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A RPAS Master’s program that is a reference in the aeronautical sector

Picture of Joaquín Ponce

Joaquín Ponce

Test Means Enginer / AERTEC

The Master’s in Remotely Manned Aerial Systems (RPAS) is the only one of its kind in Europe. It is taught by the University of Huelva (UHU) and has recently received a definitive boost through the announcement that the Medium and Large Size Unmanned Systems Test Center (CEUS) will be a reality in Huelva in the coming months. CEUS is promoted by the National Institute of Aerospace Technology (INTA), also a promoter of the RPAS Master of the UHU.

The CEUS-CEDEA joint effort will be the largest and best equipped European Center for the development of medium and large size RPAS.

This is a relevant step for the scientific-technical-economic community in the field of RPAS in Europe. The implementation of CEUS will generate a niche of knowledge, economy, innovation, and technological development that will turn this environment into a point of reference for the most advanced unmanned aerial systems. We are talking about systems such as HALES (large RPAS, for flying at high altitude with an autonomy of weeks and even months) and HAPS (large RPAS, for flying at high altitude and operating as satellites). This will entail the establishment of a conglomerate of companies in the vicinity of the CEUS-CEDEA complex (an existing worksite in El Arenosillo, Huelva) that will become direct users of said experimentation complex, providing the RPAS Master’s degree with educational, training and experimentation facilities unique RPAS in Europe.

All of this will also result in CEUS-CEDEA and the conglomerate of companies that will integrate it requiring a significant number of highly qualified professionals in RPAS systems in the short term. For this reason, the Master’s program, taught by the University of Huelva (UHU), and supported with the collaboration of INTA and the University of Seville, as well as by the domestic and international companies that will become users of the CEUS-CEDEA group, will have the capacity to provide a continuous inflow of professionals to the industry, with highly specialized knowledge which the CEUS-CEDEA-Empresas cluster will need.

The CEUS-CEDEA joint effort will be the largest and best equipped European Center for the development of medium and large size RPAS. Both the infrastructure and equipment available, as well as the strategic location of the complex and the aeronautical safety and strategic isolation setting, have convinced the authorities about the definitive implementation of CEUS in Huelva.

Now, and this will be the task of the RPAS Master’s program of the UHU, it is time to provide CEUS-CEDEA group with highly qualified and specialized labor, something that has already been taking place throughout the eight previous editions of the Master’s program.

Some of the companies that collaborate with this initiative and that provide the level of excellence required by a sector as demanding as aerospace include Airbus, Boeing, AERTEC, CapGemini, Alter Technology, Ayesa, Alpha Unmanned Systems, Embention, NTT Data, SCR, FADA -CATEC, Indra, Hemav, INTA, ISDEFE, Skylife Engineering, UAV Navigation, and WAKE engineering, among others.

As a student who graduated from the 7th edition of this Master’s program, my experience has been particularly satisfactory:

It all started on March 14, 2020, when I received a message from the management of the company where I worked informing me that I could not go to work the following Monday. Or maybe I should start even further, back in the 70s, when still a child, I grabbed the bicycle and without my parents’ knowledge showed up at the Seville Airport to witness an air show. In any case, the events derived from the pandemic and my passion for aeronautics were what led me, at the age of 52 at that time, to enroll in August 2020 in the 7th edition of the RPAS Master’s program. I was still in a temporary layoff plan situation and there were no clear signs that the company was going to hire me back anytime soon. I took it as a personal challenge and as a great opportunity to come into contact with a world that has always fascinated me, in addition to broadening my professional horizon or, as they say, to reinvent myself.

At this point, I must say that it was a lucky decision. In mid-December 2020, before Christmas, I was officially laid off from the company where I worked. The coronavirus did a lot of damage, and this was one of its collateral consequences. I was unemployed after working for more than 30 years, 28 of them for the same company, at the age of 53 and studying for a Master’s degree. Instead of looking for a job, I dedicated full time to the Master’s program because of the confidence transmitted to me by its board of directors, in the sense that it would open up great possibilities for me in the job market; but they always made it very clear to me that 50% of my chances depended on my abilities, even more on my attitude, and the other 50% resided in the hands of the market situation and the needs of the moment of companies themselves. Guarantees did not exist, but there were great possibilities. Even so, I trusted the Master’s program, but above all, I trusted myself. It was clear that, at that moment, the challenge laying before me was multiplying in size.

It was at the end of the teaching phase, when in June 2021, perfectly oriented and advised by the Master’s program staff, I began the internship phase in a company. I personally chose AERTEC from among more than a dozen firms were offered to me. Fifteen days before the end of this internship phase in the RPAS department and without having yet submitted the Master’s thesis, the company offered me an interview, as they wanted to continue counting on me indefinitely. Today, I am currently still working at this company, a leader in the domestic and international aeronautical sector.

About the Master’s program, there is little more I can say on top of the above. We were caught up in a very complicated situation of lock-down, mobility permits, etc., which they knew how to handle at all times. I saw myself surrounded by the youth and talent of my classmates, who were half my age, and the quality and experience of the teaching staff that is hard to find and combine in the same course syllabus (university lecturers and professors, INTA researchers and professionals, test pilots, businessmen and outstanding professionals in the aeronautical sector); and lastly, a Master’s program board of directors sensitive at all times to the personal situation of each student; and in my case, I think even beyond what was expected.

Without a doubt, the RPAS Master’s Degree is a very interesting bet not only for the future, but for the present, since the scenario we are heading toward is already there just around the corner.


UAS TARSIS sobrevolando terreno

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