UND’s UAS program accredited under new standards

By Patrick C. Miller | August 02, 2017

The University of North Dakota’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences has become the first degreed unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) program accredited by the Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI) under newly established criteria.

In late July, AABI voted to grant accreditation to UND’s UAS degree, making it the first degreed program accredited using the organization’s new standards. Accreditations for the aerospace school’s commercial aviation and air traffic management degrees were also approved.

“It’s the tradition of the Odegard School to push the envelope in making sure we are keeping up with societal needs as far as what’s going on in the UAS industry,” said Paul Lindseth, dean of UND’s aerospace school. “It speaks to our history—a tradition of excellence, the entrepreneurial spirit and leading the collegiate environment in degree programs. It’s pretty exciting.”

UND assisted AABI in drafting a blueprint for the curriculum, safety and experiential learning standards for the UAS field. Mark Dusenbury, assistant chair of assessment for UND aviation, co-chaired the committee that formulated the organization’s new UAS accreditation criteria.

“We went through getting feedback from industry and other institutions,” Dusenbury said. “We looked at, historically, what criteria had been out there and what had been done in other realms—not UAS—and tried to figure out how we would create criteria to measure a program.”

Paul Snyder, UND assistant chair of UAS, said the accreditation process is a chance to look at the program and make sure it is aligned with the current needs of the industry. He said a portion of the AABI’s site visit this year was a conversation with industry leaders about future challenges.

“When you’re up front, you have an opportunity to impact what the rules and policies are, and be a part of those solutions,” he said. “This accreditation relates back to the quality that we want our students to know they’ll be getting when they come here, and that’s not something that everybody’s going to have. In fact, nobody has it, because we’re the first.”