The University of Guam this week announced it is starting a “UOG Drone Corps,” which will train university students to become federally certified drone pilots.
The project is funded through a $750,000 grant from NASA – the “NASA Guam Space Grant” – which was awarded in April 2020. The university will receive $150,000 per year in grant funds, over five years.
The Drone Corps will teach students the regulations to properly operate drones, pay for them to take the FAA certification test, and give them a $1,000 stipend after they have completed 80 hours of flight time.
Drone hobbyists don’t require federal certification, but anyone who uses a drone for commercial purposes must be certified. There are federal regulations about where drones can be operated, including minimum operating distances from active airports.
University of Guam economics professor Roseann Jones recently said the aviation industry, including pilot training for drones, is one way to diversify the island’s economy. According to the university, the drone program will expand the island’s technical expertise.
“We are excited about this workforce development opportunity for students since having our own corps of FAA-certified UAV pilots will make it easier and safer for researchers to incorporate drone technology in their work,” said Leslie Camacho Aquino, executive director of NASA Guam EPSCor. The acronym stands for “Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.”
“NASA EPSCoR is about building research and technical capacity throughout the island, and developing this cadre of pilots will help us support a wide variety of projects at the university and other agencies and organizations on Guam,” Aquino said.
According to the university, current drone technology, including data collection and flight durability, can allow researchers to “achieve previously unthinkable feats.”
The UOG Drone Corps will accept applications from U.S. citizen UOG students, 18 and older, throughout the year. They can apply by sending an email to NASA Guam EPSCoR associate director Romina King, at [email protected]