TMCC sets to expand drone technology and training lab

Newly opened laboratories, classroom and equipment—including a 3-D router — are highlighted features of the Unmanned Aerial Systems Technician (UAS) training program entering its second year of classes at Truckee Meadows Community College.

“Nevada is one of only six test sites in the U.S, approved by the FAA for commercial testing of drones and we are one of only a few schools in the country teaching students to operate them.” said Mark Sharp, UAS Instructor. “Unmanned aerial vehicles create new jobs, so when we train people, they will be ready to work in the industry. They will learn how to fly them and fix them.”

Trained technicians will be prepared to maintain, troubleshoot and repair unmanned aircraft. They may explore careers in public institutions such as fire departments, search and rescue, law enforcement, transportation, power and gas utilities or in private industries including mining, real estate, agriculture and retail.

“Drones equipped with sensors or cameras can map watersheds, detect the dryness of soil, see photosynthesis and the health of crops, can navigate for precision crop dusting, find cows at night, and inspect powerlines,” Sharp said during a fall open house event at the Applied Technology Center located at 475 Edison Way in Reno. “Equipped with a thermal camera, an archaeologist can even find ruins.”

Students completing the certificate at TMCC may also choose to transfer to a four-year program that continues learning into the area of designing intelligent UAS systems. The University of Nevada, Reno offers a UAS minor program in the College of Engineering, Mechanical Engineering Department. Students in TMCC’s 30-credit Certificate of Achievement program will learn UAS technology – electrical circuitry, lithium-ion batteries, payloads, autopilots, and structural applications. The first part of the UAS course is a grounding in ethics related to unmanned drones.

“Some of the drones can tell the color of your shoes from a mile up,” Sharp said. “Students learn about the ethics first.”

Classes in basic aerodynamics and piloting are offered. A small engine course and building with composites are also taught as part of the curriculum. Communication through computer networking will give the student a thorough understanding of how an operator communicates with the unmanned aircraft. Students may also work toward a flight school pilot’s license, studying with a flight instructor at TMCC.

For more information, contact Barbara Evans in the Technical Sciences Division at 775-856-5302, or Mark Sharp at 775-856-5325.


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