Fancy coughing up for a £2,000 'nanodegree' in flying car design?

You can muck about with Python and flight sims at home. For free

By Gareth Corfield

Posted in Software, 26th January 2018 13:18 GMT

Comment Udacity has cooked up a £2,000 "nanodegree" that "teaches students how to design their own flying cars".

"Are you ready for a future in this transformational field? Apply by February 7, and take your place in the historic inaugural class. You can even earn a special 'Early Adopter' first-term tuition offer!" burbles the online skills provider's blog post about the course.

Open-mouthed blog outfit Techcrunch is approvingly quoted in that post, saying: "This should produce Nanodegree program holders with skill sets that can scale to match the opportunity."

Behind it is self-styled "father of the self-driving car" and former Stanford University compsci prof, Sebastian Thrun, who used to be a gros fromage at Google's self-driving car project. He also runs Udacity. Along with him are a handful of academics: Nicholas Roy of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Angela Schoellig of the University of Toronto; and Raffaello D'Andrea of ETH Zurich.

What does your £999-a-term, two-term course get you? The first half concentrates on aerial robotics (including some Python and C++ work), while the second gives you a brief overview of "intelligent air systems". To wit:

After an intro to fixed wing aircrafts [sic], you will learn how to update and optimize vehicle parameters and routes over "flying car length" missions. From there, you'll learn to coordinate entire fleets of flying cars as you leverage cutting-edge technologies, learn real-world systems and regulations, and complete projects culminating in an entire "flying city" finale.

No word on the principles of flight, Bernoulli's law, aviation law or propulsion systems. Then again, if you're targeting folk who believe that writing some code and pissing about with it in a virtual flight simulator is a realistic path towards the design and development of real-world autonomous load-carrying aircraft, you don't want them thinking too hard about what's actually on offer.

Applicants should have "substantial experience programming in any language" along with skills in Python, C++, linear algebra, and "basic physics" among others. Aside from the basic physics requirement, there is nothing related to flight or aviation in the two-term course's pre-requisites (two academic terms in the UK cover about six months). It's not as if a dev would need to know or understand anything about the hardware he's writing programs for, after all.

For comparison, a proper degree that would lead to aircraft design skills – say, an aviation engineering masters from a university that does proper engineering – takes up to five years to complete. Even then, that assumes you've got the maths qualifications necessary to get in.

"Enrollment in this program represents your opportunity to help write the history of this dawning age of smart transportation," beamed Udacity. That's right, folks – you, too, can become known to posterity as someone easily parted from their money. Sign up today! ®

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