Major of the week: Unmanned aircraft systems!

For the pilots who prefer not to be in the plane.

Students at the University of North Dakota have the unique opportunity to study in the birthplace of an innovative program.

To put it simply, having an Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or UAS, major is equivalent to a major in drones.

“You learn how to fly [drones], how to operate the systems, how to understand the laws and rights as they come out, because it’s such a changing field that you really need to be on top of the ranks,” said UND senior Henry Asvedo.

The university is moving forward to keep this program at the top, too. Within the last month, it became legal to fly a smaller UAS to higher heights with only a private pilot’s license and an online course.

This semester, UND began offering Aviation 238: UAS Certificate. This course gets students the license they need, accompanied with a flight course and twelve lessons on how to fly an UAS and how to act as a censor operator.

Other courses needed to graduate include various ethics and law classes, flight simulators, as well as flight labs.

Asevedo, who was a commercial pilot major until switching, finds many similarities between his old major and the new major.

“The major is really close. Until recently, they had it more or less parallel except for five extra classes,” Asevedo said.

Hence, the connection with flight labs.

Something to consider when discussing a major is the work load a student picks up on a regular basis.

“Flight side, it gets a little busy,” Asevedo said. “Especially with the flying… they’re entire schedule revolves around that.”

He also said that 102 is the most difficult course for students, mostly due to the amount of time it takes to complete all of the requirements in one semester. From there, 221 to 325 are considered easier to complete in one season.

“The hardest part is getting the flight-side done, because it’s entirely based on the weather. If the weather ain’t good, you ain’t flying,” Asevedo said.

It takes time to get to reach the “U” in “UAS”. A student is unable to reach unmanned operations until they reach course 438 for a simulator. It won’t be until roughly senior year until an UAS student can actually operate one of the university’s aircraft systems.

On the upside, the commercial rating would already be acquired at that point.

With the skills a student develops and the different licenses it takes to graduate, a student could use an UAS degree to fly as a commercial pilot, conduct drone operations for information collection, or go into entrepreneurship and develop their own UAS operations.

According to the UND website, our university’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) program was the first to be founded in the nation.

This field is constantly changing and advancing. With that, technology in the field advances almost exponentially.

Students with a UAS degree are the ones who get to not only try out the new toys, but they also huddle in the newest building on campus: the aerospace building of Robin Hall.

Jacob Notermann is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]