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FAA awards drone training initiative at Palomar College

SAN MARCOS — Palomar College is now among the higher education institutions in the nation to be accepted into a new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) training initiative called the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Collegiate Training Initiative.

Wing Cheung, professor of earth, space and environmental sciences at Palomar, created the college’s drone program in 2016 with Mark Bealo, associate professor of graphic communications.

“Being part of this FAA-led, nationwide program allows the schools with UAS programs to connect and learn from each other,” Cheung said. “With this initiative, the FAA is recognizing schools that have well-rounded programs which not only prepare students for their commercial drone pilot exam but also teach students to fly responsibly and safely.”

The FAA unveiled its new Unmanned Aircraft Systems Collegiate Training Initiative (UAS-CTI), established pursuant to congressional direction in Section 632 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018.

In order to qualify for the initiative, schools must be accredited two- or four-year institutions offering a degree in drone technology. In addition, the curriculum must include:

  • Training on UAS platforms—multirotor and fixed-wing
  • Flight systems, radio controllers, components, and characteristics of UAS
  • Maintenance, uses, applications, privacy concerns, safety, and insurance
  • Hands-on flight practice using UAS and simulator training
  • Use of UAS in various industry applications
  • Federal policies concerning UAS
  • Training related to flying with sensors and the processing data
  • Palomar’s Drone Technology program, with generous support from the National Science

Cheung said it remains one of the leading comprehensive programs in the country, providing not only instruction in drone operation but also training in drone data analytics that has been vetted by a number of professionals in the field.