by Jonathan Beck
Published in Midwest Flyer – Aug/Sept 2016 issue
A page has turned and a new chapter has begun as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced the long-awaited small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) Final Rule, known as Part 107. With the sUAS Final Rule set to take effect in August, diverse industries will rapidly adopt UAS technology and expand the limits of what we see as possible today. Many industries have already seen potential and some are exploring UAS, but there has been caution due to the uncertainty of the technology and the rules. The main questions we continue to hear is, “What does this mean to me?”
With clear rules established for what a sUAS operator should and should not do, as well as defined credentials to operate sUAS, many businesses are in a better place to incorporate UAS technology into their daily operations. Though the new regulations do not address all considerations for uses for UAS technology, this is a large step in the right direction. It will alleviate the large workload created by the exemption process that went from the first UAS commercial operator approval in late 2014, to more than 5,500 today. The sUAS Final Rule lays out a framework of safety and accountability as UAS continue to grow in use. Traditional aviation enthusiasts now have a better understanding of how this will affect their flight operations, and UAS users now have a clearer picture of how to legally implement them into their business models, and how to share our airspace safely.
Some key points from the sUAS Final Rule include:
• UAS weighing less then 55 lbs.
• Visual line of sight operations.
• Yield right of way to other aircraft.
• Maximum flight altitude of 400 feet or remaining within 400 feet of a structure.
• Ensure aircraft is in a safe condition and conduct preflight inspection.
Operator/Certification requirements are:
• 16 years of age.
• Demonstrate aeronautical knowledge through testing or completion of online training.
• Pilot In Command (PIC) is physically and mentally fit.
• Hold a Remote Pilot Airman Certificate or be under the direct supervision of a person who does.
• Complete re-occurring training every 24 months.
In addition, operators must register their aircraft and comply with all state and local requirements.
To address these changes, education is required which must include an understanding about:
• The rapid expanse of UAS technology.
• Autopilot features.
• Sensor capabilities.
• Autopilot features.
• Sensor capabilities.
• Varied control methods.
• Performance characteristics.
• Price points.
Educated consumers should be able to find the right tools for the job and understand how to effectively use them. Without the knowledge on what to consider when looking for the proper UAS for your needs, a consumer or business can quickly find themselves dissatisfied with the systems not meeting their expectations or empty their pockets with features that are not needed. To address the need for educated technicians in UAS technology, Northland has continued to grow its program offerings to meet the need.
New sUAS Field Service Technician Certificate Program
This fall, Northland will launch a program to train future UAS technicians to meet the needs of industry and requirements of the new regulations. The 30-credit sUAS Field Service Technician Program will incorporate the required education to meet the credentialing requirements to operate sUAS for business and public purposes. The certificate program will be a stackable credential for students and the current workforce as they plan for careers to meet the need for skilled UAS technicians.
In the sUAS Field Service Technician Program students will develop a broad knowledge and understanding of sUAS at the functional and operational level as they build their own multirotor UAS from a kit. They will learn how to customize their systems with the integration of sensors and components tailored to their interests. Students will have a chance to explore some of the industry-leading UAS technology and its power to impact various industries.
Students will advance their aeronautical knowledge to ensure they are prepared to successfully complete the new aeronautical knowledge exam to become a certified UAS Remote Pilot Operator. It will be a great opportunity to generate interest in the aviation community and the experience the environment creates.
UAS Summer Camps & STEM Activities
Northland has already begun cultivating the future generation of UAS technicians that will meet the growing demand for an educated workforce in UAS technology. In June, Northland partnered with the North Valley Career and Technology Center in Grafton, North Dakota to offer students in grades 7-12 a chance to experience UAS technology through hands-on activities. Some of these activities included building a multirotor drone from a kit, performing simulated flight training, flying the UAS they built, as well as many mainstream products, and then transforming the digital data collected by UAS into usable industry products. Additional Opportunity: August 11-12, Northland will offer another UAS Summer Camp at its aerospace campus in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, with many of the same activities.
UAS Educator Workshops
There are also many educators interested in UAS technology today, who are seeking ways to integrate this knowledge into the classroom. August 8-10, Northland will offer a DroneTECH Educators Workshop. This workshop will provide secondary and post-secondary educators with an introduction to UAS and geospatial technology and the tools to incorporate into existing STEM education. Participants will have access to continued resources, and curriculum and faculty expertise following the workshop. Course curriculum modules will align to existing Common Core Standards to assist in streamlined integration to secondary STEM education.
UAS is a technology that will continue to grow in the aviation community and provide a great opportunity to inspire the next generation of aviation enthusiasts. Northland is home to a long-standing history of aviation education and is always looking for more ideas to build the Minnesota aviation community. We welcome the feedback we have received from the Minnesota Education Section in Midwest Flyer Magazine, and the great ideas to grow new opportunities for engagement. Feel free to continue reaching out to us and sending your thoughts!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Jonathan Beck is the UAS Instructor/Program Manager at Northland Community and Technical College, Thief River Falls, Minnesota.
This material is based in part upon work supported by the
National Science Foundation (DUE 1501629). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.