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MVCC to use NSF grant to help people seeking work in the drone industry

UTICA, N.Y. — Mohawk Valley Community College (MVCC) will use a grant of more than $500,000 for a project to help people seeking credentials to work in the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) industry.

The National Science Foundation awarded more than $557,000 in funding, which MVCC will use to develop a series of microcredentials to “increase the number of skilled technicians in the … UAS industry to address local workforce needs,” the school said in a news release.

“This timely project addresses the imminent, crucially important UAS workforce demands of the nation — demands that are foreshadowed by the current industry needs of the Mohawk Valley region…,” Timothy Thomas, associate dean of the physical sciences, engineering, and applied technologies department at MVCC, said. “Our region has become a national hub of drone technology research and development and, as such, we are observing an emerging need for UAS technicians with a specialized set of skills for working with remotely piloted systems.”


Over the next three years, MVCC will “develop and implement” five microcredentials, each of which consist of four courses. They seek to provide students with “highly specialized, specific skills” without requiring completion of a full degree. They include UAS components, fabrication, operations, electronics, and data analysis.

MVCC also will use the grant money to launch two new degree programs. They include associate degrees in UAS fabrication and UAS electronics by “innovating ways to merge the microcredentials into comprehensive and coherent packages,” the school said.

“The purpose of our NSF project is to create a flexible workforce development platform that utilizes microcredentials that ladder from a stand-alone credential to a degree program to support the emerging UAS industries,” Thomas said. “Flexibility is key. An existing electrical repair technician may only need a short-term course on the unique electronic systems of drones, while a career-changing engineer may need a comprehensive two-year degree that covers all UAS components, functionalities, and similar elements.”

MVCC will also use the grant to purchase new equipment, including a microdrone; sensor packages that will enable agricultural and infrastructure inspection; and remote-sensing technology that emits light pulses, or what’s also known as lidar.

The equipment, supplemented by existing UAS technology that MVCC owns, will help students as they prepare for UAS careers in emergency services, inspections, and in the agricultural and consumer-electronics industries, the school contends.

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