COURT HOUSE – This fall, Atlantic Cape Community College will begin relocating its small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) program to the Cape May County campus, in Court House.
The program offers four courses in a rapidly growing industry that opens students to a broad range of career options.
Heading the areas of study is a 60-credit sUAS field technician degree program that awards an associate in Applied Science degree. Also available is a 33-credit field technician certificate program.
There are two professional series programs as well, one a 17-19 credit course of study as a sUAS repair specialist and the other a 15-credit sUAS specialist program providing students with the knowledge needed to safely operate a small unmanned drone in the National Airspace System. The range of programs gives potential students ways to channel their pursuit of drone education in ways that fit their lives.
“You can chip away at this in a number of ways,” said Tim Cwik, division chair of Aviation Studies. Cwik added that courses in the program prepare students to take and pass the FAA test for a Remote Pilot Certificate.
The program’s relocation provides another link in the economic development goals the county has set for Tech Village at the county airport in Erma. Cwik said some entities at the airport have representatives on the program’s advisory board. Cape May Campus Dean Maria Kellett said the county commissioners have been supportive and helpful in the move.
The field technician programs prepare students to fly a drone professionally, collect data, video and images, interpret the data, and even perform repairs if needed while on location. The college will also be involved in helping to devise training standards for using drones for inspecting bridges, as part of a grant from the state Department of Transportation (NJDOT).
The program’s nature is such that most of it cannot be offered online fully, but the college has taken steps to ensure safe, socially distant classes during the pandemic.
As part of the Cape May campus curriculum, the program will fit the 13-week schedule of classes instituted at the Cape May campus to allow students to participate in the county’s summer tourism economy. The class sequence requires four semesters to complete the degree or field technician certificate.
Kellett said the college is engaged in outreach to local businesses to help ensure that students are being trained for jobs that will be available in the county.
“This allows students to learn here and work here,” Cwik added.
The program is unique in New Jersey for its designation as part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Unmanned Aircraft Systems Collegiate Training Initiative. Warren County Community College is the only other school in the state part of the CTI.
Launched April 30, 2020, the UAS-CTI is a program designed for the FAA to recognize institutions that prepare students for careers in unmanned aircraft systems. Recognition in the UAS-CTI brings with it connections to the general industry, local governments, law enforcement, and regional economic development entities to address labor force needs.
The drone program field of study will relocate to the campus over two years, with the first semester beginning this fall. Other courses will be added by semester until the complete course of study has relocated by spring 2023. The college is targeting an initial cohort of 18 students for fall 2021.
“Evidence shows that students do better in a cohort program, moving through the four semesters as a unit,” said Cwik.
As part of the initial efforts for the program, Atlantic Cape will be reaching out to local high schools and the state Department of Labor.
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