The Federal Aviation Administration has granted Auburn University the first approval nationwide to conduct a new Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight School within the Auburn University Aviation Center.
Bill Hutto, director of the Auburn University Aviation Center, said the aviation program is not limited to students enrolled in Auburn University or the aviation program.
“Faculty, staff, students and those not associated with the University are all eligible to take the course,” Hutto said.
According to Hutto, the Unmanned Aircraft systems Flight School is at this time not a part of a degree program.
“At some point, the University could offer a minor or a major, but, right now, this flight school serves to provide another tool for those who take the class to make themselves more marketable,” Hutto said.
Hutto said the Unmanned Flight School could add marketability for Auburn students with various degrees.
According to Hutto, there are professors at Auburn in building science, agriculture and engineering departments who are interested in doing research with the unmanned aircraft.
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“We want to be able to provide the necessary resources to them,” Hutto said.
National FAA regulations on the Unmanned Flight School have been strict, and, while other universities offered some programs for the Unmanned Flight School, they were not allowed to use unmanned aircraft systems outside without tethering the aircraft because the FAA considers tuition a commercial payment, according to Hutto.
Hutto said Auburn was able to bypass the tethering restriction by applying as a commercial operation that allowed payment to be taken to teach just as the traditional flight school does.
According to Hutto, companies in various industries are obtaining the approval to fly the unmanned aircraft systems including cellular service providers, real estate and agriculture.
“The FAA has recently released a proposed rule that would make it easier to fly unmanned aircraft commercially in the coming years,” Hutto said. “It’s almost limited by the imagination. The students who come through our flight school will be able to provide an asset to a company who has approval to fly.”
John McGraw, president of John McGraw Aerospace Engineering LLC said companies look to hire not only someone who can operate unmanned aircraft systems, but someone who has received certified training.
“With Auburn being the only school who can provide that training, students are getting the education companies require,” McGraw said.
Dale Watson, director of flight education, said the Unmanned Flight School adds valuable resources to the Aviation Center, which allows for more educational initiatives.
“This is an exploding field, and we are very excited to be on the leading edge,” Watson said.
Unmanned Flight School classes should be available within the next 30-45 days, according to Hutto.
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