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May 28, 2013

New ULM aviation concentration utilizes drone technology

The University of Louisiana at Monroe is offering the state’s first concentration in Unmanned Aircraft Systems beginning fall 2013.

The new concentration and accompanying drone technology will be offered by the ULM College of Business aviation department.

Paul Karlowitz, a former military pilot and airport director, is an associate professor of aviation at ULM.

He worked closely with David King, associate professor of aviation and aviation program coordinator, and Dr. Sean Chenoweth, associate professor in the school of sciences, to develop the new concentration, which will target new employment opportunities for ULM graduates.

“This concentration will give students the knowledge to pursue jobs or even to start businesses that use UAS’s,” said Karlowitz.

“This coursework will ensure students are competitive in the workforce. This is an emerging market strictly controlled by the FAA at present, but once the integration of drones into the National Airspace System is complete, jobs should rapidly grow.”

The concentration will cover the basics of unmanned aircraft systems.

Students will study the history and design of drones along with the various flight system technologies and remote sensing technologies, before they operate the technology in practical applications.

ULM President Dr. Nick J. Bruno said, "At ULM, we are constantly striving to create academic programs that target new job market opportunities in the region. I think this concentration is a great example of our outreach."

A pivotal component of the new concentration includes fieldwork using a new Robota, LLC “Triton” drone recently donated to ULM by alum Bruce Leggitt.

Students will use the drone technology to study applications in agriculture business, biology, and geography.

Students will learn to program the ground control station software and develop appropriate flight plans for the drone.

The drone—which is five feet wide and three feet long—will fly nearly 300 feet above ground and rapidly capture photos.

The drone contains a GPS, a 20-megapixel color camera, autopilot, telemetry equipment, and a near-infrared camera capable of conducting crop analysis and archaeological use.

Drones can determine the relative health of crops by assessing the stress levels of crops by analyzing the overhead near-infrared photos taken.

The drone technology allows for corrective action to be taken before stress damages the crops.

Dr. Ron Berry, Dean of the College of Business, said, “There will be a demand for well qualified, ethical individuals to work in the industries that could potentially use drones … We anticipate this program to have strong interdisciplinary applications.”

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