Drone Technology Laboratory Expands

K. Patricia Bouweraerts
Mark Sharp Image

Mark Sharp, Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Instructor, presents a demonstration of drone technology at TMCC's Applied Technology Center.

Newly opened laboratories, classroom and equipment—including a 3-D router—are highlighted features of the Unmanned Aerial Systems Technician (UAS) training program entering its second year of classes at Truckee Meadows Community College.

TMCC offers an Unmanned Aerial Systems Technicians training program – the first in Nevada. UAS classes and labs are located at the Applied Technology Center on Edison Way.

“Nevada is one of only six test sites in the U.S. approved by the FAA for commercial testing of drones, and we are one of only a few schools in the country teaching students to operate them,” said Mark Sharp, UAS Instructor. “Unmanned aerial vehicles create new jobs, so when we train people, they will be ready to work in the industry. They will learn how to fly them and fix them.”

Trained technicians will be prepared to maintain, troubleshoot and repair unmanned aircraft. They may explore careers in public institutions such as fire departments, search and rescue, law enforcement, transportation, power and gas utilities or in private industries including mining, real estate, agriculture and retail.

“Drones equipped with sensors or cameras can map watersheds, detect the dryness of soil, see photosynthesis and the health of crops, can navigate for precision crop dusting, find cows at night, and inspect powerlines,” Sharp said during an open house event in October. “Equipped with a thermal camera, an archaeologist can even find ruins.”

In the future, drones may be used for delivery or even to move people.

“There is a delivery drone in Europe – it takes 27 rotors and can fly a person,” Sharp said.

Students can complete the 30-credit certificate at TMCC. There are also four-year programs in the U.S. that teach design of intelligent UAS systems. The University of Nevada, Reno offers a UAS minor program in the College of Engineering, Mechanical Engineering Department. Other schools offering drone programs are the University of Alaska, University of Ohio and the University of Oklahoma, Sharp said. Students are advised to first check with an academic adviser when planning a program of study at TMCC, a university, or when thinking about transferring between two colleges.

TMCC offers a Certificate of Achievement in UAS

Students in TMCC’s 30-credit Certificate of Achievement program will learn UAS technology: electrical circuitry, lithium-ion batteries, payloads, autopilots, and structural applications. The first part of the UAS course is a grounding in ethics related to unmanned drones.

“Some of the drones can tell the color of your shoes from a mile up,” Sharp said. “Students learn about the ethics first.”

Classes in basic aerodynamics and piloting are offered. A small engine course and building with composites are also taught as a part of the curriculum. Communication through computer networking will give the student a thorough understanding of how an operator communicates with the unmanned aircraft.

“It’s a flying robot – you have to know how to tell it how many rotors it has, what its performance standards are, where it goes and what directions it flies,” Sharp said.

Students may also work toward a flight school pilot’s license, studying with a flight instructor at TMCC.

Offered this Spring Semester are two sections of AV 102: Unmanned Aerial System Construction Project, AV 110: Basic Ground School for Pilots, ENRG 110: Basic Electricity, CIT 114: IT Essentials, CE 201: Workplace Readiness, COM 215: Introduction to Group Communication, and MT 100: Fabricating Composites.

For more information, contact Barbara Evans in the Technical Sciences Division at 775-856-5302, or Mark Sharp at 775-856-5325.