CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Marshall University has announced the receipt of five commercial-grade drones provided courtesy of West Virginia-based Metatron Unmanned Solutions for use as part of the growing curriculum in Marshall’s Bill Noe Flight School, part of the Division of Aviation.
The drones and accompanying equipment, valued at more than $93,000, are part of a long-term strategy by Marshall’s Division of Aviation to continue to grow the program into the future.
“The Bill Noe Flight School is excited to receive the Metatron drones,” said Bryan Branham, director and chief instructor of the Bill Noe Flight School. “These drones and support equipment fit into our future plans to add Federal Aviation Administration remote pilot certification to our curriculum.”
Headquartered in Charleston, West Virginia, with satellite offices throughout the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states, Metatron Unmanned Solutions is a global provider of unmanned aerial vehicles. Metatron’s focus is on commercial use of drones and the development of curriculum to educate and qualify potential operators of commercial drones.
Marshall alumnus Arville Cline, CFO/COO of Metatron Unmanned Solutions, said that changes to the market due to the COVID-19 pandemic presented a unique opportunity to partner with the university and provide an inventory of brand-new Drone Volt machines for use by the new aviation program.
Among the donated drones are two Hercules 20 and one Hercules 10 drones, in addition to cutting-edge drone technology.
“The economic challenge of the pandemic moved the focus of Metatron from drone sales to exclusively that of operator education. The result was a large inventory of brand new, unused drones for which a market was now handicapped,” Arville said. “After discussion with other members of Metatron, and with their approval, I decided that the means to step through the open door of giving back to the university was now available.
“I was privileged to deliver to Bryan Branham at the Marshall aviation school an inventory of brand-new commercial-use drones. It was a banner moment in my life to be able to augment the ongoing aviation education plans of Marshall and to embrace a deep gratitude for the relationship I have with the members of Metatron.
“I hope this will help assist the aviation school in fast-tracking its long-range plans of unmanned craft training and certification.”
Arville, who graduated from Marshall in 1974, said that it was a dream to be able to give back to his alma mater after the university gave him the tools to succeed in his career.
“As a small-town guy that was given the opportunity to develop a career, I hold a personally developed obligation to a university that afforded me the educational tools to pursue a career that created a life for myself and those I love,” Arville said. “So, ‘We are Marshall’ is more than just a chant for me.”
The donation will help support the Bill Noe Flight School, which opened in the fall of 2021. Currently, Marshall is working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to offer two academic degree programs that will prepare students for careers in the aviation industry. The first, the Commercial Pilot: Fixed-Wing, B.S. program, opened in the fall and has been approved by the FAA. The second program, an Aviation Maintenance, A.A.S. program, is scheduled to be available in 2022.
The flight school program is housed at Yeager Airport in Charleston, West Virginia. At its peak, Marshall will graduate 50 pilots a year with a total enrollment of 200 students.
The aviation maintenance program will reside at the Tri-State Airport in Wayne County, West Virginia.