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SINCLAIR Workforce Development

As the Dayton Development Coalition (DDC) spearheads the efforts to establish the Dayton Region as a leader in the emerging market of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), Sinclair Community Colleges working alongside the DDC and other partners to establish itself as the leader in providing the training and education to develop the skilled workforce needed to achieve that goal. The DDC, a 14-county regional partnership focused on the economic development and growth of the Dayton Region, has been actively working on the UAS initiative for several years now to promote the continued economic health of the Region by leveraging existing assets and strengths. The Region and the State of Ohio are uniquely positioned to become the destination of choice for UAS researchers, developers, manufacturers, suppliers, trainers, and educators for many reasons. Among these reasons are that Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB) is taking a leadership role in UAS; Ohio has a well-known history in aviation and a strong aerospace industry presence; and pursuit of the UAS market supports both regional and state efforts to create a competitive advantage in the aerospace industry. In fact, UAS is one of the key areas of focus for growing Ohio’s Aerospace, Aviation, and Defense Industry, according to the Ohio Aerospace and Aviation Council.

A recent study by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) bodes well for the pursuit of the UAS market as the Dayton Region continues to transition from its automotive heyday to high-growth industries integral to UAS – including sensors, advanced data management, and advanced materials and manufacturing.  The AUVSI study finds that the unmanned aircraft industry is poised to create more than 70,000 new American jobs and have a $13.6 billion impact nationwide in the first three years following the integration of UAS into the civilian U.S. National Airspace System (NAS). As mandated by the U.S. Congress to the Federal Aviation Agency in the 2012 FAA Appropriations Bill (“FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012”), the integration into the NAS is slated to happen in 2015. Beyond the first three years, the study projects that more than 100,000 new jobs will be created by 2025, and contribute $82 billion to the national economy. [] Further, average salaries for the top eight UAS-related jobs are projected to range between nearly $66,800 and $98,700.

To further position the Dayton Region and the State of Ohio as a leader in the UAS market, the Ohio UAS Conference was established and has taken place at Sinclair Community College for two consecutive years now. The next Ohio UAS Conference is currently scheduled for August 26-28, 2014, and will continue to serve as the ideal forum for government, industry, and academia to forge community partnerships in the emerging UAS market.

The DDC is working to establish the Ohio UAS Center and Test Complex which would serve as a single-point resource for government, industry, and educational institutions that are seeking to conduct UAS-related research and development. Toward that end, the DDC is pursuing getting the Dayton area approved by the FAA as a UAS test site, an important factor in attracting those companies interested in designing and manufacturing UAS and related products. Currently, UAS testing is very restricted and is controlled by FAA-approved and awarded Certificates of Authorization (COAs), issued by its Air Traffic Organization to a public operator for a specific unmanned aircraft activity. After a complete application is submitted, the FAA conducts a comprehensive operational and technical review before approving a test site. Sinclair is one of the partners committed to collaborating with the DDC to ensure the success of the UAS Strategy, and currently has two COAs for the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport in Springfield, Ohio. Four other Sinclair applications are pending (one more in Springfield and three for Wilmington Air Park in Wilmington, Ohio). Sinclair is the first community college in Ohio to secure airspace through the FAA’s COA process, and currently owns four UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles).

In March 2012, Sinclair President Dr. Steven Johnson, along with local, state, and federal elected officials and industry representatives, participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to formally open Sinclair’s UAS Training and Certification Center’s simulation technology lab – the first such simulation lab for commercial applications. Three UAS simulation scenarios have been developed to date within Sinclair’s simulation lab – disaster response, industrial fire, and agricultural survey. The lab contains 10 student simulation workstations displaying sensor data and GPS location of UAV. The Center offers the region’s first public programs geared toward the expansion of regional UAS industries. This is just one of Sinclair’s many efforts dedicated to the success of this burgeoning market for the Dayton Region and Ohio.

