Alabama college to start UAS maintenance training program in 2014

David Leiva

In response to the expected crush of demand for mechanics of unmanned aircraft systems, an Alabama college will begin a maintenance training program next year, the first of its kind in the south eastern United States, officials say.

The state has already earmarked $360,000 toward the new program expected to begin in 2014, and the curriculum should be completed by August, says Tucson Roberts, dean of the Alabama Aviation Center, a department within Enterprise State Community College. The Federal Aviation Administration will review the curriculum once complete, Roberts says.“The market is driving this. Alabama is an aviation state, and we need to stay relevant,” says Roberts of this emerging business which is
taking its place amongst the 300 different aviation industries already in the state.

According to industry estimates, by 2025, Alabama’s portion of the anticipated $93 billion industry will translate into an annual
economic impact of $217 million, and this program intends to capitalize on it, he says. A report released this month from the
Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International said Alabama stood to have 2,200 UAS-related jobs in the next decade.

Roberts says the center already offers a program to train technicians in Airframe and Powerplant, but this new foray will blend aviation maintenance, avionics, computer programming, and information technology skills using 3D applications. Ultimately, the students will have dual-certifications in manned and unmanned systems repair, he says. The course instruction will be delivered as a hybrid of in-person, hands-on, and online.

Roberts says this type of innovative program would have an immediate impact with companies like Bell Helicopter in Ozark, Ala., which is in the midst of converting its manned helicopters into unmanned ones.

The Aviation Center plans to begin the program with 25 students.