New Unmanned Aircraft Systems Tech Facility to provide education, training, workforce development, outreach, and applied research
Today, Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) and Wake Tech Community College broke ground in Wake County on the site of a new 106-acre technology center that will expand unmanned aviation programs offered in North Carolina. The facility, Eastern Wake 4.0, will house integrated teaching labs for multiple universities, allowing students to easily transfer and work together on state-of-the art projects.
The labs will support unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) operations and repair, biopharmaceutical technology, intelligent automation, robotics, smart manufacturing, and microelectronics programs. The partnership between Wake Tech and ECSU will uniquely position North Carolina in offering a quality UAS – or drone – program focused on public safety, one of the fastest growing fields to have adopted UAS technology.
“ECSU has a long history of aviation education and expertise, and about four years ago, we started developing a comprehensive UAS program. Our collaboration with Wake Tech provides students with opportunities to explore advanced careers in drone medical delivery, disaster response, critical infrastructure monitoring, and homeland security,” says ECSU Chancellor Karrie G. Dixon.
“This partnership amplifies our efforts to produce a well-trained workforce to meet growing demand in unmanned aviation, as well as seamless transfer to ECSU’s aviation and emergency management programs, which are in high demand,” she said. “It creates new pathways for students towards a great career.”
The Eastern Wake 4.0 training site, which will be located along the I-87/US 64 corridor, is projected to open for classes in fall 2023. Its proximity to East Wake High School and nearby Knightdale High School is expected to create more convenient dual enrollment opportunities with Wake County Public Schools. Eastern Wake 4.0 is a reference to a fourth industrial revolution that includes the Internet of Things and the networking of machines and technology such as 5G, big data, cloud computing and smart manufacturing.
In 2019, ECSU became the first and only university in North Carolina to offer a bachelor’s degree in Unmanned Aircraft Systems. ECSU also offers an Emergency Management degree program, one of the only two such programs in the University North Carolina System. This new partnership will help students transfer seamlessly among ECSU’s UAS and Emergency Management programs and East Carolina University’s Bachelor of Science in Industrial Technology (BSIT) program.
“North Carolina has been a leader in drone adoption, from disaster response to the numerous projects the state hosts as part of the FAA UAS Integration Pilot Program,” said Dr. Kuldeep Rawat, ECSU School of Science, Aviation, Health, and Technology Dean. “The state-of-the-art training facility and faculty collaboration at our institutions will be instrumental in providing UAS training, workforce development, and conducting applied research to effectively serve the citizens of our state.”
The Eastern Wake 4.0 facility will house:
- Technology 4.0 facility: Networked integrated teaching labs to support biopharmaceutical technology, intelligent automation, robotics, smart manufacturing, microelectronics and UAS operations and repair. This facility will include co-location space for university partners and maker space for student collaboration.
- Public Safety Simulation Complex: A reality-based simulation center for Basic Law Enforcement Training, including a driver training track and a 4D immersive training village. This facility will become the new home of Wake Tech’s EMS program and a new program in Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS).
The general education and student services building will include science labs, a library, an auditorium, and student services spaces, such as admissions and financial aid. Energy savings and efficiencies will be incorporated into the facility using advanced solar technology and geothermal wells.
North Carolina’s combination of geophysical characteristics and disaster-prone geography has given it a strong head start in becoming a natural base for use of drones for emergency response. Major UAS companies, such as Precision Hawk and SenseFly, have made the state their home. They move medical supplies across the state following a natural disaster, significantly cutting the time it takes to deliver critical resources.
Wake County Public School System Superintendent Cathy Moore, university leaders, local businesses and officials, and economic development stakeholders participated in today’s event.