A Draganflyer X6 helicopter drone with an attached digital camera
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UAV Factory Penguin B unmanned aircraft

An Aeryon Scout unmanned aerial system with built-in camera

Unmanned Aerial Systems

NMC is one of the premier colleges in the country for Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) operator training. More commonly called drones, unmanned aircraft represent a sector of aviation that will undergo exponential growth over the coming years. Although many of the jobs available today are with defense contractors, the civilian job market will dwarf the military sector once the FAA opens up US airspace to commercial UAS operations. The potential commercial uses of unmanned systems are enormous, to include remote sensing of the atmosphere, disaster response, weather forecasting, scientific research; agricultural survey of crops, soils, and livestock; crop dusting, wildfire surveillance, wildlife surveys, power line and pipeline survey, industrial security; oil, gas, and mineral exploration; payload transport, search and rescue, and aerial photography for fields like real estate, construction, film and entertainment industry, and accident investigation.

23,000 new job estimateCurrent status of UAS in America

The FAA has not yet granted permission for commercial operations of unmanned aircraft in U.S. airspace. Last year, Congress ordered the FAA to develop a streamlined process for law enforcement and first responders to obtain permission to fly small unmanned aerial vehicles. In May 2012, the FAA authorized law enforcement and emergency response agencies to operate small UAVs under 4.4 pounds in weight, within line of sight, at altitudes less than 400' and more than 5 miles from any airport under an FAA Certificate of Authorization (COA). After demonstrating proficiency with sUAS operations, the agencies will be granted more freedom to operate plus expanded vehicle size up to 25 pounds. An expedited process was also developed to allow short-notice, one-time COAs for emergency missions. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2012 requires the FAA to publish rules allowing the integration of UAVs into U.S. airspace by 2015.

UAS operator certification

Many employers in today's UAS job market require regular FAA pilot licenses for the UAS operators, anywhere from private through flight instructor ratings. The Federal Aviation Administration's new regulations to operate drones went into effect August 29, 2016. Drone operators will have to pass an Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) aeronautical knowledge test to legally fly drones commercially. New rules allow operators to obtain a remote pilot certificate after passing an FAA knowledge exam. The exam is now offered at Northwestern Michigan College.

Learn about NMC's test preparation course that prepares operators to take the FAA Aeronautical Knowledge Test »


NMC can offer specialized UAS training, aimed at giving you skills to operate a small (under 55 lbs) UAV for many different types of commercial applications. A basic level of aviation knowledge is strongly encouraged. That level of knowledge can be gained by taking a Private Pilot Ground School course either through NMC or another provider. Additionally, NMC offers an Engineering Technology program specializing in unmanned aerial systems that includes training on electrics, hydraulics, programming basics, and robotics — skills that will help a UAS operator to be more successful in the field.

UAS classes consist of:

  • Learning to operate and pilot remotely controlled aircraft
  • Training on a variety of systems ranging in technology from basic to advanced commercial-grade equipment
  • Learning about the current UAS industry and where it’s going
  • Learning about federal regulations specific to UAS aircraft and operations
  • Learning about current and future UAS technology
  • Frequent and regular hands-on training in the field with UAS equipment
  • Learning how to be marketable to the UAS industry

UAS Course Descriptions

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NMC tests new autopilot

NMC's Penguin B uses Cloud Cap's Piccolo SL autopilot, allowing students to get hands-on experience with high-grade components used by industry leaders and potential employers.

Fast fact

Five NMC aviation students were hired into UAS jobs in 2012.

Specialized NMC UAS degree program

NMC's Engineering Technology degree gives students the technical training they need to begin a successful career in the developing UAS industry, including electrical systems, hydraulics, robotics. programming design, GIS and more. Check out this exciting degree option »

NMC aviation gets Aeryon Scout

NMC Aviation recently acquired an Aeryon Scout micro-UAV quadcopter. The Scout is a professional grade aerial photography and video platform capable of stabilized flight in 30 mph winds. See the Scout in action doing research work for the University of Alaska-Fairbanks »

Find out what's new in the UAS world

The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International is a great source of news about the industry. Visit AUVSI.org »

Look for UAS jobs

Visit AUVSI's Career Center to see what types of jobs are being advertised today. Visit the AUVSI Career Center »

More UAS industry news and resources

News about UAS activity in different states, jobs information, trends and other resources. Check it out »

The birth of construction drones?

UAVs demonstrate capability to weave cord to build structures opening up a realm of possibilities for future construction methods. Watch the video »

Court ruling may spur FAA to issue UAS rules

A recent court case regarding commercial use of small UAVs has the FAA backpedaling and drone entrepreneurs chomping at the bit. Learn more »

Commercial UAS uses dwarf military applications

As is the case with many technologies developed for use by the military (like GPS), there is vast array of civilian commercial uses for unmanned aircraft. Learn more »

NMC's drone training readies students for exploding market

NMC's unmanned aerial systems courses prepare students for a job market that is poised to explode with opportunity. Learn more »

New 'Drone Studies' Major Has Graduates Starting At $120,000 A Year

Opportunities abound flying drones for defense contractors. Read more »

Thousands Of UAVs Could Fill U.S. Skies In The Next Five Years

Industry experts predict 30,000 UAV's will be flying in the U.S. by the end of the decade as technology leads to smaller, cheaper and more sophisticated drones. Read more »

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