“BCIT has a chance to become one of the early adopters of RPAS education and develop the next generation of RPAS professionals who will aid in the industry’s growth for the next several decades.”
—Business Consulting Project for BCIT RPAS Hub
The drone enthusiasts and academics who make up the RPAS Hub have long promoted BCIT as a natural fit to be a leader in drone education, research, and advocacy. A group of BCIT business students have reached the same conclusion in a consulting project that analyzed the RPAS market and educational opportunities in Canada.
The three students—Tiara Alamsyah, Joshua Henderson, and Philip Ngo—compared RPAS programs across Canada and surveyed BCIT students and instructors on their interest in the field and use of drones in their own programs. The research group determined that there’s great potential for BCIT to expand its RPAS education platform, but that integrating applications into relevant courses rather than creating a standalone program is probably the way to go. BCIT students tend to favour hands-on programs that lead directly to employment, and survey respondents didn’t feel convinced that a dedicated RPAS program would lead to work opportunities. The report also suggested a micro-credential format, which BCIT had already initiated in the interim.
Key Research Points
- Although a handful of Canadian schools offer RPAS courses, there is no current education leader in the field.
- Only two BC institutions have dedicated RPAS programs, and neither is in full operation.
- Canadian certification programs for RPAS pilots are offered mainly through industry.
- Interviews with industry professionals confirm that the RPAS industry shows strong growth potential.
- Both drone equipment and data-collection software have improved enormously over the last few years, making the technology more accessible and useful for many different fields.
- Current BCIT instructors use RPAS largely for data imaging, mapping, and surveying, and those who participated in the research believe that these skills enhance employment opportunities for graduates.
- Professionals see the most interest coming from a younger, more tech-savvy generation (people under 35 are more likely to use drones on job sites).
Overall, the conclusion set forth in the consulting project reiterates what the RPAS Hub has long maintained—that drones are an important emerging technology and BCIT has the opportunity to build on its base and become an educational leader in this industry.