Barbara Adams

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




Controversy continues regarding the pilot skills and aerodynamic knowledge necessary to operate smaller unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Unmanned aircraft (UA) have been utilized successfully in the U.S. military for more than 20 years. Currently there is significant interest in integrating UAs into the National Airspace System (NAS) for government and civilian applications. There are no operating or certification rules or regulations specific to UAS, only policy and guidance, therefore they need to be developed. Understanding what UAs are, how they operate, what relevant human factors issues need to be addressed, and directing effective research will be necessary for successful integration into the NAS. A survey tool was created using information on UAS training developed by an RTCA committee and referencing a UAS survey that was distributed by UVS International in 2009. The survey tool was sent to aviation industry professionals and enthusiasts electronically. The intent of the survey was to capture UAS type design and operational data as well as training data from respondents with knowledge and/or experience with UAS. Of the 80 surveys completed, 58 fit the established criteria for evaluation. Every operational category was represented providing for a good cross-section of the industry as it is today. A baseline of information regarding aeronautical knowledge and experience for operating smaller UAS was collected. Based on the data collected, for pilots operating UAs weighing less than 5 pounds and below 400 feet, there does not appear to be a need to require any specific training. However, for UAs weighing 5 pounds or more and operating above 400 feet, they should be regulated and pilots should obtain some kind of pilot certificate or operating privilege to operate in the NAS. Going forward, in order for the FAA to establish an effective and appropriate UAS pilot certification structure, it would be beneficial for future research to look at why certain areas of operation are not always trained, how much time is spent learning specific tasks or in specific operational areas, defining what experience a UAS pilot could have that could mitigate the amount of training time required to be qualified to operate a UAS, and obtaining additional details surrounding the testing and/or checking of a UAS pilot.