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The Univer­sity of Hawaii at Hilo has been cleared to launch a four-year de­gree pro­gram in aero­nau­ti­cal sci­ence.

The univer­sity’s board of re­gents ap­proved last month the pro­vi­sional Bach­e­lor of Sci­ence in two new con­cen­tra­tions: Com­mer­cial pro­fes­sional pi­lot train­ing and com­mer­cial aerial in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy, the Hawaii Tri­buneHer­ald re­ported this week.

The pi­lot train­ing track would lead stu­dents to a com­mer­cial air­line ca­reer, pro­vid­ing a path­way to earn all re­quired Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion li­censes and cer­tifi­cates, ac­cord­ing to univer­sity doc­u­ments.

The sec­ond track will fo­cus on work with drones. The pro­gram would guide stu­dents in un­der­stand­ing how drones can be used, the type of sen­sors they have, and the kinds of data they col­lect and process, said Ken Hon, in­terim vice chan­cel­lor for aca­demic af­fairs.

The data col­lec­tion and pro­cess­ing as­pects of the pro­gram would di­rect stu­dents to “a much higher level of jobs than be­ing a drone pi­lot,” he said.

“You don’t have to be re­ally great with a crys­tal ball to look out and see what the fu­ture is go­ing to be with these un­manned air­craft, be­cause the mil­i­tary is al­ready there,” Hon said.

Ef­forts to add an avi­a­tion pro­gram to the Hilo cam­pus be­gan in 2012, Hon said. A board com­mit­tee post­poned a de­ci­sion on cre­at­ing a pro­gram in early 2017.

The univer­sity has es­ti­mated that 20 stu­dents will en­roll in the pi­lot train­ing track and 10 in the aerial in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy track for each aca­demic year start­ing in 2020. The univer­sity ex­pects to hire about three peo­ple for the pro­gram.

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