Chelsea Bladow
Bringing Together Subject Matter Experts to Develop Autonomous Technology Standards Across All Domains
The National Center for Autonomous Technologies (NCAT) is initiating a project to extract core knowledge, skills, and abilities, across multiple industry sectors, that incorporate autonomous technologies (AT).

As of 2019 there are 941 public, community colleges in the United States but very few have the programming necessary to produce technicians for the fast paced, high technology, autonomous systems industries. Costs to start and maintain these programs tend to be high. Significant investments must be made in equipment that quickly becomes obsolete, due to the rapid progression of technology. Also, as with any new industry, finding knowledgeable and experienced instructors to deliver content may prove to be very difficult. These roadblocks to integration of AT programs and the resulting lack of highly qualified technicians has led to the conception of this project.  

The primary goal of NCAT’s core KSA project is to investigate common curriculum across the air, land, and sea domains, in partnership with industry and existing programs.  Industry recognition and validation would be an important step in establishing a pathway (est. 1 year) that could be instituted at many two-year colleges to provide the backbone knowledge, skills and abilities that are common to multiple autonomous technology technicians. Students could then determine which sector they are most interested in and transfer to a school that provides specific training such as ROV or UAS technician training. Students could also choose to enter the workforce in entry level AT careers. 

Current careers that could potentially benefit from employees with the knowledge associated with a Core Autonomous Technologies Certificate/Diploma are: 

  • Autonomous Vehicle Test Operator 
  • Autonomous Vehicle System Test Specialist 
  • Autonomous Vehicle Technician 
  • Autonomous Underwater Vehicles Field Technician 
  • Drone/sUAS Electronics Repair Technician 
  • Electro-mechanical and Mechatronics Technologists and Technicians 
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering Technologists and Technicians 
  • Electrical and Electronics Installers and Repairers 

Ideally, this initiative would drive interest in STEM and make AT career pathways more accessible to a larger segment of the population, particularly traditionally underrepresented and underserved populations. Many two-year colleges already train much of the core knowledge but do not offer a credential in an AT field and may not have instructors qualified to teach the specific skillsets needed to produce an ROV or UAS technician.  This project will also help inform future developments of educator workshop, STEM camps and student competitions.  

This track has the possibility of reducing initial costs for students and provide enrollment numbers for the local college that would otherwise go to a different institution. It will also open pathways for students to gain the knowledge they need to matriculate into AT programs and ultimately grow the AT workforce. 

To accomplish this, a crosswalk must be done between existing programs. Wherever possible, existing, and widely accepted, standards must be used for this research.  

Data will be compiled and compared to extract a core set of knowledge, skills and abilities that reaches across AT verticals. Existing regulations must be investigated to ensure reciprocity.  This will make up the Core AT curriculum. Further research will find synergies within existing AT programs. If a student has access to an ROV program in their local region, but would prefer a credential in UAS technology, they would have the ability to transfer from one to the other while ensuring the credits they have taken will transfer. 

Further uses for the Core AT Technician Standard could include allowing technical colleges to assess redundancies within their programming and streamline course offerings to create efficiencies.  

Phase I (2-4 Months depending on participant availability) 

Initial steps will be to recruit two subject matter experts (SMEs) in each vertical to compare their standard to the other existing standards. In the event that there is not an existing standard, DACUMs or existing programmatic information would be used. 

  • UAS (ASTM UAS Mx) 
  • ROV (IROV) 
  • Aviation Maintenance (Mechanic ACS) 
  • Automotive (ASE MAST) 
  • Robotics 

Once this step has been completed, each pair of SMEs will meet with a counterpart pair from a different vertical and do a deeper dive into the subjects that cross domains (ie aviation electricity and automotive electricity) to determine what correlates and where gaps exist. This process will continue until every SME pair has met with all their counterparts. Each SME pair will then produce a document that shows how their vertical fits across the other domains. The intent with this document would be the ability to accurately place a student who switches programs or comes in with prior training/experience from a different vertical. Advisors, educators, and placement specialists, both in academia and industry, would benefit from these documents.  

All SMEs will then come together as a group to produce a document that outlines the knowledge, skills and abilities that cross over all domains. This document would form the Autonomous Technologies core KSAs. 

Phase II (Ongoing after Phase I) 

Phase II will be dissemination of the standard to academic and industry partners for feedback. Organizations such as the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) will be recruited to pass along the standard to their members. Comments will be collected and addressed by a group of subject matter experts. Once a consensus is reached dissemination and recruitment of two-year technical colleges, who are willing to use the standard, to provide program offerings. An initial focus will be those programs that are already producing graduates within the AT fields.  

Follow up recruitment will be to two-year colleges that offer content area programming but do not have existing AT specific certifications. Existing networks such as ATE could be utilized to distribute the standard and encourage adoption. 

Phase III (Concurrent with Phase II) 

Phase III of this project will be to develop a Competency Model through the Department of Labor (DOL).  

“A competency model is a collection of competencies that together define successful performance in a particular work setting. Competency models are the foundation for important human resource functions such as recruitment and hiring, training and development, and performance management. Competency models can be developed for specific jobs, job groups, organizations, occupations, or industries.” (, 2022) 

Much of the work of developing this model would already be accomplished in Phase I and Phase II of the project. 

This competency model could then be used to inform content for curricula, for both students and educators. Further development could lead to workshops being held to introduce the curricula and technology to educators. The intent would be to educate instructors on Autonomous Technologies and encourage them to either begin programs, in their educational institutions, or to integrate AT information into existing coursework. 

Initiative Update – Experience STEAM provided an opportunity for five SMEs from across different AT fields to come together for Phase One of the initiative. The standard subjects have been categorized into common themes, producing a document that shows correlations across all fields of autonomous technology documented. Between all the standards, there were about 1,700 individual knowledge items that had to be categorized by the group.

October 4, 2022

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