Drones and Autonomous Systems I: Fundamentals

Course 1 of 2:Professional Certificate in Drones and Autonomous Systems 6 Weeks 2 - 3 Hours per week

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About this course

Are you interested in learning about drones, be it casual or in-depth? You can use this course to gain insight into the basic elements of commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) drone systems used in civilian missions and into Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations.

This course introduces unmanned aerial systems (UAS) including drones and autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) with sensors including those for obstacle avoidance, other instruments, and payloads that rely on complex algorithms and have various uses.

No previous knowledge of drones, flying systems, autonomous technology, or flying experience is required. Join us as you start your drone journey.

Taught by instructors with decades of experience in drone technology applications in combat and civilian operations, systems design, and emergency management planning, this course will equip analysts and operational experts with the technical and planning knowledge for emergency planning and other applications.

What you’ll learn

DRO1.1x Fundamentals of Drones and Autonomous Systems:

  • Classification of drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with a focus on technology infusion (sensors, platforms, navigation, power source, command and control, range, altitude, speed, wide area surveillance)
  • Classification of drones according to use such as aerial photography, real estate sales, recreation, public events, law enforcement surveillance, border enforcement, and maritime drug interdiction.
  • Examination of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) and commercial research and development ( R&D) technologies.
  • A systems view of drones and the types of hardware and software used for data collection, storage, and analytical requirements.
  • Systems life cycle with needs assessment, goals/ objectives, requirements, testing and training, data analytics, and mission compliance.
  • Federal government airspace policy, regulations, and compliance including beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) drone operations, a comparison of U.S. and international regulations.
  • Risk factors, the ethical use of drones, and counter-UAS technologies including cyber and physical threats to UAS.
  • Emerging technologies being integrated into the drone market including semi-autonomous and autonomous systems that will enable communications relay, crop sensing and coordinated swarms in support of emergency response mission.
  • Future capabilities and uses of UAS, including critical technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, the internet of things (IoT,) data analytics and fifth generation (5G) mobile telephone service.


DRO1.1x Fundamentals of Drones and Autonomous Systems

Week 1: History and Introduction

Week 2: Critical Technologies and Requirements

Week 3: Technical Performance

Week 4: Making a Business Case

Week 5: Regulatory Framework (including Risk, Safety, Security, Policy)

Week 6: Future of Drone Systems

Meet your instructors

Irmak Renda-Tanali, D.Sc.

Dr. Tanali has over 20 years of combined experience in research, consulting, and teaching in the fields of crisis, disaster, and risk management. Some of the major clients she provided consulting services include NASA, Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and American Red Cross. She holds a Doctor of Science degree from The George Washington University’s Engineering Management and Systems Engineering Department. She also holds a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Civil Engineering and Finance.

Brian Powers, M.A.

Brian Powers is an associate professor and chair of the Intelligence Management Program at UMGC. Prior to joining UMGC, he served for 26 years in the United States Air Force as an intelligence officer serving in various operational and staff assignments at the Pentagon in the Air Staff, Joint Staff, and Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence (USD(I); and three overseas Combatant Commands in the Europe, Middle East and Pacific regions. He has also worked 13 years in the private sector as an intelligence planner in strategy and policy at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency, and as a program director and educator. He holds a master’s degree in Business and Organizational Security from Webster University, a master’s degree in National Security Affairs from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, a master’s degree in International Relations from Creighton University.

Barry Douglass, Ph.D.

Dr. Douglass has over 40 years of experience in the engineering field, and over 25 years of that in academia. He began his career as an engineer for the Westinghouse Electric Corporation, and his academic career as an assistant professor of electrical engineering at Texas A&M University. He has held academic leadership positions at several institutions before joining the Graduate School at UMGC in March 2017. He holds a Ph.D. in Computer and Systems Engineering and a B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, as well as an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin.


6 Weeks

Experience Level


Learning Partner

University of Maryland System

Program Type

Professional Certificate