UND to enter new FAA Collegiate Training Initiative program

By University of North Dakota | August 20, 2020

Federal initiative to prepare students for careers in UAS includes UND among first-selected schools

The University of North Dakota is among the first institutions selected for the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) new Collegiate Training Initiative for unmanned aerial systems (UAS), according to a recent announcement by the FAA.

The University’s participation in the program, in close partnership with the FAA, will ensure that there is a pipeline of qualified professionals to meet increasing demands in the UAS industry and efforts to implement UAS into the national airspace.

The FAA’s Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) program has been in place for more than 25 years. It was first developed to help schools deliver up-to-date air traffic control training to provide the FAA with qualified air traffic controller applicants. UND has been involved in that element of the initiative since the program’s inception.

Per the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, the FAA was required to extend the CTI program to UAS, which has now resulted in new memorandums of understanding between the FAA and eligible institutions of higher education.

The program’s mission is to “collaborate with selected schools to deliver up-to-date UAS training tools, resources, and guidelines that will prepare students for careers in UAS and continue to maintain the safety of the National Airspace System.”

On the forefront

Paul Snyder, UAS program director at the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, said the announcement reinforces UND’s position at the forefront of UAS education and research.

In 2009, UND was the first university to establish a degree program for UAS Operations.

“This new level of partnership will help the FAA address labor force needs and ensure that graduates have the knowledge and skills needed to pursue a successful career,” Snyder said. “The CTI distinction reflects our attitude of wanting to continuously improve UND’s UAS program.

“As this industry develops, we’re not waiting to see what happens – we’re stepping in to be part of its rapid growth.”

Hiring source

Speaking from his experience guiding and instructing UND’s Air Traffic Management program, Associate Professor Paul Drechsel said the CTI partnership for air traffic control puts in place a potential hiring source for students, and has provided a standardized training program allowing UND to excel.

“UND is going to go above and beyond with UAS,” Drechsel said. “Being part of the CTI program has been a great advantage for our past graduates, and our future graduates both in ATC and UAS will have that advantage, as well. This is a great opportunity.”

Drechsel followed by saying North Dakota’s congressional delegation has consistently kept UND in mind as aviation-related legislation comes to fruition, such as 2018’s FAA Reauthorization Act.

“UND is a world-class aviation school and plays a significant role in the nation’s UAS ecosystem,” said Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D. “It makes sense for the FAA to rely further on UND to meet the workforce needs of this quickly growing industry. That’s exactly why we authorized this program through the 2018 FAA reauthorization, and this selection builds on our state’s role as a hub of UAS research, development, training and operations.”

Brett Venhuizen, chair of the Department of Aviation, noted that while the UAS industry has been around for a number of years, it is still in its relative infancy, when compared to manned aviation.

“The connections we’re making with the FAA are huge, and it will be really interesting for our UAS program to be part of this new effort,” Venhuizen said. “The CTI program has been a large factor in the success of our air traffic management program, and I can see a bright future for UAS and our involvement with the FAA.”


David L. Dodds
Director of Communications
Division of Marketing & Communications
University of North Dakota
[email protected]
O: 701.777.5529