair National UAS Training and Certification Center facilities and UAS Indoor Flight Range where they will have opportunities to participate in hands-on demonstrations including UAS simulation and indoor flight operations. Those interested in learning more may visit the Summit webpage at: #unmanned-systems-academic-summit/.

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