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May 16, 2013

Students' capstone project examines the future of aviation - unmanned aircraft systems

Aviation Technology Administration 492: Air Transportation Seminar is the Aviation Technology Division’s integrative capstone course which requires students to demonstrate their ability to apply all of the knowledge, skills, and competencies they acquired during their coursework into practical application working on a real-world project.

ATA 492: Air Transportation Seminar Students
ATA 492 students from L to R: Fumihiro Kato, Dae-yun Won, Travis McMahon, Professor Charlene Derry, Juan Guevara,
Dezarae Bascome, UAA Chancellor Tom Case, Amanda Reimann, Derek Ables, UA President Patrick Gamble, Shawn Frost, Logan Riis, Clinton Ellson, Travis Durtschi, Eric Zimmermann, (not pictured Hans Klodt)
On April 30, University of Alaska Anchorage students in the Air Transportation Seminar were joined by key university, industry, and government leaders for an impressive presentation of their semester-long research project “Practical Implementation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems.” 

The term unmanned aircraft systems references an unmanned aircraft and the communication links and other components needed for its safe operation by a pilot on the ground. While these unmanned aircraft come in all shapes and sizes, they are used for aerial reconnaissance, monitoring, and information-gathering. Initially designed for military purposes, the use of these systems has evolved to include other commercial and educational applications such as scientific study and rescue missions.

The students chose to focus on mandates established by Congress in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 directing the FAA to develop a test program to integrate unmanned aircraft into the national airspace system at six test ranges. The ranges will be selected based on several factors including their diversity in climate and geography.

During the presentation, the students discussed many aspects of this legislation related to testing and integration as well as the bill's requirements to implement unmanned aircraft systems operations in the Arctic. They also looked at policy and regulatory progress and impediments.

More broadly, they examined current research and development being conducted to enhance unmanned aircraft systems. They also explored government and commercial applications of these systems and used a specific business case model to illustrate the commercial market for them.

The project has special significance to students in Alaska because the Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration is competing for one of the six test range sites. Ro Bailey, the center’s deputy director attended the presentation.

Professor Charlene Derry, faculty and mentor for the Air Transportation Seminar, commended students on their outstanding work.

“As a result of the quality of the presentation, aviation industry officials in attendance offered to assist students in setting up a student chapter of the American Association of Airport Executives,” said Derry. “Officials were also interested in establishing a new collaboration to enhance employment opportunities for our aviation graduates with the aviation industry in Alaska.”

University and industry leaders in attendance at the presentation include the following:
  • Patrick Gamble, President, University of Alaska
  • Tom Case, Chancellor, University of Alaska Anchorage
  • Karen Schmitt, Dean, Community & Technical College
  • Rocky Capozzi, Director, Aviation Technology Division
  • Ro Bailey, Deputy Director, Alaska Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration
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