Course Syllabus

Part 1 of the SUAS Safety Certificate Coursework: A Systems Perspective





The Systems course explores the key technology used in Unmanned Aircraft Systems to give the learner a deeper understanding of how the Unmanned Aircraft are able to navigate and perform amazing tasks. This course focuses on the three major physical components of a UAS to include the unmanned aircraft, the payload, the control station, as well as the data link that relays information in between each of these components. Additionally this course explores the foundations and evolutions of these systems.



Each unit is comprised of a textbook reading (text is imbedded into the LMS), writing/research assignments, and an end of unit progress check. There are 22 graded learning events in the Systems course:

17 Graded Assignments worth 77.5% of the final grade

5 Graded Progress Checks worth 22.5% of the final grade

All assignments and progress checks are equally weighted at 4.5% of the final grade. A learner will need to score 80% in overall course to progress to the next course of study.



Each block is approximately equivalent to 8 hours of work, to include reading, studying, and completing assignments (not including the orientation segment).



The Systems course is divided into six units of study. Each unit varies in length and difficulty with a standardized structure consisting of required readings, assignments, and progress assessments. The following units and lessons are required to complete the Systems Course:


0.1. sUAS Certificate Orientation

0.2. SUAS Certificate Program Description

0.3. Introduction to the LMS

Unit 0 Progress Check (not graded)


1.1.Textbook reading: That is why that call it a system

Assignment: Defining concepts

1.2. Textbook reading: UAS Classification

Assignment: Classification Schemes

1.3. Textbook reading: A Brief History of UAS

Assignment: Other historical UAS

1.4. Textbook reading: Current issues in UAS

Assignment: Other important issues to consider

Unit 1 Progress Check


2.1. Textbook reading: An introduction to Robotics (not graded)

Assignment: Robotic System Components (not graded)

Assignment: Troubleshooting Exercise

2.2. Textbook reading: UA aerodynamics and performance

Assignment: Aerodynamics and performance exercise

2.3. Textbook reading: Aircraft movement

Assignment: UA movement exercise (not graded)

Unit 2 Progress Check


3.1. Textbook reading: Datalink basics

Assignment: Datalink Definitions

Assignment: Datalink Functions

3.2. Textbook reading: RF Communications and Limits

Assignment: Issues facing RF propagation

3.3. Textbook reading: UAS Robust Datalink Configurations

Assignment: Extending a datalink’s range

Assignment: Loss of Datalink

Unit 3 Progress Check


4.1. Textbook reading: Ground Control Station (GCS) Equipment

Assignment: Human Factors and the GCS

Assignment: GCS design

4.2. Textbook reading: GCS Architecture

Assignment UAS Architecture and mission planning

4.3. Textbook reading: Role of the Human Remote pilot

Assignment: Sense and Avoid Technology

Unit 4 Progress Check


5.1. Textbook reading: Remote Sensing

Assignment: Remote sensing exercise (not graded)

Assignment: Remote Sensing Questions

5.2. Textbook reading: Active and Passive Sensors

Assignment: Active and Passive Sensors Exercise

5.3. Textbook reading: Cameras and Other Payloads

Assignment: Image interpretation Exercise (not graded)

Assignment: Capturing and image questions

Unit 5 Progress Check



Unmanned Safety Institute is committed to academic integrity and considers academic dishonesty a very serious offense as this is not an attitude represented by a professional industry certification.  Any instances of cheating (accepting unauthorized assistance in preparing assignments or taking tests), fraud (gaining unfair advantage through deceit, trickery, or falsification of records), or plagiarism (taking the ideas, writing, words, and/or work of another and representing them as one's own without appropriate acknowledgment) may result in an F for the course and student becoming barred from Unmanned Safety Institute certification.


All students are expected to be in class on time, maintain good attendance, and make up all missed work.  Successful completion of Quizzes and Exams is required for eligibility for industry certification.  Behavior considered disrespectful or unprofessional could result in removal from UAS academic program and could result in ineligibility for industry certification.


Any student that may require accommodations for disabilities must inform the USI Certified Instructor within the first three weeks of class, except for unusual circumstances, so arrangements can be made.  Students are encouraged to register with Student Disability Services (or equivalent) to verify their eligibility for appropriate accommodations.



Here is the course outline:

1. Orientation

The Systems course is divided into six units of study. Each unit varies in length and difficulty with a standardized structure consisting of required readings, assignments, and progress assessments. This orientation will familiarize you, the learner, with our learning management system, course delivery format, and the Small UAS Safety Certificate program.

2. (Unit 1) UAS Foundations

Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) have a long history of injecting change and solving problems facing the traditional aviation sector, from providing militaries with long-range standoff weapons to reducing the risk of reconnaissance flight. UAS have now made the initial transition of military technology to consumer technology. UAS advocates have rushed these systems to market, championing their benefits and glossing over their sizable limits. Regulators and aviation stakeholders have been slow to adapt, but are just starting to make meaningful accommodations that could usher in a new golden age for aviation.

3. (Unit 2) Robotic Aircraft

In this unit, we explored details of robotic aircraft and discovered how they fly and navigate so seemingly effortlessly through the skies overhead. We looked at the aerodynamics of sUAS and the forces acting on these aircraft, including how to utilize control surfaces and changes in rotor speeds to induce moments and forces on aircraft, allowing them to maneuver through the air. We examined the different configurations of both fixed- and rotary-wing sUAS and learned about the pros and cons of each. We also looked at the past, present, and future of robotic aircraft with the hopes that you, the student, gained valuable knowledge and a new respect and interest in this new and exciting field of unmanned aviation.

4. (Unit 3) Datalinks

Unmanned systems require datalinks to communicate back and forth from the air vehicle to the ground control station and vice versa. Due to a UAS not having an onboard pilot, commands must be made electronically to ensure control of the air vehicle. There is also a requirement for the health of the aircraft and payload information to be relayed back down to the operator. This is all accomplished via radio transmission of specially coded information through air wave transmission. Due to the nature of radio communications, there are some anomalies we need to be aware of to ensure the information is transmitted and received in full. Exploring several of these influencers will assist any UAS professional in being a safer and more competent operator.

5. (Unit 4) UAS Control

Due to the dynamics of Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) integration and the need to be able to control the Air Vehicle (AV) from the ground, advances in ground station development have occurred at a rapid rate. The Ground Control Station (GCS) takes the pilot out of the aircraft, but not out of the “cockpit.” The GCS is a modified and simulated cockpit that has many advantages, as well as disadvantages, as compared to manned flight. Some of these advantages are that the pilot is not in harm’s way and that autonomy affords a higher state of precision work. Some disadvantages are that new human factor issues are still associated with GCS design.

6. (Unit 5) Payloads

Small UAS (sUAS) are able to fly in areas and at altitudes that have eluded remote-sensing professionals in the past. The promise of low cost and high resolution has made sUAS one of the most disruptive technologies in a field dominated by expensive satellite and aircraft platforms. This chapter will explore the sensors and science behind the acquisition of environmental information from a sUAS flying overhead.