UAFS Drone Program Recognized by FAA's Collegiate Training Initiative

A student flies a drone​The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith’s Unmanned Aerial Systems program has been selected to participate in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems-Collegiate Training Initiative program (UAS-CTI.) 


The UAS-CTI program recognizes institutions that prepare students for careers in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly referred to as drones. In order to qualify for the initiative, schools must offer a bachelor’s or associate’s degree in UAS or a degree with a minor, concentration, or certificate in UAS. Schools must provide curriculum covering various UAS training aspects, including hands-on flight practice, maintenance, uses, applications, privacy concerns, safety, and federal policies concerning UAS. 


“Our UAS program was chosen due to the in-depth learning and teaching standards around which the program was developed,” explained Garry Cude, director of the UAS program. “With this recognition, our program now has a national presence, and our students will be even better prepared to work with the decision-makers to shape the future of the Unmanned Aerial Systems industry.”


Cude explained that the collaborative working relationship between UAFS and the FAA offers continued opportunities for the UAS program to be an integral part of overall discussions shaping the field at the national level. 


“This collaboration is a testament to the quality of our program and it helps ensure our graduates are prepared for the job opportunities that await them,” said Dr. Ken Warden, dean of the college of Applied Science and Technology. “I appreciate Mr. Cude, his leadership in this effort, and his dedication to our students.”


The UAS industry has grown exponentially over the past decade. By 2025, UAS is forecast to be a $55 billion industry, and partnerships like this enable UAFS to offer stronger connections with federal entities and industry, local law enforcement, and regional economic drivers to address labor force needs.  


“The value-added component this consortium brings to our students is a direct increase in opportunity for internships, apprenticeships, and employment,” Cude said. “The partnership also allows us to gain knowledge of trends in the industry to help shape our curriculum and position our students for success in this ever-expanding career.”


Those interested in signing up for the Unmanned Aerial Systems program at UAFS can contact Cude via email at:, or via phone at 479-788-7909. Flexible class options are available to fit a wide range of scheduling needs.


The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (Public Law 115-254) required the FAA to establish a collegiate training initiative program relating to unmanned aircraft and to establish a process to designate consortia of public, two-year institutions of higher education as Community and Technical College Centers of Excellence in Small Unmanned Aircraft System Technology Training. 


The University of Arkansas at Fort Smith’s Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the FAA on October 2, 2020, and will expire three years from that date.



Photo Credits: 
Elijah Smith
Date Posted: 
Friday, November 6, 2020
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