AUBURN, AL (WTVM) - On Tuesday, U.S. Representative Mike Rogers joined Auburn University aviation students and teachers for a historic announcement. Auburn University has been involved in aviation education for more than 80 years.
Now, Auburn is expanding opportunities to students, interested in drone technology, by providing the first ever FAA approved unmanned flight systems school. Experts say the sky's the limit for this evolving technology. They say drones are more than a passing hobby, providing a vital role in our nation's commerce and research.
U.S Rep.Mike Rogers tested his skills on Auburn Universities campus on Tuesday, perfectly landing an Auburn University drone, after witnessing how AU is harnessing the potential of unmanned flight systems.
"I am always impressed with how Auburn University thinks outside the box. This technology has applications in all the committees I am on and the more I can learn about them, the more I can advocate for them in Washington," Rogers said.
AU is the nation's first ever FAA approved Unmanned Aircraft flight school.
"There are schools that have been flying drones in class, but they have to be in a cage or tethered so they won't cause any damage. We are the first school to be FAA approved, so we can operate out in the open and untethered," said AU Aviation student and sophomore, Phil Settlemyer.
Students will learn how to fly different drones and use sophisticated software for a variety of uses. For example, drones equipped with infrared cameras can monitor the health of crops for precision agriculture, saving farmers time, money and resources.
"When you process the images you can see a part of the filed may have a mineral deficiency or a water deficiency or a disease that is developed that is not visible but the drones are able to detect that," said Steve Taylor, head of AU's Department of Biosystems Engineering.
Auburn leaders say the limits are endless, drones can be used in just about every job field.
"You can see it is a multi-disciplinary for journalism, to agriculture to building science to engineering. The applications are many and can only be limited by the imagination. So it will be important for our students here at Auburn to have this skill set under their belt," explained Bill Hutto, Aviation Center Director at Auburn.
The new program will allow students to train simultaneously for two or more career paths.
"In a perfect world I could be a captain for a major airline and fly 15 days a month or even three and when I am not flying for them I could go operate my business for commercial operation in unmanned aviation," said student Phil Settlemyer.
For more information on the course, please visit The Auburn University Aviation webpage, by clicking here.