Florida State to offer drone training program in spring 2015

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Drones, originally developed for the military, have caught the imagination of America — and now they have their own specialty training course at Florida State University.

They are now popular with everyone from weekend hobbyists to Amazon, which has taken the initial steps with the Federal Aviation Administration for using the airborne vehicles for deliveries.

To fill a need for trained drone operators, the FSU College of Social Sciences and Public Policy, has developed a new program for the operation of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).

In spring 2015,the FSU Emergency Management and Homeland Security Program will begin offering the first course in a new program called Application of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems. “Small” refers to UAS less than 55 pounds.

The drones’ newfound academic status proves a growing market, with the potential for scientific research, policy-making, and the economy. To keep pace with the industry growth highlights the need for qualified drone operators, the goal of the EMHS program.

Between now and 2025, more than 100,000 jobs will be created in the UAS industry, according to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). During that time, the economic impact in Florida could reach $3.8 billion, with as many as 15,000 new drones in service by both state and local agencies.

“Discussions with state and local emergency managers show intense interest in what drones can do for the field of emergency management, particularly emergency response, recovery, and mitigation,” says EMHS program deputy director David Merrick. “These versatile systems can capture still and video imagery of disaster impacts and provide critical near real-time assessments for a fraction of the cost of manned aircraft.”

FSU’s program will be the first academic program in a major Florida public university, to prepare students for UAS use in public and private applications. Among the potential applications: monitoring wildfire lines; identifying hot spots in burning buildings; monitoring and forecasting agricultural conditions; locating people stranded in disaster situations and more.

EMHS also has hands-on UAS skills, with experience in two disaster projects in Haiti, and is currently working with the Florida Division of Emergency Management on drone use in public safety and disaster decision-making. Drone manufacturers have certified three faculty members set for the program as operators: David Merrick, Jarrett Broder, and Robert McDaniel.

Offered as a 15-credit-hour graduate certificate, with 12 hours for an undergraduate certificate, Introduction to Unmanned Aircraft Systems, will start in spring 2015. Other core courses to roll out in the next three semesters include advanced applications, public safety, and UAS for planning.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.