FAA Drone Pilot CertificateLocal college drone programs chosen for FAA initiative

July 21, 2021by helo-10
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Three area colleges have been chosen to be part of a new Federal Aviation Administration drone training project.

Palomar College, MiraCosta College and Southwestern College are among 26 schools selected nationally to participate in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Collegiate Training Initiative.

Palomar offers a Drone Technology Program; MiraCosta College’s Technology Career Institute has an Unmanned Systems ROV/Drone Operator Technician Program; and Southwestern College offers a Drone Technology & Applications program.

“This national recognition is a well-deserved honor for the faculty, students, industry partners and alumni-entrepreneurs who have made Palomar’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems program one of the best in the country,” said Dr. Jack Kahn, Palomar College’s interim superintendent/president, in a statement.

Said MiraCosta College Superintendent/President Sunita “Sunny” Cooke in a statement, “The national recognition reinforces the tremendous work occurring by faculty and staff.”

The drone industry is fairly young, pointed out Ken Yanow, professor of Geographical Sciences and co-principal investigator at the Geospatial Technology Center of Excellence at Southwestern College. But the technology is very accessible to amateurs and professionals alike. With more and more people flying drones not only for leisure photography, but for industrial uses such as precision agriculture, rooftop inspection, and search and rescue efforts, the FAA decided it needed to address the training of remote pilots, he said in an interview.

“They’re looking around to see who is teaching to prepare students to pass the pilot exam and who is preparing students to be proficient in the field,” Yanow said. As part of the Training Initiative, the schools will team with the FAA to share curricular requirements, and to assure that their courses are educating students thoroughly. “They want everyone to work together to make sure that we do this right,” he said.

Wing Cheung, professor of Earth, Space and Environmental Sciences at Palomar, co-created that college’s drone program, begun in 2016.

“Being part of this FAA-led, nationwide program allows the schools with UAS programs to connect and learn from each other,” Cheung said in a statement. “The FAA is recognizing schools that have well-rounded programs which not only prepare students for their commercial drone pilot exams, but also teach students to fly responsibly and safely.”

The FAA unveiled its Unmanned Aircraft Systems Collegiate Training Initiative in April 2020. To qualify, schools must be accredited two- or four-year institutions offering an associate or bachelor’s degree in drone technology or a degree with a minor, concentration, or certificate in UAS. Schools must provide classes covering various aspects of training, including hands-on flight practice, maintenance, uses, applications, safety and privacy concerns, insurance, and federal policies.





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There is more to being a drone pilot than just buying a machine and flying in your backyard. It can be that simple, but most of us will need to understand some drone laws before we try to take to the sky.

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