College of Architecture, Art and Construction

Clemson University Selected for FAA Drone Training Program


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has selected Clemson University’s Nieri Department of Construction, Development and Planning to participate in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems-Collegiate Training Initiative program (UAS-CTI).

“Inclusion in the FAA’s Collegiate Training Initiative is going to open doors for collaboration with other flight educators across the country,” said Joe Burgett, an associate professor of construction science at Clemson who teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in drone operation.

Logo for the Fedearl Aviation Administration Unmanned Aircraft System-Collegiate Training Initiative

The FAA’s UAS-CTI program recognizes institutions that prepare students for careers in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly referred to as drones. In order to qualify for the initiative, schools must offer a bachelor’s or associate’s degree in UAS or a degree with a minor, concentration, or certificate in UAS. Schools must provide curriculum covering various aspects of UAS training, including hands-on flight practice, maintenance, uses, applications, privacy concerns, safety, and federal policies concerning UAS.

Burgett, who goes by the nickname “Dr. Drone,” applied for Clemson’s inclusion in the program. In the UAS-CTI, he plans to serve on a committee to create student learning objectives for drone education programs across the country.

For undergraduate students in the construction science and management major, Burgett teaches students how drone technology can improve the management of construction sites through photography, photogrammetry and the use of thermal imaging.

This fall, he began to offer his graduate-level drone course (Advanced Drone Mapping and Modeling) online, and he opened it to students from a variety of disciplines. It filled immediately.

Each of his courses prepare students to test for an FAA unmanned aircraft systems pilot license, for APSA (Airborne Public Safety Association) flight testing and for level one thermography certification.

“By combining the FAA pilot’s license and the APSA flight testing, you have a somewhat comprehensive package of skills that students can take with them across a broad spectrum of commercial settings,” Burgett said.

“Dr. Burgett’s work with drones is one of many ways our faculty keep our students on the cutting edge of construction science,” said Mike Jackson, chair of the Nieri Department of Construction, Development and Planning. “This new partnership with the FAA confirms that Clemson is leading the way in providing our students with the job-ready skills they need to excel in the construction industry.”

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