WENDELL, N.C. (October 30, 2023) – Public safety and emergency preparedness in North Carolina will soon get a boost. Wake Tech and Elizabeth City State University are joining forces on programs in aviation, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and criminal justice. Leaders today signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) giving Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) a presence at Wake Tech East, the college’s newest location in Wendell. The MOA, which was flown in on a drone in a special ceremony, calls for the two institutions to work together on an Aviation and Public Safety Educational Partnership.

“Wake Tech is thrilled to join forces with ECSU, a leader in aviation education, to provide such exciting new opportunities to our community, and especially to residents of eastern Wake County,” said Wake Tech President Dr. Scott Ralls, “This partnership is an innovative response to the region’s needs. Public safety training is of course vital to our communities – and to Wake Tech’s mission – and unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, are rapidly becoming a critical component in keeping our communities safe.” 

The partnership includes the development of UAS programming for operating and servicing drone equipment. The two institutions will also collaborate with nearby East Wake High School on a potential drone academy and with Lenoir Community College on aviation and emergency management programs.

ECSU will have its name on a specialized lab providing simulation instruction and training in the new Public Safety Simulation Complex at Wake Tech East. ECSU will also share a new drone pavilion at the site.

Chancellor Karrie G. Dixon expressed great enthusiasm for the ECSU and Wake Tech Partnership, "to promote unmanned Aircraft Systems and Public Safety/Emergency Management which will create new pathways for students towards a great career. ECSU and Wake Tech are uniquely positioned to offer a quality UAS program focused on Public Safety. Public Safety is one of the fastest growing areas to have adopted drone technology. This partnership provides a seamless transfer to UAS, Aviation, and Emergency Management programs at ECSU once students complete their degree at Wake Tech.”

Building on more than 30 years of aviation expertise, ECSU has developed the only four-year UAS degree program in North Carolina. The Bachelor of Science in Unmanned Aircraft System covers engineering, physics, laws and regulations, aviation management, air traffic control and more. Wake Tech currently offers non-degree training to prepare students to become FAA certified drone pilots. The college also offers a UAS Drone Tech certificate in its Geomatics/Surveying degree program.

In addition to the Aviation and Public Safety Educational Partnership, Wake Tech and ECSU leaders signed a new articulation agreement that creates a transfer pathway in the area of Criminal Justice. Under the agreement, Wake Tech’s Criminal Justice Technology associate degree program will transfer seamlessly into ECSU’s online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice.

ECSU is one of four North Carolina universities in the NC Promise program – charging a fixed tuition rate of just $500 per semester.

Dr. Jamie Wicker, Wake Tech Provost for Public Safety Education and Training, is excited about what these two landmark agreements mean for the community: “Nothing is more future-focused than aviation, and nothing is more essential than public safety – so we are extremely excited to be partnering with Elizabeth City State University on these vital programs. Together we will harness the latest technologies to improve emergency preparedness here and throughout our state.”

The new Wake Tech East location sits just off of I-87 at Wendell Boulevard and Rolesville Road in Wendell. When it opens next spring, the Public Safety Simulation Complex will be the most extensive reality-based scenario training facility with driving and force-on-force capabilities in North Carolina. The next building to open will be the Education and Innovation Center, opening for university transfer general education classes next fall. It will house Wake Tech’s Associate in Engineering program and offer partnership opportunities with Wake County Public Schools. Wake Tech East is slated to eventually become the seventh Wake Tech campus in Wake County.