Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has teamed up with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Office of Aviation, commonly referred to as the Air Wing, to co-develop a curriculum and online training for operators of small Uncrewed Aerial Systems (sUAS).
As Dr. Scott Burgess, the university's associate professor of Aviation and the project's principal investigator, highlighted, the government has training standards and procedures for crewed systems on a global scale, but there's a significant gap when it comes to uncrewed systems. This is where Embry-Riddle's recognized expertise in uncrewed systems will play a pivotal role. The institution had previously made a mark in 2018 when it became the world's first academic body to receive the Trusted Operator certification from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).
The collaborative endeavor aims to devise a standardized training module, potentially benefitting government officials, law enforcement bodies, and civil aviation authorities worldwide. Dr. Burgess shared the project's broader vision: “Their objective is to harmonize sUAS training and certification globally. We aim to elevate their crew’s performance standards by providing our sUAS professional education and help set benchmarks that meet or even exceed established international sUAS crew norms.”
After the curriculum has been set, the next stage will involve crafting courseware with the Air Wing's input. Students undergoing this training will earn an industry-recognized sUAS certification.
Highlighting the history of Embry-Riddle's drone expertise, Dr. Burgess mentioned that the Worldwide Campus Department of Flight has consistently strived for excellence in UAS operational integration, training, and standardization. Their robust foundation in aviation safety and innovative ideas led the federal government to seek their collaboration.
Embry-Riddle has had a significant impact on drone technology development. Notably, in 2021, they procured a unique waiver, permitting them to train potential drone operators through online video streaming platforms. They have also previously aided various government agencies, such as the FBI and the Daytona Beach Police Department, among others. In a related vein, the university was granted close to $2 million by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to gather risk-assessment data, a pivotal step towards safely incorporating UAS into the National Airspace System.
The collaboration doesn’t end with curriculum development; the institution is also known for its innovative uses of uncrewed systems to tackle real-world challenges. These range from deploying drones for tactical responses to predicting storm paths or even mapping ancient cities.
Expressing his enthusiasm about the collaboration, Dr. John R. Watret, Chancellor of Embry-Riddle’s Worldwide Campus, stated,
“We are elated to collaborate with the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Air Wing. Being at the forefront of UAS education, we are fully equipped to ensure top-tier training for these operators.”
Dr. Burgess, along with David Thirtyacre, Department of Flight chair, and associate professors Joe Cerreta and Anthony Galante from the College of Aviation at Embry-Riddle’s Worldwide Campus, will spearhead this project.