Shown are two models representing the Palomar College Dome and Planetarium. These models were created with a 3D printer and were generated from images gathered with small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS), commonly referred to as “drones”. (photo by Melinda Finn)


Drone-related curriculum and programs at Palomar College received a big boost recently with news of the College receiving nearly $800,000 in grant money from the National Science Foundation. The three-year grant will fund the Unmanned Aircraft System operations Technician Education Program (UASTEP).

Awarded by the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program, the project came about as a collaborative effort under the direction of four professors: Wing Cheung (Principal Investigator or PI), Professor of Geography and Coordinator of the Geographic Information Systems  (GIS) program at Palomar;  Mark Bealo (Co-PI), Professor of Graphic Communications, including drone courses at Palomar; Sean Figg, Assistant Professor of Geology at Palomar; and Ken Yanow, Professor of Geographical Sciences at Southwestern College, and Adjunct Professor of Geography at Palomar.

The four objectives of UASTEP are (1) Program and Curriculum Development (2) Professional Development for Educators (3) Strengthening Business and Workplace Competencies and (4) Student Outreach and Summer Academies. More information about UASTEP and the grant can be found here.

Cheung said, “This grant allows for developing both new classes and partnerships with industry, each of which will help students transition into careers in the sUAS field.” He said that the Palomar program stands out from similar drone-related programs in that “it appeals not only to those wanting to become drone technicians, but also to those interested in becoming entrepreneurs” in this up and coming industry.



Melinda Finn, Public Affairs Office, 760-744-1150, ext. 2365
Laura Gropen, Public Affairs Office, 760-744-1150 x2152