Embry-Riddle offers master's degree in drones

Published: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 at 10:45 AM.

Two years out of school, Bounds was hired by a government contractor, General Dynamic Information Technology, to train civilians and soldiers to fly drones at Libby Army Airfield in Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

Bounds was hired specifically because of his experience with General Atomics MQ-1C Gray Eagle, a $21.5 million turbo-diesel unmanned plane with a 56-foot wingspan, which can carry four Hellfires or eight stinger missiles, fly at 170 mph, up to 29,000 feet and 30 hours straight.

"Privates straight out of basic training, we trained them on the system, then they deployed," Bounds said.

Along with the ubiquitous Predator, it is the among the most popular drone used by the military. Embry-Riddle is looking into purchasing a Gray Eagle for training, which would take off from the adjacent Daytona Beach International Airport, Bounds said.

At Embry-Riddle, there are two tracks for students interested in drones: one to build and one to fly.

On a recent blustery Monday, a remote-controlled boat shaped like a floating box braved the choppy waters in the expansive fountain outside the Embry-Riddle president's office, when a 2-foot-wide helicopter with four blades — a "quad copter" — lifted off from the back of the boat.

Will Shaler, 21, kept it aloft via remote control and landed it back safely — and dry. Soon, these two remote-controlled systems will work in tandem, and completely autonomously, to complete a task laid out in a contest sponsored by a government contractor.

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