• Ohio.com: UAS about to take off at Kent State

    Ohio.com: UAS about to take off at Kent State

    More and more, we’re all living the Jetson life.

    From Smartphones on our wrists to Skyping across the globe, life today is not far off from the pictures painted in the futuristic cartoon of the 60s.

    Heck, someday we might even have our groceries delivered by aircraft. Certainly, the technology is here, as evidenced recently by news of Amazon’s testing of drones to deliver its wares.

    Embracing the future is the idea behind the new minor program approved recently for Kent State University’s College of Applied Engineering, Sustainability and Technology.

    The Unmanned Aircraft Systems minor will give students “an introduction to the design, technology, performance and operational aspects” of the small aircraft, better known as drones.

    The university is betting that drone technology will only continue to grow in the public as well as the private sector. The 16-credit hour minor will be offered for the first time in the fall of 2014.

    John Duncan, an assistant professor of aeronautics, said the course is part of a plan envisioned by KSU President Lester Lefton to see the university’s aeronautics department grow into one of the “premier” departments in the U.S.

    Duncan said the U.S. Congress is pushing the Federal Aviation Administration to open up the national airspace to commercial drone use by 2015.

    That move would open up development of unmanned aircraft beyond military and law enforcement use and into the hands of the public.

    “There’s a lot of pent up commercial” [interest] in the technology, Duncan said. “This is the future. All kinds of opportunities, all kinds of jobs are forecast. There are all kinds of uses.”

    Adjunct professor Charlie Wentz said Kent State will join about a half-dozen U.S. universities embracing the unmanned spacecraft technology. He said KSU students will learn about drone system structures, its components and concepts.

    Wentz said the university is intent on being at the forefront of the emerging technology that is growing in popularity and whose uses in the future are almost limitless.

    “The popularity, the fact that they’re being used extensively in place of the human beings, not just in the civilian world but in the military world as well,” Wentz said. “I think these courses will bring extensive interest. Students are already talking about it.”

    While drones have been used for military purposes, flying over places where human life might be in jeopardy, these drones are expected to take on greater uses in the future from delivering packages to the suburbs to delivering medicine to areas impacted by natural disasters.

    They can go places man can’t or go places faster. As for Amazon one day sending its goods via unmanned aircraft, it’s not impossible.

    “Technically, they could do it now,” Duncan said. “As far as sending one package one place. But putting together a whole network and delivering millions of packages of day, that’s down the road.

    “The vehicles are there. The technology is there.”

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