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Drone Technology

Warren T. Jones, Ph.D., P.E.

Course Outline

This four hour course begins with an overview discussion of types of unmanned aircraft and their subsystems followed by a National Academy Report that discusses the issues related to increasingly autonomous systems. Topics include autonomous capabilities, early years of autonomy in aviation, benefits of increased autonomy and barriers to implementation. The NIST framework of classification of levels of autonomy for unmanned systems is presented and finally business and educational opportunities in the field as well as resources for future study.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course content.

Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this course, the student will understand the

Intended Audience

This course is intended for all engineers and architects.

Benefit to Attendee

Attendee of this course will be made aware of the nature of drone technology and its potential for a wide range of engineering applications and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Course Introduction

As with many technologies, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems have been developed within the context of military applications. The first successful unmanned aircraft system flight took place on March 6, 1918, developed by an airframe designer Glenn Curtis and gyro control system inventor Elmer Sperry and was called an aerial torpedo. Interestingly, developments after World War I were not in weapon delivery platforms but for meeting the demand for targets for antiaircraft weapons, i.e. unmanned target drones. Later in the Vietnam War UAVs were successfully used as reconnaissance, usually air launched from C130s and recovered by parachute. Desert Storm demonstrated the potential of UAVs as an important weapon system and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars transformed UAVs into a key weapon system.

This military technology is now beginning to be transferred into the world of civil aviation. When the FAA fully approves the use of drones, civil aviation in the U.S. will be entering a time of profound change. The focus of this course is on the use of drones in civil aviation. (The reader who is interested primarily in military applications is referred to the “DOD Unmanned Systems Integration Roadmap FY2013-2038”. Click here for a link to the website for the “Roadmap”. It is not part of this course.)

Course Content

The course content is in the PDF:

Drone Technology

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Course Summary

This course has introduced the technology of unmanned aircraft systems (commonly called drones). The early years of autonomy in aviation has been reviewed together with the barriers to its implementation in civil aviation. Potential benefits of increased autonomy in civil aviation have been cited along with the business opportunities that are emerging.

Additional Information

For additional technical information related to this subject, please see the course content.


Once you finish studying the above course content, you need to take a quiz to obtain the PDH credits.

Take a Quiz

DISCLAIMER: The materials contained in the online course are not intended as a representation or warranty on the part of PDH Center or any other person/organization named herein. The materials are for general information only. They are not a substitute for competent professional advice. Application of this information to a specific project should be reviewed by a registered architect and/or professional engineer/surveyor. Anyone making use of the information set forth herein does so at their own risk and assumes any and all resulting liability arising therefrom.