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Abstract

Throughout the past decade, small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) have been on the rise in both the civilian and military sectors. It is forecasted that in the near future they will create thousands of jobs and billions in tax revenue due to their ability to execute difficult and hazardous tasks safely, efficiently, and cost-effectively. However, one current issue with the proliferation of the technology is a shortage of skilled employees due to a lack of education and common negative public misperceptions associated with them.

To investigate this, responses from a mixed-methods survey will be analyzed. Within the survey, questions such as participants’ age, education level, current knowledge of sUAS, and interest in learning more about the technology were asked. The new knowledge we hope to create is a clearer understanding about the challenges and barriers regarding public perceptions of sUAS. The examination of data may reveal how stakeholders can better communicate to the public in hopes of building a skilled and educated workforce.

One approach to changing misperceptions about drones is through formal and informal educational initiatives, which can engage the public. The research will propose opportunities for higher education to play a role in educating the public through (1) aviation-focused after-school programs, (2) transdisciplinary/ interdisciplinary courses and programs incorporating aviation, (3) the establishment of aviation minors and aviation university-level electives, (4) the development of informal aviation programs working with museums, and (5) the facilitation of summer aviation camps for high school students, to name a few.

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