GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Among the nearly 1,500 receiving degrees from the University of North Dakota during spring commencement will be the first graduates in the nation with degrees in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operations.
"It's truly the first and only kind of its major programme in the country at this point," said Kent Lovelace, chair of the aviation department at the UND John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences. "These are the first graduates from anywhere in the country with a degree in UAS operations."
The five students eligible for graduation are Christopher Burger, Ritzville, Wash.; Jeremy Duke, Everett, Wash.; Adam Julson, Flandreau, S.D.; Alexander Gustafson, Vashon Island, Wash.; and Brett Whalin, Rapid City, S.D.
"Unmanned aircraft are having a profound impact on aerospace," said Bruce Smith, dean of UND Aerospace. "We're on the leading edge of UAS development. We now have 44 students signed up as majors and 78 students signed up for our UAS introductory course."
Julson is excited about the opportunity to be part of an emerging aspect of aviation in which the sky is literally the limit. "What attracted me is that it's the next big thing," he said. "You're on the forefront of the unmanned portion of aviation."
For Duke, who worked for 10 years in the auto body industry before coming to UND, the attraction was the potential to apply UAS technology to weather research, which is the career direction he hopes to pursue.
"I flew weather modification missions for a summer and could see the application," he said.
All the UAS majors are finding great interest from potential employers, and some have already lined up jobs. The field is expected to explode when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) opens airspace to civilian applications.
University of North Dakota (UND) is another excellent school discovered by Priyanthi Dissanayake (www.scholarsh ipsforusa.com) in 2008 during her annual summer visits to US in search of US institutions of higher education renowned for both academic excellence and affordablity to brilliant scholars from Lankan middle class families. UND's John D.Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences is considered one of the best in a nation possessing the world's largest fleet of civilian training aircraft.
Its cutting edge equipments include an altitude chamber - only one of its kinds in a civilian training facility in US. On record UND's flying team has bagged more national championship trophies than any other flying school in US.
UND, founded in 1883 (when North Dakota was only a territory) is one of only 46 public universities in US with both accredited graduate schools of Law and Medicine. According to Princeton Review/Forbes UND is among the top 8 most entrepreneurial undergrad campuses and according to Washington monthly it's among the top 70 public universities in US. Having seen the quality of Lankan aviation students such as Yasith De Silva currently flying Airbus 340 for SriLankan Airlines as a First Officer, Prof.Kent Lovelace Chair/Professor UND Aviation (www.aero.und.edu) looks forward to train more Lankans to become excellent aviators.