UAS Entrepreneur Makes Giant Leap to Space Operations Degree at His Alma Mater

Paul Rossi’s B.S. in Aeronautics helped him become a UAS innovator and entrepreneur. Today, he is pursuing a Master of Space Operations degree.

UAS thought leader Paul Rossi, shown here supervising operations out in the field, is pursuing his second degree from Embry-Riddle. (Photo: Paul Rossi)
UAS thought leader Paul Rossi, shown here supervising operations out in the field, is pursuing his second degree from Embry-Riddle. (Photo: Paul Rossi)

It took one look at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University flight line for Paul Rossi’s interest in aviation to go from lukewarm to white hot.

On that day in 2007 when Paul (‘12, ‘24) visited the Daytona Beach Campus with his father, he was trying to decide where to attend college on the Army ROTC scholarship he earned, and he still wasn’t sure what he wanted to study.

That changed in just a few hours.

“After I saw the airplanes, the new buildings and all the happy people on campus at Embry-Riddle, it was full-blown excitement,” Paul said. “I was 100% all in on aviation!”

Continuing Education for Continued Success

Fast forward 11 years after he earned his B.S. in Aeronautics and Paul, now 33, is once again an Embry-Riddle student, this time studying for his Master of Space Operations using the online option offered by the Worldwide Campus, which is specifically designed to enable busy professionals to pursue advanced degrees.

And Paul is definitely a busy professional.

Since his 2012 graduation, he has served as an avionics technician in the Army (a stint that included a deployment to Afghanistan), started a North Carolina-based company called Nine Ten Drones, which helps individuals and organizations leverage the rapidly expanding capabilities of Unmanned Aerial Systems, and risen to the position of Director of Development with Causey Aviation Unmanned, a drone delivery service in Texas and North Carolina.

Along with wife Lauren, he’s also raised four children, with their oldest daughter headed for college in fall 2023 and a 1-year-old as the newest addition to the family.

Paul says his wife and children are among the key reasons he returned to Embry-Riddle for his master’s degree.

“Lauren is my foundation and I want to continue to further my education and professional development in order to provide our family with everything we need to thrive both in and outside our home,” he said. “I want our [older] daughters to see that furthering education may not always be easy, but it is possible regardless of age as long as you’re willing to make the commitment.”

Aeronautics Degree Fueled Entrepreneurial Vision

Beyond being wowed by the flight line, Paul said there were several other reasons he initially landed at Embry-Riddle.

“They maintain a state-of-the-art fleet of aircraft, providing a consistent flight training experience to hundreds, if not thousands, of students each year,” he said. “During my visit it was very clear to see that Embry-Riddle was reinvesting in the campus in order to create innovative spaces for education and learning.”

Paul credits his bachelor’s degree program with providing the foundation that helped him launch his wildly successful UAS career.

“What I learned about airspace, weather and aerodynamics starting in my freshman year was significant in helping me establish Nine Ten Drones, affording us the ability to quickly acquire waivers and authorizations to conduct UAS flight operations in both civilian and military controlled airspace during day and night,” he said.

Paul also said that the “experience and knowledge I gained during my junior and senior years has helped me tremendously in my role as director of development with Causey. The individual and group projects and presentations required of students prepares them for the ‘real’ world. Today, I am often engaging with decision makers, including the FAA, to facilitate [UAS] growth and development.”

In addition to his demanding roles as a father, entrepreneur, development director and student, Paul also serves as the community outreach coordinator with the AUVSI North Carolina Chapter, is a board member on the North Carolina High School Drone Advisory Council, an industry expert on Clancy & Theys’ UAS Advisory Council, director of the North Carolina Educator UAS Cohort and lead technical writer with the online UAS publication DroneLife.

He's also been a speaker at numerous UAS events, most recently at AUVSI Xponential in Denver, Colorado, where he discussed the importance of STEM education. Paul also will be speaking in Las Vegas in September at the Commercial UAV Expo, discussing workforce development as part of a panel program entitled “Diverse Skies: Cultivating an Inclusive Future in the Drone Workforce.”

“Going to a local drone conference in 2018 Drone Summit in North Carolina was the final bit of experience, knowledge and networking I needed to tie everything together when launching Nine Ten Drones,” he said. “I highly encourage everyone to attend aviation, UAS and space conferences, which almost all offer discounted rates for students.”

Setting His Sights on a Stellar Future

And while family is a key driver for his latest pursuit, Paul’s interest in Space Operations has also put other professional horizons on his radar.

“My future career goals are to continue leading the integration of UAS air delivery and advanced air mobility within the National Airspace System while developing additional experience managing people and programs,” he said. “Going forward, I will be looking for opportunities to take my UAS knowledge and experience and apply that to the Space 2.0 market or to improve efficiency of UAS operations here on Earth by applying solutions and strategies learned throughout my studies to the future development of drone technologies and services.”

Whatever path he ends up following, Paul is grateful to Embry-Riddle for opening a wide range of opportunities and supporting him every step of the way.

“I would highly encourage anyone considering a degree from Embry-Riddle to ‘just do it,’” Paul said. “Go visit any Embry-Riddle facility and you will certainly find great people, faculty and staff who will help you grow into the aviation professional you wish to be. I would also highly recommend the university’s online programs as well as the instructor videos, because the material shared from module to module is engaging and full of educational nuggets.”

He also advised being open to new avenues that often present themselves at a school that offers as many diverse programs as Embry-Riddle.

“When I first decided to attend, I wanted to be the pilot for Tiger Woods or the New York Yankees,” Paul said. “When I left in May 2012, I was a professional aviator with 150-plus hours of logged flight time and while I am not flying the Yankees around, the knowledge and experience I gained during my four years at Embry-Riddle helped me find great success in the drone industry.”

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