STEMM Idol Speaker Richard Scudder

Students were invited to the CIL Tuesday, April 24 to learn more about the proliferation of unmanned aerial vehicles and systems, and their growing presence in the Dayton area, during this month’s STEMM Idol presentation.

Guest speaker and CJ parent Richard Scudder, director of the Center for Unmanned Aerial Systems Exploitation at the University of Dayton Research Institute, discussed the importance of the industry and its relevance locally. As the center’s inaugural director, Scudder leads the effort to prepare unmanned aerial vehicles for use both commercially and militarily.

Learn more about Richard Scudder by visiting his page at


Unmanned aircraft have advantages over their manned counterparts. UAVs do can do the "dull, dirty, and dangerous missions" that traditionally operated aircraft cannot. Life support, fire suppression and emergency egress systems are not necessary.

Unmanned aerial systems aren't just used by the military! Commercial uses include public safety and emergency management, law enforcement, agriculture and fisheries, forestry, photojournalism, atmospheric sensing, communications relay, search and rescue, disaster relief, civil engineering, and mapping and surveying.

Propulsion systems for UAVs may be designed to use gas, heavy fuel (jet fuel or diesel), turbo electric power, hybrid power, or solar electric.

Once in the air, an onboard system (generally small enough to fit in a person's hand) receives the vehicle's cues. UAVs are outfitted with a variety of tools to complete specific tasks. These tools include different types of cameras for documentation purposes as well as sensors for various chemical, biological, radioactive, nuclear and explosive applications.

Requirements, and a specific need or application, drives the design of an unmanned aerial system. A change to one element of the system, such as replacing one camera with a larger one, causes all elements of the design to change (i.e. size, weight, propulsion, data links, etc.).

Did you know...

Depending on the intended use and place of operation, UAVs can be made out of everything from cutting edge materials to wood.

Unmanned aircraft rarely need a runway for launching; some small and micro-aircraft are simply thrown like a javelin to launch.

Ground control stations can be as small and simple as a video game controller, depending on the complexity of the system.

Developers have begun exploring the possibility of installing "noses" on UAVs in order to sense odors!

Due to the wide and varied application of UAS, many career opportunities exist in the industry including:

  • systems engineers • computer and electrical engineers
  • aircraft designers • sensor designers
  • propulsion experts and chemists • material scientists
  • aircraft operators • aircraft maintenance technicians
  • imagery analysts • sales and marketing professionals
  • insurance professionals • air traffic controllers

Students who attended the session were challenged to assemble a UAS nicknamed the “miracle in a bag,” also known as an AeroVironment Raven system. Two minutes were about all it took to assemble the aircraft and control system.