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Unmanned Aircraft Systems Major Comes to Wichita

Butler and KSU signed a partnership
Published: Tuesday, December 19th, 2017

Butler and Kansas State Polytechnic form partnership with Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

Wichita area students can now learn how to operate an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) without leaving home. Next fall, Butler will offer an associate degree in UAS, as well as a program for current high school students. Kansas State Polytechnic will teach courses in aviation, UAS and small unmanned aircraft maintenance. The partnership became official at a signing between the two schools on Dec. 19 at Cook Airfield in Rose Hill.

According to Kansas State Polytechnic research, by 2025, approximately 100,000 jobs will be created in this multi-billion dollar industry. Students studying in this field have the opportunity to work in agriculture, real estate, law enforcement, fire science and industry. The U.S. military is also in need of UAS trained graduates. This program allows students to fly drones and gather aerial photographs, from soil measurement to power line inspections.

“We believe this partnership creates a terrific opportunity to both create jobs and demonstrate the pioneering spirit Kansas is known for in a number of industries,” said Robert W. Brock, First Director of UAS (announced July, 2016) & Deputy Director of Aviation for the Kansas Department of Transportation. “Our country relies on Kansas to lead the aviation industry. Efforts like this allow us to highlight our expertise in unmanned systems.”  


Area high school students may take advantage of the highly sought after degree by applying to the Early College Aviation Academy. Once accepted, high school juniors will be able to take high school and college curriculums simultaneously (one-half day at their home high school and one-half day at Butler’s Rose Hill campus) and graduate with their high school diploma and an associate degree at the same time.

Once a student graduates from Butler’s UAS program (from either the Early College Academy or the traditional campus route), he/she, upon acceptance, can transfer seamlessly into Kansas State Polytechnic’s UAS program and within two years receive a bachelor’s degree in this state-of-the-art program. The student also has the option to directly enter the workforce with this cutting edge education.

“This is an excellent opportunity for Butler students, including academy students, to be prepared for this dynamic, emergent job market,” said Butler’s Vice President of Academics, Lori Winningham.

Kansas State Polytechnic is one of the first universities in the nation to offer a bachelor’s degree in UAS. By partnering with Butler, Kansas State Polytechnic is helping to bring this revolutionary curriculum to the Wichita area. Kansas State Polytechnic has contributed to numerous research projects that set the standard in rules and regulations, applications and technology within the industry. Kansas State Polytechnic uses a hands-on approach to learning, giving students the necessary skills to safely operate and manage a diverse fleet of unmanned aircraft both proprietary and commercially available.

“We are excited to partner with Butler Community College in bringing the unmanned aircraft systems degree option to the Wichita market,” said Alysia Starkey, associate dean for academics at Kansas State Polytechnic. “Joint partnerships such as this are increasingly important in today's higher education environment. Through this collaboration, Butler Community College and K-State Polytechnic will work together to ensure the career preparation for the highly competitive UAS job market remains accessible and affordable for the citizens of Kansas.  Thank you to the faculty and staff at both institutions for their hard work in making this partnership possible.”