Those interested in earning licensure to become a commercial pilot of unmanned aircraft – also known as drones – will have the opportunity next month through a condensed noncredit course at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith, the first of what the university plans to be many future course offerings in the unmanned aircraft arena.


The class, which will be offered through the Center for Business and Professional Development at UAFS, will take place from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. March 13-17 at the UAFS campus. The registration fee is $1,995 per person.


In the 40-hour course, students will acquire the basic aviation knowledge to pass the initial Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Part 107 knowledge exam and obtain a remote Pilot in Command certificate, which is required to conduct small unmanned aircraft system commercial operations.


After taking the course, participants will travel to Drake Field in Fayetteville to take the Part 107 exam at an official FAA testing site. The registration fee does not cover the fee for the knowledge exam.


The class is also the beginning of what the university plans to be a series of coursework surrounding unmanned aircraft, a rapidly growing field that has application in a number of industries in Fort Smith, Arkansas and beyond.


In a study by the Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International, the unmanned aircrafts systems industry is forecast to create more than 600 jobs and nearly $500 million in economic impact in Arkansas in the next 10 years.


“Unmanned Aircraft Systems is a growing industry in Arkansas, and the coursework at UAFS will help train remote pilots that are needed to meet the many anticipated opportunities in this field,” said Brian Wynne, president and chief operating officer of the Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International. “Already, commercial operators in the state are using UAS technology for precision agriculture and oil and gas exploration. With more pilots such as those trained at UAFS entering the workforce, a burgeoning UAS market is about to be unleashed in Arkansas.”


Dr. Ken Warden, dean of the College of Applied Science and Technology, said the university will address that growth through a comprehensive approach to unmanned aircraft education.


“We’re developing more coursework to implement a full non-credit program of study that incorporates operations, maintenance, regulations, data collection, data analytics, and other areas of study that go along with the uses of unmanned vehicles,” Warden said. “Our approach is not to address one industry, but to address how this technology can be utilized across many industries and offer coursework that is transferable and has multiple industry applications.”


Warden added that the university is exploring the option of extending coursework into academic courses if a need is demonstrated through the CBPD’s non-credit classes.


“If we see the need is there, the plan is to embed this into an academic program of study fairly quickly,” Warden said. “We plan to scale this and build a career pathway so someone has the option of getting a short-term certificate up to an associate degree.”


“There’s not a widely accepted credential for maintenance, operation and usage of unmanned aerial vehicles,” Warden continued. “We want to become a seal of approval that’s recognized around the region and nation. We want people to be able to come here, go through the coursework validated by our industry partners, and find employment with skills that are industry relevant.”


Dr. Paul B. Beran, UAFS chancellor, pointed to the program as an effort by the university to proactively and innovatively address business and industry needs created by technological advances.


“The operation of unmanned aircrafts is a rapidly growing field that will create numerous high-technology, well-paying jobs for residents in the greater Fort Smith region and beyond,” Beran said. “We are excited to be one of the first universities in the nation to offer sophisticated coursework in this area, and we plan to further develop coursework around this technology as it is needed by local business and industry.”


Industry partners collaborating with UAFS on unmanned aircraft offerings include the 188th Wing of the Arkansas Air National Guard; enrGies a company based in Huntsville, Ala.; and Mag Aerospace, a company based in Woodbridge, Va.


For more information or to enroll in the course, contact the CBPD at or 479-788-7799.


About the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith

The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith is the premiere regional institution of Western Arkansas, connecting education with careers and serving as a driver of economic development and quality of place in the greater Fort Smith region. Through a small campus, dedicated professors, and the university’s unique bond with its community, students at UAFS are able to do more in the areas they are passionate about, both on- and off-campus, in a way that prepares them for post-graduate success. To find out how you can do more at UAFS, visit


Article by John Post, Director of Public Information
Date Posted: 
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
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