Northland Community and Technical College | www.northlandaerospace.com |
A High-Flying Future for Unmanned Aircraft Systems |
Published in the March/April 2011 issue of print Search & Employ® |
Scott Fletcher says that “the aviation industry is at a crossroads similar to where we were when the first computer processor was invented. Most manned applications cross over to unmanned, creating economic growth for the future.” Fletcher is chief operating officer of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and Aviation at Northland Community and Technical College (NCTC) and a former Air Force crew chief who served in Operation Desert Storm.
In response to the anticipated growth, NTCT will launch a program on UAS in the fall of 2011. NCTC is a two-year community college serving more than 4,000 part-time and full-time students on three Minnesota campuses: Thief River Falls, East Grand Forks, and Thief River Falls Regional Airport. NCTC offers both classroom and online programs.
The school’s signature offering is its Aviation Maintenance Technician (AMT) program. The program is certified by the Federal Aviation Authority, and it features 86,000 square feet of training area. NCTC trains students on all aspects of aviation: commercial, corporate, commuter, and general; fixed-wing and helicopters. Students spend about one-third of their time in the classroom and the remaining two-thirds in the shop/hangar area. They receive hands-on training on more than 20 aircraft, including two 727’s and one DC-9. The program is 20 months in length, and a student can pursue a diploma (88 credits) or an associate’s degree (103 credits).
The Potential of UAS
UAS have been very much in the news due to their role in the war on terrorism. And, in fact, military organizations and other government entities operate most of them. The other operators include civilian manufacturing companies, research facilities, and colleges and universities. UAS have a wide variety of military, civil, and commercial applications, including intelligence, border management, security, search and rescue, forest-fire monitoring, land- and sea-traffic monitoring, weather, agriculture management, freight, and pipeline and power-line monitoring. The Federal Government alone will spend $15.5 billion from 2009 through 2013 on UAS research, development, testing, evaluation, operations, and maintenance.
The Northland Program
NCTC is developing curriculum focusing on the civilian market. “This is going to be an $80 billion industry in just a few years,” said Fletcher. “Anybody who gets in now will be in great shape when everybody from farmers to commercial delivery services come looking for employees to help them with their unmanned programs.”
The UAS program will cover the basic elements of the UAS field – the aircraft themselves, the equipment in the craft, and the ground operational equipment. The program is scheduled for one semester plus eight weeks of training. The only prerequisite will be possession of an Airframe & Powerplant (A&P) certificate.