The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has selected the University of North Carolina Wilmington to become a member of its cohort of schools participating in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems – Collegiate Training Initiative. This program acknowledges institutions that prepare students for careers in unmanned aircraft systems, also known as drones.
Dr. Narcisa Pricope, an associate professor in the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences at UNCW, will serve as the director of the Unmanned Aerial Systems Certificate Training Institute (UAS-CTI).
“We are thrilled for the opportunity to join the FAA UAS-CTI and have UNCW's myriad past and ongoing UAS efforts both in teaching and research formally recognized with this designation,” Dr. Pricope said.
FAA UAS – Collegiate Training Initiative
Schools need to provide a bachelor's degree or associate's degree in UAS, or a degree with a minor, emphasis, or certificate in UAS, for them to be considered for participation in the program. The training that students get in schools is required to include a variety of topics related to unmanned aerial systems (UAS), such as hands-on flying practice, maintenance, uses, applications, privacy issues, safety, and government regulations regulating UAS.
“This designation allows us to truly embrace UAS applications and development across the curriculum beyond the departments naturally relying on them, and further strengthen our status as a leader in UAS technologies across the state.”
Dr. Pricope was the one who started 2017 by purchasing UNCW's first professional-grade mapping drone. Since that time, several academic departments throughout campus, as well as the Center for Marine Science, have been incorporating unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into their respective research and educational programs. Both the teaching staff and the students have been successful in securing financing from a variety of organizations, including the North Carolina General Assembly, the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the North Carolina Sea Grant, and the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.
“The long-term goal is to create cohorts of well-rounded, highly-trained students who have applied research and field experience and who can outcompete their peers on the job and in graduate career markets,” Dr. Pricope added.
In addition to guiding the activities of the FAA UAS-CTI, Pricope, a Specialist in land change research, water resources, and climate change, is also the main investigator on two projects that have just been awarded funding. These initiatives are as follows:
“Demonstrating the Capabilities of Topobathymetric LiDAR Mapping in Support of DOT Project Planning and Implementation,” a North Carolina Department of Transportation-funded project, combines advanced Light Detection and Ranging and Drone Technology to collect data from hard-to-reach land, water and submerged areas. This research will improve planning, modeling, mapping and assessment for bridges, drainage, ferries, flooding and stormwater management, and other infrastructure.”
“Green Infrastructure Solutions to Support Flood Mitigation and Adaptation in Coastal Low-Lying Disadvantaged Communities,” a project with expected funding by the NASA Science Mission Directorate Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences, is finding solutions to mitigate flooding impacts in parts of Wilmington. This project is a co-effort of UNCW, the Wilmington Metropolitan Area Planning Organization, and the New Hanover County Planning Division that focuses on equity and environmental justice.”
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