Students operate an unmanned aircraft, better known as a drone, in last year’s non-credit certification course taught at UAFS.

The unmanned aerial systems program is taking off at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith.


Last spring, UAFS announced plans to begin offering courses in the field – better known as drones – that would transition into degree programs at the university that would prepare residents for jobs in the emerging technological field.


Now, after receiving approval April 20 from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, UAFS will offer that program – an associate degree in unmanned aerial systems – beginning in the fall semester.


The program will be regionally unique because of its comprehensive approach to unmanned aircraft technology, according to Dr. Ken Warden, dean of the College of Applied Science and Technology.


“It’s about using the technology across a variety of fields. We’re not interested in teaching it related to one area, which is what a lot of schools do. We want to teach the tools and their application across a wide array of business and industry sectors,” Warden said. “This technology is going to touch everything.”


The degree, which is largely online, will feature two options of study for students: an operator and maintainer concentration and an analyst concentration. The former offers training in operating and repairing the machines, while the latter deals with capturing, interpreting and presenting data captured from unmanned aircraft.


“Most people don’t realize just how important these aircraft can be for data capture,” Warden said. “From land surveying to crop inspection to volumetrics for mining, these machines have incredible potential to provide us information in a much easier, safer and efficient way than how we have gathered data previously.”


UAFS developed coursework for UAS after recognizing its potential for massive job growth in the coming years. In a study by the Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International (AUVSI), 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.


“Our associate degree in unmanned aerial systems represents the forward-looking and industry-responsive curricula UAFS is known for,” said Dr. Paul B. Beran, UAFS chancellor. “This degree will give regional residents and beyond an education that will lead them to employment in a high-demand field, and it is the first in many initiatives we are developing to reach our vision of becoming a national model for workforce mobility.”


Prior to ADHE approval, UAFS received approval for the program from the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees at its March 28 meeting.


Later this month, UAFS representatives will attend the annual AUVSI conference in Denver, where they will connect with industry partners and discover emerging trends in the UAS industry.


For more information about the UAS program, contact Diana Hall at 479-788-7785.


Article by John Post, Director of Public Information
Photo Credits: 
Photo by Rachel Putman, Photographer, Marketing and Communications Office
Date Posted: 
Tuesday, April 24, 2018
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