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The arrival of three Penguin C aircraft earlier this year instantly transformed Embry-Riddle, already the world’s largest unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) educator, serving some 1,500 students university-wide, into an unmatched powerhouse provider of both UAS flight- and simulation-based training.
Embry-Riddle’s acquisition of the Penguin C’s also opened the door for missions controlled from multiple ground-based stations, called “remote-split operations,” as well as flight beyond the operator’s visual line of sight. The aircraft have applications for fighting wildfires, border patrol, search and rescue, oil pipeline and utility inspections, environmental assessments and military surveillance.
All those applications suggest an array of career paths for Embry-Riddle graduates trained to fly Penguin C’s. The burgeoning commercial drone industry is projected to generate more than $82 billion for the U.S. economy and, by 2025, it could support as many as 100,000 new jobs, according to a White House estimate.
With a 10.8-foot wingspan, the new fixed-wing Penguin C aircraft are capable of flying up to 20 hours over a 60-mile range while carrying electrical, optical and infrared camera sensors. They promise a leg up for professional UAS pilots-in-training at Embry-Riddle, said Professor Mike Wiggins, chair of Aeronautical Science on the Daytona Beach Campus.
Embry-Riddle’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Science program, established in 2011 as the first of its kind in the nation, encompasses three flight courses and one simulator course.
“Students currently learn to fly small fixed-wing survey platforms, and beginning in 2020, the military-grade Penguin C aircraft,” Wiggins said. “The goal is to ensure our graduates have the skills they need to run a successful business or operation using all types of UAS in a safe, responsible manner.”
At a time when hobbyists can obtain a small drone operator’s license by taking a written exam, said Professor Alan Stolzer, dean of the College of Aviation, “The goal of Embry-Riddle’s program is to train …