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Liberty Journal

Liberty aviation on cutting edge of drone aircraft training

Summer 2012 : By Ron Brown

A significant shift in course offerings at the Liberty University School of Aeronautics (SOA) could have graduates prepared for a huge transition in the use of the United States’ commercial airspace.

Last year, the university approved the School of Aeronautics to begin training students in the use of Unmanned Aviation Vehicles (UAVs), popularly referred to as drones in their military application.

The federal government has instructed the Federal Aviation Administration to develop a plan by 2015 to incorporate UAVs into the national airspace of the United States. When that happens, unmanned aircraft may become the vehicle of choice for many traditional uses of aircraft that could easily be accomplished without a pilot on board.

“Future aviation is going to include drones. There are so many potential applications where drones can be used,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Dave Young, who serves as dean of the Liberty University School of Aeronautics.

Those applications include potential uses in law enforcement, agriculture, border enforcement, power and oil pipeline control, search and rescue, and transportation of materials to remote construction sites.

“UAVs are going to be a viable part of the aviation industry,” Young said. “It offers a grand opportunity for employment during a time when college graduates are entering a highly competitive job market.”

Young understands that this technology could easily be abused by someone who doesn’t appreciate the ethics and values of aviation.

To that end, the SOA plans to train Liberty graduates who have a deep-seeded understanding of the ethical use of aircraft.

“Our mission is to produce graduates who are not only skilled, but who are going to go out in the world as strong Christians,” Young said.

Currently, 90 percent of drone usage by the United States Department of Defense occurs in combat missions in foreign airspace.

“The military has used drone technology in a myriad of different ways,” said John Marselus, Associate Dean of the Liberty University School

of Aeronautics. “The intelligence gathered by drone aircraft has created an insatiable appetite for information by combat commanders. They have become convinced of the advantage that the technology provides for our troops.” Marselus said Liberty is “right on the front edge” of drone technology.

“We want to have graduates serving the Lord in this area of aviation,” he said.