Indiana State begins offering unmanned systems degree this fall

By Patrick C. Miller | July 29, 2015

Indiana State University (ISU) at Terre Haute this fall will begin offering a bachelor’s degree in unmanned systems to prepare students for entry into the field of aerial, land and water vehicles and robotics.

"Unmanned systems have applications in a variety of industries that touch our lives daily," said Richard Baker, chair of ISU’s aviation technology department. "The capabilities in mobile robotics provide new methods to address such areas as disaster response, crisis management, precision agriculture and construction. From entertainment and journalism to insurance and logistics, businesses will increasingly rely on this technology to maintain a competitive advantage."

Earlier this year, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education approved the 120-credit-hour program supported by the Indiana Department of Homeland Security and the Indiana Office of Defense Development. The bachelor's degree is the first of its kind in Indiana and one of only a handful throughout the country.

ISU has permission from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to operate unmanned aerial vehicles at Terre Haute International Airport-Hulman Field and the Indiana National Guard's Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in southeastern Indiana. The university is also an associate member of an educational, government and industry partnership based at Mississippi State University that was selected to help develop rules regulating unmanned flight.

"We are pleased the commission expedited its approval of this important program which will go a long way to ensuring that Indiana and Indiana State continue to lead the way in this exciting new technology," said Robert English, ISU’s College of Technology dean.

Nearly 300 students are enrolled in aviation flight technology or aviation management at ISU. The university has offered a minor in unmanned systems since 2011. More than 60 students have graduated with the minor. The university projects 80 students will enroll in the new bachelor's degree program during the next five years.

Flight training is not required for the unmanned systems degree. However, students planning to pursue a career as a professional unmanned aerial systems operator or pilot are encouraged to obtain at least a private pilot certificate.

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