Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations Degree Programs

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operators fly drones for private companies, government agencies and the military. This article gives you vital information about a degree plan in UAS as well as the coursework and prospects for employment upon graduation.

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Overview of an Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations Degree Program

Although unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operators are a relatively new breed of pilots, there are a large number of degree programs for UAS across the country. The vast majority of these programs are in the aviation departments of many colleges and universities; some may be found in engineering schools. Coursework for these programs includes classes in aviation, meteorology, basic aircraft mechanics and flight instruction. Below is information about some of the necessary coursework and university admissions requirements, along with possible career positions that are available after completion of their training.

Admissions Requirements for an Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations Degree Program

Applicants looking for a university with this degree plan need a high school diploma or a GED. Students who plan to pursue a UAS degree program may want to take advanced science, computer and math courses while in high school. Most colleges and universities require prospective students to submit their ACT or SAT score. Often minimum scores and GPAs will be required; students should check with the university's admissions department to find out what those are.

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Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations Program Coursework

An unmanned aircraft systems operations degree program will include a number of aviation, flight instruction, advanced math, science, and computer classes to go with the general university courses to meet the school's requirements. However, there will also be several classes pertaining to aerodynamics, unmanned systems, and aviation weather, which are necessary for success in attaining a degree in unmanned aircraft systems operations. Listed below are but a few of the necessary courses.


UAS students will need to take a variety of aviation courses in order to build their pilot skills. Aviation students will expand their knowledge of aerodynamics, aircraft performance, flight physiology, navigation, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations and more. Successful completion of a variety of flight lessons will also be necessary.

Flight meteorology

Several courses in understanding atmospherical changes will be required for UAS operators. Students will take these lab courses to gain knowledge of meteorological measurements and elements and their effects on manned and unmanned aircraft.


In-depth study of manned and unmanned operation systems are needed to gain knowledge of propeller, electrical, pneumatic, ignition, fuel, engine and pressurization systems. Students will learn the history of UAS, the technology and its applications. They will also be introduced to the regulations and standards of UAS operations as well as the challenges of UAS integration.

Air Traffic Control

This course is required of all aviation pilots and UAS operators. It allows pupils to examine the national air traffic control system and its effects on aviation in general as well as safety. The course allows students to simulate actions as an air traffic controller in a radar approach environment. They will work departures, arrivals and north/south sectoring used at civilian and military airports.


This course requires students to understand and learn the philosophy of flight along with the knowledge of flight instruments, aerodynamics of fixed wing equipment, planning, radio navigation, static and gyro instruments. Students can expect to spend many hours operating aircraft. Successful completion of these courses is needed before moving on to advanced unmanned aircraft systems operations piloting.

How to Choose a Degree Program in Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations

Since there are quite a few schools that offer this degree, you may want to look for a local school. You also may want to consider the companies looking to hire UAS operators and where they are located. This might include not only civilian businesses but the U.S. government and military as well. Students might also check which schools have the latest labs and training with the best equipment giving students an advantage in both simulated and live flight hours.

Career Options with an Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations Degree

People with this degree are found working not only for contractors employed by news agencies and construction companies, but also for government services like wildlife agencies, border patrol, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the U.S. military. A 2011 report from the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International estimates the employment of an additional 23,000 UAS operators by 2025. Those with a UAS degree may find themselves suited to the following careers:

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