The program has two concentrations, one in commercial professional pilot training and another in commercial aerial information technology (drone technology)—both are projected workforce needs in the state.
By Susan Enright.
A new aeronautical sciences degree program at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo was approved by the UH Board of Regents at their monthly meeting held yesterday at Honolulu Community College. The provisional bachelor of science program has two concentrations, one in commercial professional pilot training, and another in commercial aerial information technology (which utilizes drones), where there is a high projected workforce need in the state.
“The commercial professional pilot training track places graduates on a solid footing to pursue a career as an airline pilot at a much more reasonable total educational cost than if they attended a mainland university with a similar program,” says Bruce Mathews, dean of the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Management where the new program is housed. “Due to the increasing demand for pilots resulting from a high proportion now entering retirement age coupled with rising air travel globally the prospects for rewarding career opportunities are high.”
He continues, “Furthermore, the commercial aerial information technology track offers considerable career opportunities in the areas of unmanned aerial systems, [commonly called] UAS or drone, based agricultural and natural resource management field monitoring services, precision pest and weed control, search and rescue, security services, and expected growth into delivery and air transport services.”
Mathews credits Ken Hon, interim vice chancellor for academic affairs, for this program launch, “as he worked tirelessly for months to get it in a position for BOR approval.”
The program aligns with current professional programs at UH Hilo that prepare students for the workforce such as accounting, business, education, nursing, pharmacy, and counseling psychology, by providing a degree pathway to commercial aviation. The university has already established a certificate program in unmanned aircraft systems (drone technology), which was launched last year as a first step toward the aeronautical sciences program.
The new bachelor of science degree program will integrate aeronautical sciences with UH Hilo’s existing STEM programs in general education as well as in agriculture, conservation biology, natural hazards, marine and terrestrial resources, astronomy, and geographic information systems education and research. As with many of UH Hilo’s academic programs, the experiential training ground for students will be the unique geographical characteristics of the island.
The proposed program also aligns with UH Hilo’s focus on the application of science (agriculture, conservation biology, geography, geology, environmental sciences, marine science, and astronomy) using tools for information development including geographical information systems, data visualization, and data science.
The program will add to UH Hilo students’ toolkit for data collection, information creation, and information communication, and strengthen both undergraduate and graduate research across those fields.
Susan Enright is a public information specialist in the Office of the Chancellor. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.