North Carolina State University receives COA for Drone use

By Emily Aasand | October 09, 2014

Students at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina, have been designing and building drones since 1981 and are now able to fly them under recent certificates of authorizations granted by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

N.C. State said there’s a big development push toward civilian use that promotes a strong business climate. And according to the school, private unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) companies have popped up in the research triangle and the university is helping with those developments.

Several different departments at N.C. State have been involved with drone use and research including the biological and agricultural engineering, crop science, mechanical and aerospace engineering, electrical and computer engineering and computer science departments.

“We probably have 10 professors at N.C. State who can build and fly UAVs,” said Larry Silverberg, a professor in mechanical and aerospace engineering.

In the mechanical and engineering department, students focus on designing, building, testing and flying the drones.

“We’re the guys who do the design work for building and developing the platforms,” said Silverberg. “We’re also showing crop science students how to use them so they can build their own for agriculture purposes.”

Silverberg offers a boot camp class where every student enrolled builds their own fixed wing autonomous aircraft. The class, which is jointly taught with the biological and agricultural department, has 26 students enrolled this semester, which is up from the eight enrolled in its first semester last fall. The students start with a radio controlled fixed wing aircraft before retrofitting the unit to run without an operator and by the end of the course, they each have an autonomous aircraft.

“It’s fun. Everyone who’s involved in this is just having a good time,” said Silverberg. “There are so many ways you can use this stuff and it’s really good for educational purposes. Students are able to put these systems together and really learn about engineering.”

Silverberg also holds a three-day class for professionals during the summer—the first day includes building, the second day includes learning about autonomy and the final day consists of flying.

“The summer course is to stimulate new business in the state,” said Silverberg. “Most people don’t have a whole semester to spend on it, yet, they want to get the experience. This course is for them.”