Billings, Mont.-based Rocky Mountain College (RMC) has begun its new academic minor in unmanned aerial systems (UAS).
‘Rocky Mountain College wants to offer our students a wide variety of career options, and this minor can be something that offers lucrative opportunities,’ says Robert Wilmouth, college president. “By partnering higher education with this multibillion-dollar industry, the opportunities for our students are limitless.”
The UAS minor also blends into Rocky’s environmental sciences program, where courses will be taught on both geographic information systems and remote sensing.
“These students will be able to graduate from Rocky at age 22 with potential incomes ranging from $80,000 to $120,000 per year,” says professor Scott Wilson, a retired F-14 fighter pilot who will be teaching some of the UAS classes. “By completing this UAS minor, they will be qualified to fly quadcopters and fixed-wing UAS.”
Because the industry is expanding rapidly, Wilson foresees the UAS minor including an advanced lab course, where students would focus their training exclusively on flying the Sandstorm UAS, “which is a smaller version of the UAS that federal agents fly along the USA borders and over trouble spots around the world,” he says.
To inaugurate the minor, the aviation program at RMC partnered with Innova Flight Training & Unmanned Systems Inc. (USI) from Kalispell, Mont., to teach a UAS lab course earlier in the month. During a two-weekend course, Doug Forest, a flight instructor from Innova, and Hovig Yaralian, a pilot and aerospace engineer from USI, helped train six RMC students on the basics of proper UAS operations.
The training program utilized proprietary Longshot technology to teach UAS flying skills via Internet linkage. Forest says this was the first time in the world that college aviation students received such training. Students sat in RMC’s aviation hall and remotely flew USI trainer aircraft located 300 miles away at a Federal Aviation Administration-approved, private UAS airfield.