UAS program at Purdue Polytechnic Institute is flying high

By Ann Bailey | October 08, 2015

A new UAS program at Purdue University Polytechnic Institute in West Lafayette, Indiana, is bursting at the seams.

Unmanned Aerial Systems is one of six majors that Purdue, which changed the name of its College of Technology to Polytechnic Institute, has added.  The university added the major to its Department of Aviation Technology.

Purdue tested the waters to determine interest in UAS by offering an upper level course the past two years, said Mike Leasure , Purdue University Polytechnic Institute associate professor. Interest in the course was strong and the UAS major was added this fall.

“Demand right now is incredible,” Leasure said. “We are at capacity.”

About 30 students from across the US and from foreign countries have declared UAS as their major or minor, Leasure said, and he expects the number to eventually grow to 200.

Two additional professors are being hired to accommodate the anticipated increase in UAS students and  the program will be moving from its present location to a stand-alone building, Leausre said.

Students in the UAS program take classes to learn about a variety of UAS topics including maintenance of the unmanned aircraft and regulations in the UAS industry. The university also offers a capstone UAS which gives students an opportunity to do hands-on UAS work, Leasure said.

“In the capstone course they actually do data acquisition and setting up cameras and working on a team that has data experts on it,” he said.

The opportunity to be part of a high-tech industry and the accessibility of UAS make it an attractive major, Leasure said.

“It’s the latest technology. They really like that. It’s not really expensive or remote. They can take it to their dorm rooms.

The job outlook for students majoring in the UAS program is positive, Leasure said.  

“The larger companies actually are recruiting our people. Lockheed and Northrup Grumman have both approached our people for interviews.”