UCSC joins FAA/ UAS Collegiate Training Initiative

Two people in safety vests operate a drone by the coast.
Students in the CIDER program have the opportunity to become FAA Licensed Commercial Drone Pilots. (Photo by Elena Zhukova).
UC Santa Cruz is now the first UC- or CSU-member of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)/ Unmanned Aircraft Systems’ (UAS) Collegiate Training Initiative program, which was designed to recognize and support institutions that prepare their students for careers in drones. 

The FAA/ UAS program, which was launched in 2020, supports educational institutions in making connections to general industry, local governments, law enforcement, and regional economic development entities to address labor force needs. Member institutions are invited to participate in annual meetings and other events, and can foster best practices through networking with other members. 

Students at UC Santa Cruz can learn about and gain skills in drone operation through the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society’s (CITRIS) Initiative for Drone Education and Research (CIDER). By participating in the program, which is now hosting its second cohort of students, students get hands-on field research experience with drones and can get a FAA license with the support of the program.

“We are thrilled to be part of this cohort of institutions preparing our students for successful careers in the drone industry,” said Becca Fenwick, Director of CIDER. “We look forward to the continuous dialogue this program will provide on how to best serve our students and the wider community of stakeholders.”

The CIDER program focuses specifically on supporting and training students from groups historically underrepresented in STEM and underserved students at UCSC. Of the current 24-student cohort, fifty percent are the first in their family to attend a four-year college, and the students represent a broad range of majors and minors across UCSC.

Over the course of the 10-week program, students prepare for the FAA Part 107 commercial drone pilot license test and learn to deploy and operate drones, plan missions, collect and process data, and more.

In addition to being the first-ever UC or CSU campus to be included in the initiative, UCSC is the 11th California institution of higher education to be included, and the 92nd to be included nationally.