UC Santa Cruz is launching a new initiative providing educational training and research support for the development and use of drone technology in all academic disciplines and many industrial sectors.

The CITRIS Initiative for Drone Education and Research (CIDER) aims to support research and industry growth by bringing together diverse students, researchers and industrial partners from various sectors, helping to fuel research and innovation and develop a diverse drone workforce. The initiative includes a mentorship program for undergraduates to provide career-enhancing experiential learning opportunities, hands-on field research, flight time and licensure to practice. FAA.

The proliferation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or aerial drones for research and commercial use has increased dramatically over the past 10 years. As aerial drones become more affordable and technology evolves, the application of drones grows in many professional fields, requiring trained and licensed pilots to perform these flights.

With the global drone economy set to grow from $ 15 billion to $ 90 billion by 2030 (Levitate Capital 2020), the demand for applicable skills in the drone industry will only grow. Aerial drones have applications in nearly every area of ​​study at UCSC including, but not limited to, surveys of coastal and terrestrial ecosystems and animal populations; entry of data from remote archaeological sites and support for sociological fieldwork; cinematography; development of drones, autonomous navigation systems and other developments in new technologies; and geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing.

CIDER’s new director, Becca Fenwick, brings more than 10 years of experience using drones for a range of research applications. Previously, she was Director of Environmental Informatics for the UC Nature Reserve System (UCNRS).

New associate director Justin Cummings has spent the past two years piloting drones with Fenwick as part of the California Heartbeat Initiative, a 4-year, $ 2.2 million project to map and measure water resources on UCNRS properties statewide. Cummings previously served as the founding director of the UCSC Doris Duke Conservation Scholars program, whose mission is to develop diverse leadership to strengthen conservation.

As part of CIDER’s initial launch, the Extramural Pilot in Training (PIT) mentorship program is offered to undergraduates interested in working with drones, with an emphasis on targeting students who are traditionally under -represented in STEM. At the end of November, 20 students will be selected to participate in this nine-week program, which will meet two days a week for two hours a day during the winter term 2022.

Students will learn to fly drones, do photogrammetry, use software to create maps, study to earn their FAA Part 107 license, and process images in a GIS, among many other activities. To ensure that all students are able to participate, those selected will receive a stipend of $ 600 for their participation in the program. The program will also cover the costs for students to take their FAA 107 license test. Students who graduate will be eligible for volunteer and paid opportunities to support campus research and contracts to fly drones and process data. .

Applications are available online at cider.sites.ucsc.edu/pilots-in-training-program. The application deadline is November 5, 2021.

CIDER is based on five main pillars:

  1. Experiential learning for undergraduate and graduate students
  2. Support for research on campus
  3. Securing commercial contracts
  4. Support students traditionally under-represented in STEM
  5. Industry awareness

In addition to the PIT mentorship program, CIDER staff are also in the process of concluding contracts for drone field research with local and state agencies that will provide trained students with the opportunity to gain paid field experience.

The program also strives to support opportunities for independent and comprehensive study and to develop certification programs and study programs with faculty and industry to support workforce development. In addition, staff develop relationships with companies to provide internships and employment opportunities for student pilots.

For all students and faculty currently interested in using drones for field research, CIDER staff are available to support their efforts. For more information, visit cider.sites.ucsc.edu or send an email to [email protected]

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