PENDLETON — It’s not an easy time to open a school of any sort right now, but an unmanned aerial systems company is making a go at it.
For the past few months, DelMar Aerospace Corp., a Nevada-based UAS company, has been running two-week drone courses, training small classes of people on the basics of operating unmanned vehicles. Among their goals is to help locals gain the requisite skills to start working in Pendleton’s burgeoning UAS industry.
Stanley Springer, DelMar’s chief operating officer, said his company went from being acquainted with Pendleton to running a school in it in a very short period of time.
“I didn’t know Pendleton existed until July of last year,” he said.
The idea for a drone school originated with the Volatus Group, a startup founded by two industry veterans who were looking to fill a niche. Springer said Volatus eventually drew the attention of DelMar, which felt like UAS training aligned with their business model. In January, DelMar acquired Volatus.
Although the Pendleton UAS Range now supports dozens of jobs among the drone companies that test their vehicles there, most positions are filled either by transient workers or people who move into town from elsewhere. Steve Chrisman, Pendleton’s airport manager and economic development director, said one of the top questions he gets asked is how can locals find a job in the new industry.
Chrisman said most jobs in UAS can’t be filled by someone with a standard high school or college education. That’s where the classes offered by DelMar can help, and there’s plans in the works for the company to work with Blue Mountain Community College and local public schools to help get students trained.
“If we can get them exposed to UAS by the time they put a diaper on, that’s fine by me,” Chrisman said.
Beyond the school helping DelMar identify potential candidates for its own business, Springer said the company’s ultimate goal for the school is to help create a stable labor supply for the industry.
The school has already garnered the interest of DeepTrend Inc., a Louisiana company that provides deep sea engineering support for oil and gas companies.
DeepTrend sponsored two scholarships for Ammarae Broncheau, a specialist with the Oregon National Guard’s UAS unit in Pendleton, and Dottie Carrell, a member of the Umatilla County Search and Rescue team.
“When my husband and I joined Umatilla County Search and Rescue, we were drawn to flying drones initially because, being retired we could not hike as far as we used to,” Carrell said in a DelMar press release. “As we got more involved with drones we saw how useful they can be, and how well they aid the searches.”
In a statement, DeepTrend owner Matt Doan said training people like Carrell and Broncheau would create a talent pool the company could utilize in the future.
While DelMar and Volatus are focused on its two-week UAS Professional Pilot Program for now, it’s hoping to expand its offerings as the COVID-19 pandemic begins to recede.
Its current courses are simulation based, but Springer said the school is looking to offer flight courses in the future, as well as more advanced courses for students that are already working in the industry.