Unmanned Aerial Systems Operations - Undergraduate Certificate

Unmanned Aerial Systems Operations - Undergraduate Certificate


Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAS) are likely to be a big part of the future of aviation and the global workspace. When people hear UAS, they usually think of recreational drones but modern drones are being used for delivery of purchased goods, health care products, and even vital supplies to remote locations. Companies like Amazon, UPS, and even Domino's Pizza are currently using drones to deliver products. In addition to cargo and delivery operations they are used for surveying operations, natural disaster relief and emergency response. Many local law enforcement agencies as well as large companies like Dow Chemical currently use drones for survey operations. The advancements don’t stop with industry. Even agricultural companies, like Sentera are utilizing these tools to improve seeding, fertilization, and reproduction of crops. According to the National Business Aviation Association, H.R. 5315 (the drone infrastructure inspection grant act) has passed the House and currently sits in the Senate. This proposed act would provide $100 million in grants for local governments to utilize unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) when inspecting, repairing or constructing roads, public utilities and other critical infrastructure. This certificate would serve as an introduction to these types of operations for aviation students so they could be conducted by safe and competent aviation professionals.

UAS transport in the national airspace system (NAS) will impact supply chains, global sustainability and climate change, geological surveys, urban and building planning/survey, and healthcare as well as many other industries. Many students that go on to have careers in professional UAS operations are not aviation students as drones are used in so many industries. With the lack of aviation background, drone pilots pose a substantial threat to the current aviation infrastructure and, more specifically, the existing NAS. Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM) is how airspace will be managed to enable multiple drone operations conducted beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS), where air traffic services are not provided. This certificate would provide those non-aviation students with sufficient experience in the NAS to allow them to operate safely.

Market Demand

“Last year, the FAA forecasted that the commercial drone sector would include approximately 589,000 small drones in 2021, a growth rate exceeding 21% over the year be-fore (2020). Actual data came in slightly over 622,000 aircraft by the end of 2021. Our fore-cast of commercial small drones last year thus undershot by 5% for 2021 (or 622,055 actual aircraft vs 589,463 projected aircraft).”

This indicates that, at a base, by 2026 the commercial drone sector could include 858,000 aircraft that need to be safely integrated into the NAS. According to a Research and Markets report, companies across a myriad of industries will spend over $16 billion on drones and drone services and catalyze the drone service market to create 100,000 new jobs by 2025. According to Business News Daily, Glassdoor lists the 2022 annual salary of drone pilots at $70,000. However, per a DroneU survey, rates can land between $800 and $1,200 for a single day of work for the highest earners. Another study, conducted by Grand View Research, indicates that the drone market will be worth about $130 billion by 2025. From 2021 to 2022, the remote pilot demand went from 254,000 to just over 361,000, with just over 100,000 jobs created in a year. There will be many high-paying, technical jobs in the very near future and WMU has the resources to train those potential employees. 


This program is an undergraduate certificate in UAS operations. The focus will be the typical “drone” that we see conduct so many operations in the national airspace system. A prerequisite for admission into the certificate program will be either AVS 1801- Unmanned Aerial Systems with a part 107 pilot license, AVS 1510 - Professional Flight I Theory with a private pilot license, or a part 107 pilot license.

The certificate is aimed at those attempting to gain an operational knowledge of unmanned aerial systems and how they will be integrated into the aviation industry. There will be three core classes and two elective classes for a total of 15 credit hours. The three core classes include:

  • AVS 2801- Professional sUAS Flight I Lab (Fall Semester Only)
  • AVS 3801- Professional sUAS Flight II Lab (Spring Semester Only)
  • AVS 3201- Project Management (Spring Semester Only)

The additional 6 credits will be filled with electives that allow an industry professional to gain experience in their area of work. There will be two tracks with the initial offering.

Aviation elective track:

  • AVS 3190 - Aviation Law
  • AVS 5100 - Safety Management Systems in Aviation

Geoscience elective track:

  • GEOS 5730- UAVs: Geological and Environmental Applications
  • GEOS 5740- UAVs: Geophysical Applications

Students applying for admission to the UAS operations undergraduate certificate shall: 


1.   Submit an official transcript as a high school graduate or an equivalent degree. In lieu of an official high school transcript, an unofficial transcript from an accredited secondary education institution may be submitted as proof of enrollment or degree conferral. Applicants that are current degree-seeking students at WMU are not required to submit a transcript of any type.

2.   Submit proof of a commercial remote pilot certificate through successful completion of the FAA knowledge exam (temporary or plastic)

3.   Complete the webform application.

4.    Submit a resume or curriculum vitae.

Learning Outcomes

  • Apply knowledge from the FAA's Airmen Certification Standard (FAA-S-ACS-10B) to flight operations (AABI 3.3.2- Aviation Core 1, 2, 5, 6)
  • Demonstrate flight skills in accordance with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and ASTM International Standards Test Methods for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems maneuvering and payload tests (AABI 3.3.1.i)
  • Describe how to manage risk, safety, legal implications, and mission in a complex flight environment (AABI 3.3.1.d and
  • Discuss principles of project management as they relate to UAS operations (AABI 3.3.1- General a, b, f, h, k)

To apply click here:  Western Michigan University (site.com)

For information or questions please contact Mr. Kyle Jehnzen at kyle.d.Jehnzen@wmich.edu