FAA Selects UNCW for Drone Training Initiative

Thursday, August 04, 2022

The Federal Aviation Administration has selected UNCW to join its cohort of schools in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems-Collegiate Training Initiative, a program that recognizes institutions that prepare students for careers in unmanned aircraft systems, commonly referred to as drones.
UNCW Professor Dr. Narcisa Pricope will lead the UAS-CTI within the Geospatial Intelligence Certificate program in the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences.
“We are thrilled for the opportunity to join the FAA UAS-CTI and have UNCW’s myriad past and ongoing UAS efforts both in teaching and research formally recognized with this designation,” Dr. Pricope said. 

In order to qualify for the initiative, schools must offer a bachelor’s or associates 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.

“This designation allows us to truly embrace UAS applications and development across the curriculum beyond the departments naturally relying on them, and further strengthen our status as a leader in UAS technologies across the state.”  

In early 2017, Dr. Pricope acquired the first professional mapping drone for UNCW. Since then, unmanned aircraft systems have become an integral part of teaching and research programs in multiple departments on campus and at the Center for Marine Science. Faculty and students have attracted funding from various sources such as the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the N.C. General Assembly, N.C. Sea Grant and the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.
 “The long-term goal is to create cohorts of well-rounded, highly-trained students who have applied research and field experience and who can outcompete their peers on the job and in graduate career markets,” Dr. Pricope added. 

In addition to leading the FAA UAS-CTI efforts, Pricope, an expert in land change science, water resources and climate change, is also the principal investigator on two newly funded projects: 

  • “Demonstrating the Capabilities of Topobathymetric LiDAR Mapping in Support of DOT Project Planning and Implementation,” a North Carolina Department of Transportation-funded project, combines advanced Light Detection and Ranging and drone technology to collect data from hard-to-reach land, water and submerged areas. This research will improve planning, modeling, mapping and assessment for bridges, drainage, ferries, flooding and stormwater management, and other infrastructure.

  • "Green Infrastructure Solutions to Support Flood Mitigation and Adaptation in Coastal Low-Lying Disadvantaged Communities," a project with expected funding by the NASA Science Mission Directorate Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences, is finding solutions to mitigate flooding impacts in parts of Wilmington. This project is a co-effort of UNCW, the Wilmington Metropolitan Area Planning Organization and the New Hanover County Planning Division that focuses on equity and environmental justice. 
    -- Krissy Vick 
    Dr. Narcisa Pricope standing outside with a drone. 
    Dr. Narcisa Pricope will lead the UAS-CTI within the Geospatial Intelligence Certificate program in the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences.