Taking Flight

Community colleges offer training for drone operation.

Blue Ridge Community College

Community colleges and high schools around the state have embraced drone technology and the various ways in which it can enrich students’ learning opportunities. At Amherst County High School, the Amherst Lancers Technology Club used drones to survey the damage when a tornado struck their area in 2018 and sent their findings to FEMA. And, in a more fun use of the technology, “They’ve started filming our sporting events,” says faculty advisor Mike Cargill. 

Blue Ridge Community College in Weyers Cave has added a course called Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Remote Pilot Ground School to show students all of the different applications for drones, including videography for real estate, media coverage, and filmmaking, as well as agriculture, where they are used to spray crops, monitor the health of crops and livestock, and analyze soil. The class prepares students to take the FAA Part 107 exam—required for anyone who uses a drone commercially—and shows them how to pilot drones safely and legally. Similarly, Germanna Community College in Culpeper has offered Drones 101 and Drones 202 classes for several years, allowing students to learn to operate drones safely using drones purchased by the college. 

Considering the rise in community colleges offering drone courses, Virginia Tech’s Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation in the College of Natural Resources hosted a second training session in May 2018 for community college faculty—the first in the series was in 2017. This multi-day training session was funded by the National Science Foundation and administered by the Virginia Space Grant Consortium. The Geospatial Technician Education-Unmanned Aircraft Systems project aims to develop educators at the community college level with professional development training.


For more about Amherst County High School, Blue Ridge Community College, Germanna Community College, or Virginia Tech, check out Top High Schools and Colleges 2019. This article originally appeared in our October 2019 issue.

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