Drone program achievement

Aviation school ranks sixth in the nation for unmanned aerial system major

Liberty University’s School of Aeronautics’ drone program continues to soar in both growth and reputation, as it has been ranked No. 6 in the nation by successfulstudent.org.

According to Jonathan Washburn, professor for the school of aeronautics, the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) program started several years ago and is continually growing.

Success — The school of aeronautics makes the list of the 15 best drone training colleges. Photo provided

Success — The school of aeronautics makes the list of the 15 best drone training colleges. Photo provided

“We are an extension of the actual school of aeronautics,” Washburn said. “At the airport we have an academic building and a flight center.”

Students first go to the flight center where they learn how to fly manned aircrafts. Next, they go to the academic building that has an unmanned simulation room where they then apply what they have learned from flying manned systems.

Washburn said the other schools that were ranked in the top five were well known UAS or flight schools, but Liberty’s program offers unique career opportunities.

“What sets us apart from the other schools on the list is the partnerships with local companies that work for the Department of Defense and various contractors,” Washburn said. “They actually fly (unmanned aerial vehicles) (UAVs) out of Ft. Pickett.”

UAS students have the opportunity to learn in a classroom and advance to the range and actually fly unmanned aerial vehicles.

According to former aviation student Houston Yager, the program is one that is not as broad, but it is very hands-on. Besides the rather steep learning curve, students get applicable knowledge right from the start.

“Our goal is to move up that rank,” Washburn said. “It would be fantastic to be No. 1. To do that … we are going to … maintain the partnerships we have and keep offering
hands-on experience.”

The drone program still focuses on the military and contractor applications of UAS, but Washburn said he and many other professors are developing the UAS program so they can provide more opportunities for students in the coming years.

The school of aviation is working to expand the program by teaching students how to fly smaller UAVs so they know all the ways UAVs are used.

“You learn so many things,” Yager said. “You don’t just learn flying, you learn about planning, weather conditions and physics. You see just how much pilots have to consider.”

SHERRILL is a news reporter.

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