In expressing Sinclair’s support of the UAS market, Dr. Johnson notes “It is extremely important that, as a community college, we align with and support our Region’s and State’s unified UAS strategy by growing the workforce that this developing industry will require.” Sinclair’s formal efforts in the pursuit of the UAS industry began in 2009, with Phase I of a long-term phased approach over the next 10 years and beyond to position Sinclair as a leader in UAS training and education for civil and commercial markets. The outcomes from this first phase included: securing airspace through obtaining COAs; establishing the first short-term UAS Certificate Program and the first Introduction to UAS workshop offered in the State of Ohio; establishing an initial leadership position with the opening of the UAS Simulation Lab; and participating at the national AUVSI conferences. Additionally, Sinclair has played a significant role in planning content and securing an impressive panel of speakers for both Ohio UAS Conferences held to date.

As an affirmation of its commitment to the emerging UAS/UAV market, projected to exceed $94 billion internationally by 2025, Sinclair’s Board of Trustees adopted the College’s UAS Strategic Plan and authorized $1.4 million to fund Phase II over the next three years. Phase II includes deliverables around additional curriculum development, the introduction of a competency-based content model for UAS, and driving accreditation standards and national certifications in partnership with the FAA. Additional planned outcomes include:

  • Creation and implementation of a nationally recognized UAS First Responder Program;
  • Convening and facilitating an Educational Research Conference;
  • Publishing a UAS Journal, to include scholarly papers vetted by experts;
  • Securing additional airspace and UAS training assets; and
  • Establishing a leadership role within AUVSI for Higher Education.

Among Sinclair’s efforts to provide the training and education needed for a highly qualified UAS workforce are courses on UAS/UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) topics offered through its Workforce Development division. Sinclair partnered with Riverside Research to develop these courses for the Sinclair UAS Training and Certification Center. Riverside Research is an independent not-for-profit organization that brings the full spectrum of UAS experience to the partnership, including capabilities in research, education, mission planning, analysis, cloud computing, and engineering. On the final day of the recent Ohio UAS Conference, Sinclair offered four of these courses, normally one or two days long, in a preview format of 4-hours each that provided .5 CEUs (Continuing Education Units) for attendees who participated in any one of the sessions. Sinclair Workforce Development’s courses include such topics as Precision Agriculture for UAS, a course that demonstrates how UAS integration will multiply the benefits of leveraging advanced technologies to reduce costs while providing increased productivity, efficiency, and profitability in modern farming applications. Other offerings include UAS and the Law, Geospatial Information for UAS, Current State of UAS Standards, and UAS Airspace Applications, a course providing background on the application and execution procedures necessary to obtain the requisite certificates necessary to operate UAS in the National Airspace System.

Through its traditional academic courses, Sinclair also offers a UAS Short-Term Technical Certificate, a 24 credit-hour program designed to prepare students for entry-level positions in the UAS industry. The program includes studies in mission planning, decision making, and data management. To meet students’ and the industry’s needs, the program is currently undergoing a redesign with new courses and a fresh direction. Kent Wingate, Chair of Sinclair’s Aviation Technology Department (AVT), oversees the UAS Certificate Program. Wingate notes that “Sinclair’s AVT department is also planning to develop a two-year associate degree program in the UAS field,” though no date has been finalized for its first cohort.

Current UAS applications are federal and include military, border patrol, forestry service, and NASA. Military UAS flights in the U.S. are usually conducted in airspace restricted to military operations and not under FAA control. The non-military government UAS operations are conducted in FAA-approved and controlled airspace. To integrate UAS into the NAS will require sense and avoidance technology. The purpose of FAA test sites is to provide airspace where companies can develop that technology. The FAA currently requires at least a Private Pilot certificate and a Class II medical certificate to operate a UAS. Sinclair’s Aviation Technology (AVT) Department offers a Professional Pilot associate degree program in which students can earn their FAA Private Pilot certificate as well as a Commercial Instrument rating. The AVT Department also offers an associate degree program in Aviation Maintenance.

Sinclair Workforce Development Vice President Deb Norris, who is at the forefront of the College’s strategic UAS initiative, says, “It is truly exciting for Sinclair to be a part of this rapidly evolving industry, and we are committed to our region’s and state’s success as key players in UAS. As the industry moves forward and UAS functions and jobs get defined, we hope to capitalize on some of that research and turn it into state-of-the-art training that will yield highly skilled workers.”

For more information on Sinclair and its degree and non-degree programs, see

Photo Credits for this Article: Sinclair College




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