Auburn University has officially launched its first Unmanned Aircraft Systems Flight School.
“The intent of this course is to offer a training program for those who want to start a business,” said Director of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles operations Phil Owen. “We give them a detailed overview of Federal Aviation Administration policies and regulations.”
Auburn University and the Auburn Airport have been teaming up for the past year to construct this class. The Federal Aviation Administration requires proper documentation for anyone wishing to fly UAVs.
Owen said students have to complete a final test on FAA procedure in order to pass the class, and to register to be certified.
“This class gives people a good knowledge of how to apply for documentation,” Owen said.
Although the class is available for anyone, currently there are no University students enrolled. Auburn Airport Director and Aviation Center Director Bill Hutto said they may consider altering the timing of the course to make it more convenient for students’ schedules.
“It gives an opportunity for college students to get additional training and an opportunity to train the general public,” Hutto said.
John Sweatman, a student in the new UAV course, makes a living through his advertising and marketing business.
“I’ve been requesting drone footage for several years,” Sweatman said. “This is the perfect place for me as a business owner because I can not only protect properties, but also follow regulations and set my business apart.”
Owens said the students take what they want from the class and apply it to best fit their needs.
“There are different systems and applications,” Owen said. “Some (drones) are good for photography, and some for real estate. You choose the right aircraft to accomplish what your goal is.”
Monty Mims said he took the class to improve his real estate business.
“I’m a real estate broker and I’m hoping this class will help me improve my listings,” Mims said. “I’ll be able to show a client what the land surrounding a house looks like- if it’s hilly or flat.”
Deputy Director for military research programs and UAS program manager Earle Thompson said it is important for people to understand the strict regulations the FAA puts on flying aircrafts.
“The FAA is concerned about people flying them in city parks and public areas,” Thompson said. “This class allows them to understand the different ways you can legally fly a UAS, whether you are doing it for personal use or pleasure.”
In the future, Owen hopes the course will be improved upon to offer more variety.
“In the near future we will develop more courses in more detail,” Owen said. “Courses in precision agriculture, and possibly offering courses year-round.”
The airport has been teaching aviation and aerospace for over 80 years and manflight for 75 so the initiation of a UAV school was a “natural extension.”
“There are many applications ranging from journalism, to engineering, to building sciences, to precision agriculture,” Hutto said. “Really the only limit is the imagination.”
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