UMD UAS Test Sites Collaborates with Higher Education Center on Student Project

Students at the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center ended 2016 with a presentation on their semester-long study of the infrastructure and assets, partners, focus areas, and revenue sources for the country's six Federal Aviation Administration unmanned aircraft system test sites. The project was designed by instructor Bob Schaller and Matt Scassero, director of the University of Maryland Unmanned Aircraft System Test site, for students completing their last core requirement for Florida Tech's MBA program.

The article below, written by Schaller and Scassero for the Southern Maryland Navy Alliance newsletter, tells the story. 


Local higher education institutions collaborate on important student project

Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) conducted an MBA course on Strategic Management in the Fall 2016 semester. Dr. Bob Schaller instructed the class of seven students at the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center (SMHEC). This course is taken as the last core requirement in Florida Tech’s MBA program. Its purpose is to develop the student’s capacity to think strategically about a company or organization, its long-term direction, its resources and competitive capabilities, the caliber of its strategy, and its opportunities for gaining sustainable competitive advantage. Case analysis is used and supplemented with a group experiential project that examines a local organization with real-life strategic opportunities and challenges. The UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) Test Site of the A. James Clark School of Engineering of University of Maryland was this semester’s project choice. The UAS Test Site is located in a hangar at the St. Mary’s County Regional Airport within a half-mile of SMHEC where the class was taught.

As project background, unmanned and autonomous systems are being deployed very rapidly in all types of applications. These systems have been used in defense applications for decades. In particular, Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) at NAS Patuxent River has been at the forefront of much UAS work. But there is very limited research and testing of uses in the far broader commercial air space arena where applications seem almost unlimited. The commercial market for these systems is still very new and undefined. Special pockets of use such as package delivery and driverless vehicles are two popular examples in consumer use. But industrial uses in agriculture, energy, entertainment, manufacturing, public safety and infrastructure, and more require the same rigor of research, development, test and evaluation as with defense systems to ensure that safety, security, privacy, and other important public considerations are adequately addressed.

To that end, in 2013 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) competed and selected six UAS Test Sites around the United States to help meet UAS research needs. The UMD UAS Test Site was established following selection of Virginia Tech’s award as one of the six test site designations representing the Mid-Atlantic region. University of Maryland partnered with Virginia Tech, and Matt Scassero was hired as Director to stand up the UAS Test Site located here in St. Mary’s County. Scassero served as UMD point of contact for the semester study. Schaller worked with Scassero to determine the purpose and scope of the semester project.The end product was a comparative SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis of the six FAA UAS Test sites. The students examined infrastructure and assets, partners, focus areas, and revenue sources for each of the six sites, summarized the findings in a presentation that was followed by detailed notes compiled for each test site.

The study also incorporated inputs from local industry partners. Class guests included Scott Sanders of Ausley Associates, Bryan Vandrovec of Research and Engineering Development (Red-Inc), and Amit Ganjoo, founder and owner of ANRA Technologies. The study continues in the Spring 2017 semester with a Marketing Management class of 17 students who will conduct a deeper strategic marketing analysis for the test site’s future planning and operations. In a few years the UMD UAS Test Site research program will be the central component of the University System of Maryland (USM) Southern Maryland Academic & Research Center planned to be added at the SMHEC campus.

Florida Tech continues to seek local organizations in Southern Maryland for collaborative study that both enriches the graduate studies program and assists the organization studied address a particular opportunity or challenge. Local Florida Tech MBA students have studied, assisted or participated in several local organizations or initiatives including Southern Maryland Innovation and Tech (SMIT) Initiative, Patuxent River Naval Air Museum, Pathways of Southern Maryland, among others.

For more information please contact and 301-862-1004, or and 301-862-7824.

Published January 6, 2017