Tivy High School Senior Lee McDonald has earned his FAA Drone Pilot License, the first Tivy student to complete the process through the Career & Technology Education Aviation pathway offered for students at Tivy.
McDonald went through the training program with about 20-hours’ worth of video and quizzes before taking the test in San Antonio at the beginning of February.
All the studying and practice paid off, as McDonald passed the test with flying colors, narrowly missing out on a perfect score with one missed question.
“I think it feels cool that I have it,” McDonald said.
“As the first student, I feel more like it’s about being able to help other students, show them that they can do it. Like when they take a practice test and they’re like, ‘I don’t know how to read this,’ I can kind of help them out with that. I think that’s the biggest part of it.”
McDonald now has an official license to operate drones for commercial use.
“In the beginning, I thought it would be cool to have, because how many people have a drone license?” McDonald said.
As a cadet in the AFJROTC program at Tivy, McDonald has a passion for flying, thanks to his youth spent near Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls while his father was in the service.
McDonald was introduced to drones by his older brother, who got a drone and left it at home once he went off to college, so McDonald picked it up and learned how to fly it.
“For drones, I think I’ve always really had a fascination with model aircraft because I like big airplanes, and I would lump drones into that too, it’s a cheaper way to fly,” McDonald said.
Tivy Aviation teacher Aaron Cook encouraged McDonald to pursue his drone license.
“We are really proud of Lee for earning his license,” Cook said. “It’s hard to be the first person in a program to try for something like this, but it is great for the other students to see his success and make it a real possibility for them to do themselves.”
Flying looks to remain a significant part of his future plans as McDonald is currently working on his pilot’s license while awaiting his acceptance into the United States Air Force Academy. At the end of last month, McDonald found out he was one of two Tivy Cadets awarded a full scholarship to attend an accredited aviation university to participate in private pilot license training through the Air Force this summer.
“I think this is a good thing to have in case something ever goes wrong, I have a really cool backup plan,” McDonald said. “I love drones, so it gives me some credentials.”